¿Qué es Quepos?May 11 in Costa Rica
Leaving David in Panama late in the afternoon, after waiting for the TicaBus for over two hours, we headed towards the border of Panama and Costa Rica. Up until this point, border crossings had been relatively straightforward, although often time-consuming. We should have realised that this next crossing may be a bit more involved when we were stopped twice on our way to the border by military police and immigration officers, who checked everyone's ID. Usually most countries aren't concerned about people exiting the country but not in Panama. Everyone was taken into a small room and told to line up behind a row of stainless steel benches that could have been the playground of a serial killer – think Dexter. The customs officer ranted something at us in Spanish but his accent was so strong and he spoke so quickly that we barely understood what he said. We understood that our bags would be inspected before we could continue to immigration to get our passports stamped. Our names were called as if we were at school and then the customs canine entered the room to inspect our bags. As there were no x-ray machines, the next inspection was a manual process with the officer rummaging through everyone's bag. After the whole ordeal, we boarded the bus again and went three hundred metres so we could go through the same process with Costa Rican officials. This time, the customs officer seemed really pissed off and wanted most of us on the bus to pay. Quite a few people, including Jason, had their bags upturned and all the contents thrown onto the inspection table. Now, if anyone has seen our bags, they are jam-packed and the task of reorganising the contents is no mean feat.
After seven hours on a bus, we were dropped off in the middle of nowhere on the side of the highway. The bus driver pointed to a car parked behind the bus and said that the guy would take us to the centre of Quepos for US$5. We took one look at the beaten up car that looked like it had been stolen, taken for a joyride and now was going to take us back to Dexter's workshop so that we could be cut-up into small pieces and thrown into the Pacific Ocean. The driver got out of the car so that we could place our bags in the boot but to do so he needed to open it with a screwdriver. The back door was almost falling off and, not unsurprisingly, there were no seatbelts. The price of the journey also seemed to have increased in the meantime to US$6.
When we arrived to our apartment, we realised that none of the properties had numbers and our so-called taxi driver had to ask several people if they knew where the terracotta-coloured apartments were located. We eventually found what we thought was the correct location but not only did the property not have any numbers there was no bell or way to get the owner's attention and we didn't have any phone reception. It was late in the evening, but fortunately there were a few people in the streets. Ricky went in search of someone who could contact our host, while Jason stood at the front of the property yelling out “hola”. After about five minutes, we were let into our accommodation and we could finally rest.
The following day, we explored the small town that is home to a population of around 22,000. We had expected the images seen in tourist brochures about Costa Rica that show beautiful beaches and rainforests. In the main centre of town, there weren't any beaches as such, just the shoreline and marina. We did stumble across some interesting wildlife hanging out alongside the roads, including colourful iguanas.
One of the main attractions in the area is the Parque National Manuel Antonio, a 1,983 hectare nature reserve with supposedly 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. It is named by Forbes as one of the 12 most beautiful national parks. Our main reason for visiting was to go in search of brown-throated three-toed sloths and Hoffmann's two-toed sloths. We've been searching for these allusive creatives for a good part of our journey throughout South America and Central America. We were positive that this was going to be the moment that we would get a chance to get-up and close, two or three toes crossed. But alas, we wandered the national park for hours and found not one. All that we got was a sore neck from looking up at the high trees. We knew that they were mainly nocturnal animals but that they have to come down from the trees every eight days to defecate … and we didn't even see a shitting sloth! But we did see lots of cute monkeys jumping from tree to tree, playing with each other or searching for lice on each other. One specie of monkey, the Howler Monkey, could be heard in the distance as they howled amongst the trees, producing a sound that was more like a pack of dogs fighting.
After a brief swim at Manuel Antonio beach, we went in search of sloths one last time before heading home. Although nicer than the shorelines in Quepos, for two Aussie boys, it's hard to beat Australian beaches. We'd conjured up imagines similar to the Maldives but it wasn't quite the same. It was at this time point that the skies opened up and torrential rain fell. We also thought that we may have also spotted a sloth in a tree. Well, it was a greyish blob sitting in the tree. After eavesdropping in on a conversation of one of the tour groups we ascertained that it was a rare stick bird and not a sloth. During the conversation, we also overheard one of the American tourists say that aliens had built the pyramids in Egypt and in the Americas so that that they knew where to return in the future. And she was deadly serious. With that, we exited the park, completely drenched from head to toe like a drowned sloth. Disappointed. Oh well, we'll have to continue our search at our next destination.
Next stop: Playas del Coco via Puntarenas and Liberia.
For video footage, see: