Travel Blog Information - November 2008

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27th November 2008

Went for a long walk around Balboa Bay and through Panama City "Old Town" (Casco Viejo) area. The "Old Town" really comprises two area, the one they show the tourists and the real "Old Town". I walked through the real old town which is neglected, mostly derelict, slums and empty shells. When I came to return through this area after visiting the "Tourist Old Town" I was confronted by two heavily armed army guys that told me it was dangerous to go into that area (language difficulties prevented any further explanation).

I need to update my cost of living comparison with Costa Rica as I now believe the average cost of living here is about half that of Costa Rica (except perhaps accommodation). For example (Beer again) you can buy a can of local beer for 50 cents US (Costa Rican beer is about $1.20 US). Also I saw an adults mountain bike with front and rear suspension for $50 US, shirts for $1 and jeans for $5.

balboa bay    panama city skyline    panama city old town    old town point    old town tourist area

Photographs of Panama City

Photographs of "Old Town" (Casco Viejo), Panama City


26th November 2008

I am now in Panama City, Panama. It is warmer than San Jose but still raining. The cost of living here is about 25% less than Costa Rica (based on my single visit to the supermarket). The cost of beer, my universal measure, is much less - a small can of Heineken that cost $1.30 US in Costa Rica (Supermarket price) costs $0.69c US here.

My apartment for the next four days is on the 9th floor of a 26 floor apartment block on the waterfront.

The timing of my visit to Puerto Viejo worked out well as I learnt today that they have just been hit by a hurricane causing major damage and flooding.


24th November 2008

Went for a walk around San Jose downtown area again today and this time I took some photographs. The weather has been pretty ordinary with strong winds, low temperatures and some rain.

Security and crime are obviously issues in most of Costa Rica. The average house is either enclosed or surrounded by 3 metre high steel "cages", generally with razor wire on the top (or electric wire). This seems to apply to most of Costa Rica with the exception of the Caribbean coast.

In Playa Del Coco and Ocotal all hotels and apartment complexes had 24 hour a day armed security guards (the supermarket even had an armed guard wearing a flak jacket).

Puerto Viejo was different with the only security guard that I saw inside the bank.

I am missing the beach and warm weather.

house san jose    san jose national park    yellow house san jose

More Photographs of San Jose


21st November 2008

I am now in an apartment in San Jose for a week. I will then be going to Panama City for four days.

Yesterday I went for a walk around downtown San Jose. The main shopping area is a pedestrian mall with the usual variety of stores (seemed to be a lot of shoe stores). There is an undercover market in the centre of town with everything from Jewellery to pots and pans. The are also a few small restaurants (sodas), butchers, poultry shops and seafood stores.

Today I went on a to the Britt Coffee facility in Heredia and learnt about growing and processing coffee.

The weather in San Jose has been quite windy and cool.

coffee bush costa rica          coffee cherries costa rica

 Coffee Bush                Coffee Cherries


17th November 2008

Bus trip back to San Jose today after a week in Puerto Viejo. This time I had an empty seat next to me so could move a bit. The trip took almost five hours (215 klms) - we were stopped three times by the police who boarded the bus and checked all passports. On the third occasion they removed a man from the bus.

The day started out clear and sunny at Puerto Viejo but once we got to the Talamanca mountain range it became overcast and started to rain heavily. This is the "Cloud Forest" where it is almost always covered in cloud and raining.

Talamanca mountain    Talamanca mountain river

More Photographs


14th November 2008

Cycled to Cahuita today (Cahuita is about 15 kilometres North of Puerto Viejo) and went for a hike through Cahuita National Park. There are no roads in the park just a single hiking track that travels for 7 kilometres in a loop following the coast around Punta Cahuita and ending near the road to Puerto Viejo about 4 kilometres South of Cahuita. I took the bicycle with me into the park as I intended to go back to Puerto Viejo from the South entrance. Unfortunately the track was closed from halfway so I had to return the way I came to Cahuita.

There are Howler Monkeys and White Faced Monkeys in the park as well as hundreds of small lizards that constantly run across the track. I also saw some raccoons. For some reason there does not seem to be any birds in the park.

white faced monkey

Photographs Within Cahuita National Park


13th November 2008

I had a lazy day today. Cycled to Cocles Beach for a swim this morning. The water was warm and clear but I started to get stung by some small jellyfish so I did not stay in long. The jellyfish were similar to the Blue Bottles we get in Australia except they were not blue (which makes them almost invisible) and they were generally smaller.

Cocles Beach is a white sand beach and the largest in the area. It is supposed to be a surf beach there was no surf.

cocles beach   playa negro

Photographs Around Puerto Viejo


12th November 2008

I went for another bone shuddering cycle this morning. I went to Manzanillo which is South (towards Panama) along the coast. The road comes to a dead end at the Manzanillo cemetery. My local map shows a track that goes to Punta Mona but I could not find it. My larger map shows that the road even goes to Punta Mona and even further to a place called Grandoca. The round trip was probably about 25 kilometres (or 35 kilometres if you count the zig zagging to avoid the major potholes).

David and Matt left this morning to go to Panama City (they found a cheap airfare of $70USD) and I have asked them to send me an email with details of the cheap flight etc. as I may do the same, or similar.

I have noticed that there some distinct difference between Playa Del Coco and Puerto Viejo. In Playa Del Coco most of the locals are Costa Rican and there are very few tourists (other than the "Resort Dwellers" that never leave their hotel) whereas in Puerto Viejo a lot of the locals are of mixed/African descent and there are a lot of tourists of  various nationalities (probably majority European) and they all get out and about walking, cycling, swimming etc.

The Mandala Apart'Hotel is great, good amenities, good location & great value. The only negative for me is the lack of insect screens as there are a lot of mosquitoes in the area.


11th November 2008

I was worried about getting to sleep last night as the local "Howler Monkeys" really become active and howl a lot after dark and got the local dogs going as well. Thankfully they settled down after a couple of hours.

I am rather saddle sore after my long cycle this morning. The local roads around Puerto Viejo are very rough and potholed. I went around 15 kilometres, as far as Punto Uva, South along the coast road (the only road). There is a lot of thick forest along the road plus some nice beaches (one even has a lifeguard on duty). The highlight of the trip was seeing a Sloth climbing in a tree at Punta Uva.

sloth costa rica

Photographs Around Puerto Viejo


10th November 2008

Arrived in Puerto Viejo this afternoon after the 4+ hour bus trip. The trip was a bit better than yesterday as I had slightly more leg room as the seats did not recline. The passengers were mostly tourists (Gringos) which surprised me as yesterdays bus was mostly Costa Ricans (Ticos).

I accidentally discovered on the Internet last night that Puerto Viejo is actually called Puerto Viejo De Talamanca and it is a good thing I did as there is also a Puerto Viejo and the bus leaves the same bus depot so there was a good chance I would have gone to the wrong place. So far I have not even been able to find Puerto Viejo on the map. The only Puerto Viejo on my map is where I am.

On leaving San Jose the bus went along the Guapiles Highway and through the Zurqui tunnel at the top of  Talamanca cloud covered mountain range with constant drizzling rain. The vegetation was unreal like something out of a "Lost World" with plants with enormous leaves. After a steep descent on the other side there were endless fields of banana trees and pineapple plants. We passed through Limon which although only a relatively small town is the major export port for Costa Rica. The road then followed the coast South. The beaches were fairly bland (they call them surf beaches but today I would call them beaches for the under tens). There are no towns until Cahuita where about half the people got off.

My first impression of Puerto Viejo is that it is simply a tourist destination for people wanting to "Get Away From it All". It is smaller than Playa Del Coco but still has a bank and a couple of supermarkets. Hopefully it also has somewhere with Internet access as the Mandala Apart'Hotel were I am staying does not.

Mandala consists of three small, self contained, apartments alongside the swimming pool. At the moment they are all occupied by Australians! Quite amazing when you consider that it is at the end of the road  in possibly the most isolated area of the East coast and is run by a French couple. David, from Melbourne, and Matt, from Perth, occupy the other apartments.

It is very humid in Puerto Viejo (about 99%) but cooler than Playa Del Coco so it is not uncomfortable.

The Hotel Aranjuez turned out to be even better than expected and included a hot & cold buffet breakfast (at a cost close to backpacker rates). I have booked one of their studio apartments for a week starting 19th November.


9th November 2008

I am now in San Jose. I am overnighting at the Hotel Aranjuez here before catching the bus to Puerto Viejo tomorrow.

San Jose is much cooler than Playa Del Coco due to the height. It is situated in the Central Valley and is 3,000 - 4,000 feet above sea level.

I will be spending a week in Puerto Viejo at Mandala Apart'Hotel.

I am not looking forward to the bus trip after the one I had today. The trip from Playa Del Coco to San Jose took five hours. There was almost no leg room between the seats and when the woman in front of me reclined her seat my legs were clamped and I was unable to move my legs for the whole trip (at least I had a seat, some people had to stand for the entire journey). The bus trip tomorrow takes four hours and I am hoping it is not full or I will have the same problems.


3rd November 2008

I have been experimenting with my camera settings to lower the resolution of the photos and videos to make them more "Net Friendly".


2nd November 2008

I went to the beach today, another wonderful day. I have found a small beach just around the rocks from Ocotal beach.

small beach playa coco    coco point    coco lizard


1st November 2008

The weather appears to be changing. The past few days have been slightly cooler (still warm and humid) and it has only rained twice.

I have decided to catch the bus to San Jose when I leave Playa Del Coco on 9th November. I plan to stay one night in San Jose and then catch the bus to Puerto Viejo where I have arranged to stay for a week. Puerto Viejo is on the East coast of Costa Rica (the Caribbean side/Atlantic Ocean - Playa Del Coco is on the Western side/Pacific Ocean).

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