After Montezuma I head to the west side of the Nicoya Peninsula to Santa Teresa. Upon Leah’s suggestion I stay at the Funky Monkey hostel. Checking into the dorm I meet Caroline and Stephie, both from the States. They invite me out to dinner with them and we hit a burger joint. Normally I try to eat local food, but being constantly on the road sometimes you crave a taste of home. Plus the Costa Rican dish of choice is the Casado, which definitely has some variations depending on where you get it, but it’s basically meat, rice, beans, and plantains. A burger was actually a refreshing change.
I visit the beach the next day, walk around and take some pictures. Other than that I don’t do much in Santa Teresa. Soon I set out on a 14 hour travel day across the width of Costa Rica to the east coast. My destination; Puerto Viejo.
Puerto Viejo has quite a different vibe than the towns on the west coast. It has a distinctive Caribbean feel to it. It almost doesn’t feel like Costa Rica anymore. After a stroll through the small town, I head north for a bit to Playa Negra, a small strip of black sanded beach. Here I take my first ever swim in the Caribbean Sea. Man, it is warm. Perhaps the warmest ocean I’ve ever been in.
Later I grab lunch at a “Soda”, a small restaurant that specializes in local cuisine. I see a Mondongo soup on the menu and I’m intrigued. After some research I find out that it’s a tripe soup common in Caribbean countries. I decide that should be my lunch. Upon ordering it, however, I’m disappointed to find they only serve it on the weekend. It’s Tuesday and I’m only here for a couple more days… well damn.
The next day I rent a bike with the plan of checking out the stretch of beaches and parks south of Puerto Viejo. Only a few minutes into my bike ride, the chain pops off. Getting my hands nice and greasy, I fix the chain and press on. A few minutes later - Pop! There goes the chain again. After this happens the fourth or fifth time, I decide I’m not going to get very far. I opt to stop at Playa Cocles. I spend the day there, walking the beach and swimming.
Soon I’m on the road again. The next day I hop the 10:30am bus to Sixaola, a border town. From there I get stamped out of Costa Rica and walk across an old bridge towards Panama. It’s strange to be in a no-mans-land type of scenario, I’ve been stamped out of one country but yet to be stamped into the next. This happens when you fly of course but here on the ground, on a land crossing, the no-mans-land is much more tangible. On the Panama side I deal with a very grumpy immigration officer but finally get my stamp into Panama. For $10 there are shuttles directly to Almirante. I decide it’s worth it not to have to change public buses numerous times and go way out of my way to Changouinola. Plus it drops you right at the ferries for Bocas del Torro, my next stop…