Montezuma, Costa Rica
We were becoming a little too accustomed to the private shuttle service that picked us up from one hostel and dropped us to the door of the next. Although it was an early start from La Fortuna at 5.30am, we were ready and waiting outside the hostel gate, so early I even had the opportunity to shake hands with a drunk stumbling down the road with beer in hand getting back home after a big Saturday night at the local watering hole. Our leather seated mini van approached and we stumbled in still half asleep. I drifted in and out of consciousness the next 3-4 hours as we traversed from the high plains through mountains and cloud forest, small towns and streams down to the low lands and back to the heat. Our destination was Puntarenas which was the port town to jump from van onto ferry to take us the quick way, as the crow flies over to Nicoya, the southern peninsula of Costa Rica smack bang on the Pacific Ocean. It was now 9am and the scene was a usual port experience with many people, cars, diesel fumes, smelly water and a sprinkle of confusion so we just followed the crowd onto the medium sized vessel and commuted upstairs to take a seat right outside the cafe for a hit of caffeine and of course a million decibels of Ricky Martin and Shakira blaring out of the 50 ton speaker. Really? At this time in the morning? Who on earth wanted to party? But apparently many did as I looked beside me still half dreaming to witness mid 20 something Latin Americans downing a few beers looking like they were ready for a big weekend. I was grateful to reach the other side and be unloaded some 40minutes later to get back on another mini to take us around to the tropical paradise, Montezuma.
Nestled in an idyllic landscape of green jungle and small townships, Montezuma was yet another travel destination for any beach lover and “eco-tourist” (I say that loosely after a future turtle tour experience which presented some huge eco problems). The small beach village was hemmed by high cliffs overgrown with jungle where nature lurked. And this was soon to be our highlight of the town, and perhaps Costa Rica thus far. We checked in to hostel Luna Llena that was a bright blue, white and purple wooden hostel set back into the jungle and up an incline. We followed the steep pathway of blue glitter up to reception where we assumed position on a beautiful, expansive wooden deck that gave a birds eye view of the shimmering Pacific and down through the lush trees to our little blue and white cabin with outdoor banos. The hostel felt as though you were situated in an open-air living room where a continuous mellow party of animals and travelers intermixed.
Our first encounter was with the capuchin monkeys at happy hour. Right on five, they knew when to party and when there would be people and food. This caused a chaotic scene of screeching and jumping from one tree to the next until they reached the populated balcony, where they intended to shake things up. They stole freshly made sandwiches from the tourists, rustled in any type of bag to find a hidden treat or if all else failed, swung into the kitchen to steel sugar from the jars or anything else edible. They were hilarious and made for excellent entertainment both first thing in the morning as they jumped on our little cabin roof and at the end of the day as the sun set. Next was the barking of the howler monkeys. And we heard them before we could see them. As each truck passed on the road side or on any external noise which unsettled them, a bwwwwoar would come from the trees which would be followed by a chorus of guttural howls. Trying to track the sounds from the trees, your eyes soon fixated on the medium black monkeys with dark faces unlike the whites of the capuchins. They were much slower and relaxed and liked to stare back.
While sitting outside of out small little wooden cabin at night reading quietly, we were taken a back by two big fury grey animals looking like giant cats scattering past us. “What the hell was that?” we all questioned. Sitting still we could see yellow eyes peering back at us from out of the bushes….four in total. And after a scourge and then some more silence, out they came. Raccoons! We had never seen these creatures in the wild before as they were definitely amiss from the Australian landscape but here they were, daringly right in front of us, sniffing around in vain trying to find something to nibble on. The following night they found it. Back sitting quietly on the top deck, out a big one came. Climbing up on the main bin filled with organic waste from the kitchen, the critter managed to knock the heavy brick off the top of the bin, peel his little sharp claws around the handle and while standing on top of the lid, jumped and pulled backwards to lever the bins lid upwards with his weight while he ducked around and in to the holy grail of foodstuff. What a racket. While I watched silently in ore of this crazy and clever critter, the closest Americans jumped up and shooed it away and out of the bin. Apparently they were more familiar and less fond of the creature then me.
Then there were the little black and white skunks that scooted across the decking while Murray and I were sharing a chocolate one night, apparently they could smell it and the little creature ducked up to my leg smelling around for the sweet substance. I let him go and watched again quietly having no idea of how bad he could make me smell if he so choose. Another American told me that if he decided to spray I would have to “burn my clothes to get the smell out”. But he was so cute! Then there were the brown squirrels, the bats, the swallows, the little brown frogs that sat on our table and chair set, the amazing butterfly that looked exactly like a green and yellow leaf and who would forget, a supposed crocodile that made his way from the river up hill and into the hostel one night. Who needed an expensive guided tour into the wilderness when we were living in it? This was the most wildlife we had scene on our trip so far. We really were in MonteZOOma.
Other then the excitement of the hostel in the jungle, the town really was quite nice. The centre was small and made up of some charming old wooden houses that were decked out in colour which promoted a bit of an artists and surfy vibe. There seemed to be a plethora of healing arts and yoga studios that obviously attracted an alternate tourist and they even hosted a bogus film festival called the “Costa Rican International Film Festival” which consisted of alternate films which we took in one night. It was something about mortality and the spirit in the eyes of a historian, neurosurgeon and ayahuasca tripping poet. If we had possibly taken a bit of ayahuasca before watching the film it would have probably made more sense. The other draw cards of Montezuma were the surf beaches that surrounded the area attracting an international crowd in the 60s and the nearby Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, consisting of a protected reserve that a Dutch couple fought to protect from the 50s onwards. Today it only let a select number of tourists in to hike the lowlands and beaches.
We took a tour to Tortuga Island. Clambering into the boat full of Americans we motored through the Pacific viewing the jagged volcanic rock that spilled into the sea creating a fairly impressive coastline. And on the way we spotted two small grey dolphins whom we followed for awhile. Upon arriving to the Tortuga Island, we dumped our gear on the white sand before jumping into a small boat to take us to a small rock for snorkeling. Now usually the snorkeling and diving here is suppose to be pretty impressive but we were in the rainy season, and the water was stirred up so all we managed to see were a few clown fish and some kind of jelly fish that decided to sting me on the way back on the boat. My skin turning a nice shade of red and slowly blistering up, I was worried until the skipper told me it was OK, I wouldn’t die and I just had to pour some vinegar over it, and getting back to the beach I did just that
We spent the afternoon with a young American couple who were exceptionally friendly and took a keen interest on how on earth we had the ability to travel for 12 months. They had a vacation of a full 8 days from Colorado where they had left there 9mth year old baby with the grandparents. Again, I almost felt embarrassed discussing the details and telling them that “it was actually out second year off in 5 years” where we had decided to travel the world…without working. It was just a concept to foreign to them when their economy was shot to pieces and you had a whole two weeks leave a year which most of the time you couldn’t take consecutively. Another couple was from Sicily, and I forgot how much I loved the Italians. They spoke passionately about their home island and the beautiful playas…holding their fingers to their lips and kissing them….ballisimo! Other then the lovely beach and good company we made friends with a bush pig called Regina. So friendly, she trotted along to you and loved a pat on the belly and a few little scraps from lunch. Then there was the friendly little puppy that trotted and played with Regina and bounded after the coconuts Murray thew to it.
We spent four nights in Montezuma and enjoyed the small scale of the town but what really made it was the animal life..both in the jungle, in the sea and even the tame Regina that reinforced that I would never eat pork again. I reminded myself of this while the happy Italian man licked his lips while pointing at Regina promoting that she was a Sicilian specialty.