Last night after writing my last blog post I walked round Puerto Viejo and after 5 seconds I could see that it wasn’t really my kind of place. Every step you take, you pass another souvenir stand or restaurant aimed at tourists, even more than in Bocas I think (but maybe I’m biased). Also there were too many annoying boys saying either option 1: “weed?” or 2: “Hi beautiful lady, how are you?” or something equally mechanical that they obviously say to every single passing female. This annoyed me sufficiently to make me decided I no longer wanted to go out that night (plus it cold and rainy) so I bought some dried apricots and strawberries (they don’t have either of those in Bocas) and headed back to the hostel. The box of strawberries only cost about $1! The supermarkets definitely had more choices than in Bocas but overall they seem to be more expensive.
In the morning I woke up at about 9 because I’d been to sleep early, and I had a sudden brainwave. I was pretty sure, because of what I’d seen the evening before, that there was nothing I wanted to do in Puerto Viejo except chill alone on the beach, and I’m here until Monday and only need one day for that. I remembered there’s a town on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica called Limon which I’d read a bit about when I was originally researching where to go for my year abroad. I Googled how close it was and it said an hour and a half, so I went to see if it would be possible for me to get a bus there and back and go there for the day. It was pretty easy and the ticket cost 1800 Colones ($3.60) each way, and I spent the day in Limon.
The bus was actually a coach, like National Express in England, but it didn’t have air conditioning so it was a bit hot. It stopped a lot along the way to pick up people from the side of the road and for a lot of the way we were driving right next to the sea:
I’d already heard that Limon wasn’t a tourist town and wasn’t a particularly “nice” town and you have to “be careful” and not go alone bla bla bla. I learnt not to listen to this nonsense when I had a positive experience in Jamaica, and yet again I was right not to listen. When I left the bus terminal I had no idea where to walk or what I really wanted to do, so I just picked a direction and started walking. It became clear after a few minutes that I was kind of a novelty there (because it’s not touristy I guess) because I could feel a lot of eyes on me and I was being spoken to by more boys than usual. Obviously this isn’t the most comfortable feeling ever, but I wasn’t scared and didn’t feel in any danger.
After a few minutes I came to a wide colourful street which seemed like the main street. There were about 20 people in camouflage trousers and white polo shirts with the logo of their organization on, and one of them was speaking through a microphone. There was also a big queue of people waiting to speak to them. I was a bit confused for a while but then I realised that basically they’re a volunteer religious group (I think a denomination of Christian) who were there to cure/help members of the public, whoever wanted to queue up and be saved/helped by them. If this happened in England I’m pretty sure no one would queue up, but there was really a big queue that kept increasing, and some people were in tears and stuff after they’d been helped. I spoke to one of the volunteers for a few minutes and she was really friendly and said they do this every Saturday at various locations around town.
I saw the sea ahead of me so walked in that direction, which took me through the park, which was clean with lots of different paths with coloured benches, and this nice looking yellow thing in the middle:
At the part between the park and the sea, there were a lot of karts selling ice-slushy kind of things, like the red one in the middle of this picture:
There were a lot of waves and rocks in the sea so it wasn’t for swimming in, but I walked around and chilled on some of the rocks for a while:
I decided I then wanted to eat, but there were so many similar looking “sodas” (short for soda bar… basically a café) that I didn’t know which one to choose, so for some reason I kept walking and walking down different streets, expecting one to jump out at me saying “eat here!”. I don’t know why I picked the one I picked, but I asked them to give me everything vegetarian they had, and this is what they put on my plate:
I also got a pineapple shake and in total I paid $5.60, so similar to Bocas prices. I found a newspaper on a nearby table so decided to do something constructive for my Spanish practice and sat there reading it for a while.
Next I tried to find some more streets I hadn’t walked down yet, which was difficult because they all looked similar. To my (very pleasant) surprise, I came to a basketball court! There were only about 4 guys on there shooting, but they looked like they could play, so I decided to wait and watch them in the hope that either more would come and they’d play a game which would be fun to watch, or an interesting conversation would happen with them. I’ve been involved in basketball in England since I was 12, and this might sound weird but I always feel comfortable and at home when I’m at a basketball court.
One of them came over and asked if I wanted to shoot, so I said why not, and shot around for a bit but I gave up after a while because they were a lot more serious than me, and sat down to watch again. Luckily for me, more and more basketball players were turning up, most of them in expensive Michael Jordan trainers, and a half-court tournament started. The standard was really decent, a lot better than the “street” games I’ve seen in Bocas:
After being there for probably an hour, I wandered round again and bought some orange juice for $1.20 from a woman who was literally standing them squeezing the oranges on a manual machine on her kart (you can see them in the trolley here). As you can see she was also selling coconuts:
I was beginning to become a bit disappointed that nothing really cool/interesting had happened, because normally when I go on a mini adventure by myself, I end up talking to some fun people, or discovering something new or something, but that hadn’t really happened. A group of men sitting outside a bar said “hola” to me as I was passing, but it was in a friendly not an annoying way so I decided to stop and say hello. It was 2 old Costa Rican men and a middle aged white guy who said he was there on business. There was one free chair and they said I should stay for a beer so I said “porque no” (“why not”) and sat down.
They were the kind of old men who think they have expert theories about everything like religion, so the conversation revolved around those kind of themes and it wasn’t boring so I stayed quite a while. A coconut man walked past and I asked him if I could buy one but he said he’d run out, and then a random man asked me if I wanted a coconut and I said yes, and he walked away, and I was genuinely grateful and surprised when he came back to our table 10 minutes later with a coconut for me! I asked him how much it cost him but he said I shouldn’t pay him, and he walked away again. It was the smallest coconut I’d ever seen but it was really tasty:
All in all, Limon seems fine and I don’t know why people say it’s so bad. The streets are lively, with a lot of little karts selling food, colourful buildings and loud music coming from some shops/restaurants. It was also quite clean compared to Bocas, and the people seemed friendly. I guess a day isn’t enough to tell much about a place, but for example if someone offered me a job there, I don’t see any reason why I’d turn it down based on the location.