30 January 2006

Costa Rica: Busing it Straight Through

Days 124 & 125 - Saturday 21st & Sunday 22nd January 2006

As time was running out for me in Central America I decided to skip Costa Rica and instead see more of Panama. I made this decision based on the higher prices in Costa Rica, and the shedload of American tourists that would be there at this time of year. I didn’t really want to be involved with either.

I had bought my ticket to San Jose, and I was to catch the bus from a nearby town of Rivas at 8am Saturday morning. I arrived at Rivas at about half seven, expecting there to be a place for me on the bus but was told that as I had bought my ticket in Granada ands not Rivas, I wasn’t guaranteed a seat. This pissed me off a fair amount, and I had a big argument with the woman who was running the show, basically saying she was talking bollocks. I had a seat booked and that was that. She called the office in Granada and was told I did have a reservation, but it was for the bus that left Granada at 8am and arrived in Rivas at 9am. Quite why they had written “Rivas - 8am” on my ticket I have no idea. Anyway 9am came around, I was pissed off that I had been wating there unneccesarily for an hour and a half, and to make matters worse the bus didn’t show up until 9.45.

I got on board then we had to wait as they had overbooked the bus and were sorting that out for another half hour. I wasn’t at all impressed with the bus company Ticabus, who were supposed to be the best in Central America. The border crossings took ages as well, but that wasn’t the fault of Ticabus, that was due to the authorities of Costa Rica who took ages to get themselves organised.

After a few hours we managed to get across the border and into Costa Rica where it took another four hours to reach San Jose. On arrival I checked into a decent hostel called Tranquilo Backpackers, went out for some dinner, bought some new swimming shorts, watched some TV and went to bed.

I woke up at 5.45am to catch a bus to Bocas del Toro in Panama. I got a taxi to the bus station, bought my ticket and without fuss got onto the bus and 5 hours later after some really easy border formalities - including walking over a rickety old railway bridge - I was in Panama. The moral of the story - don’t bother buying advance bus tickets.

To get to Bocas del Toro I needed to take a speedboat through the mangroves and across the sea to the island. It took about an hour and was a really cool journey, mangroves and plant life whizzed by as we sped across the water.

When I arrived in Bocas I walked straight to a hostel and took the last bed available. That was pretty lucky as for the rest of the day I saw loads of people turned away because they didn’t have room, and apparently all the other hostels were full as well.

According to my book, Bocas was supposed to be a place which doesn’t have too much tourism, however it must have taken off since the book was published as there were more American & Israeli surfers there than locals. Not really my scene, especially as most of them lived up to the typical surfer stereotype, and all were distinctly lacking in personality.

I decided to avoid the surf crowd and got chatting to some girls and guys who were there for the beaches rather than the waves, and spent my evening having a couple of drinks with them.