The rain did finally stop in La Fortuna. Maarten and I woke up to a sunny morning and hauled all our wet clothes from the hike yesterday outside to let them dry a bit. We plan to drive some more mountains today in the direction of the Poas volcano. The first bit of the road is pretty flat but then it quickly turns steep and curvy. It’s nice that Maarten is driving so I can actually enjoy the views for once. We lunch at the side of the road where we can see multiple huge waterfalls come down at the other side of the valley. When we get close to the Poas volcano it is too late to go up, so time to call it a day and go in the morning (for Maarten’s bday). The first camping spot we end up at actually wants 17 USD per person. And you’d be camping on the parking lot. Nope. Nope. Nope. We end up driving up to a restaurant with a huge grassy garden and some cabins. The owner is a bit confused when I ask him if we can camp. When I explain to him that we really only need a spot to park the van and sleep in it he lets us camp for free. He’s very sorry that we can only use the bathrooms while the restaurant is open (fine with us). We can park on a grassy field with a view over the valley with San Jose. We decide to go for dinner at the restaurant to celebrate Maarten’s bday. They even have fancy tasty beers. So we watch the sun set over the San Jose valley with a nice pizza and good beer.
The Poas volcano can get pretty busy so we head up early in the morning. When we get there (after a short van cool down break) there’s already quite some people. The Poas volcano is some 2600m tall and has a nice little lake in it’s crater (as per usual). Of course it’s Costa Rica so all the hiking trails are pretty much paved. We enjoy the views over the crater and walk to a side crater for some more views. When we leave the volcano there is a queue of tens of cars waiting to get in. While I’m driving down the volcano Maarten all of a sudden tells me to stop quickly. A SLOTH! There is an actual sloth chilling in the trees next to the road. I had never seen a sloth and they are so awesome! I got very excited seeing that one. He’s just hanging in the tree eating some leaves or something. So cool. After the excitement of the sloth we needed to make a plan. Do we stay in the mountains (rainy), head to the pacific coast (rainy) or to the Caribbean coast (sunny). Caribbean it is. So Maarten gets a great bday present of getting to drive the van for 4 hours (he doesn’t mind) while I climb to the back to make some big lunch sandwiches (having a fridge and kitchen accessible while driving can be quite useful). We end up at the relaxed town of Cahuita where we camp in the grassy front yard of the local reggae bar.
From Cahuita we can walk to Cahuita National Park: a jungle park on the beach. There’s an 8km trail along the coast. You can swim at the small beaches and spot animals in the jungle. We saw some three sloths. (SLOTHS! Still very excited to see them), some big iguanas and other lizards, a yellow/orange snake was nicely curled up on a leaf (apparently very venomous) and loads and loads of monkeys. The animals are clearly used to the people, especially the monkeys. At some point one of the monkeys runs ahead of us for a while. Waiting every so many meters for us to catch up with him. After a while he pretended to be busy with some fruit on a plant so that we passed him. He kept walking a few meters behind us following us. Very suspicious…. Some ten minutes later we had not seen the monkey for a while and we found a perfect white sand, blue water, lazy palm trees beach. We just get into the water when I make a joke about the monkey coming over and stealing our stuff. For fun we try to see if we can throw rocks far enough to reach our clothes. Not long after that the same monkey comes out of the forest and walks towards my bag. We both start laughing until he actually starts reaching into my bag… We throw some rocks at him but he doesn’t care. He only runs away when I run out of the water and get to about two meters from him. Cheeky cheeky monkey. We finish the walk and pick up the van to drive to Playa Uva which is some 20 minutes down the road. The camp spot is right at the beach near some coconut trees. There’s another van there already. Time for sunset drinks.
While we are preparing breakfast we see our neighbors get all excited underneath the trees next to our cars. A SLOTH! In the tiny tree at about eye height. So cool! And then we see another one in the tree right next to it. One of the sloths crosses some trees and then actually climbs down to cross the beach and climb up a tree on the other side. They’re pretty slow but not as slow as I expected them to be. Also their hair seems to be fixed in the direction from when they’re hanging upside down. So when they are walking across the ground their hair looks even more ridiculous. Then we hear a loud noise and see the other sloth on the ground as well next to a big palm leaf. That leaf wasn’t attached to the tree well enough and came down with the sloth from some 4m height. The sloth looks confused for a bit but then walks back to the tree and climbs up. A bit later in the morning a local comes by with a long stick with a hook to collect some coconuts from the trees around our van. We ask the guy if he can get us some as well. Fresh coconut water. This is shaping to become a good last day for Maarten. We walk along the beach to the point and attempt some snorkeling. There’s loads of fish but there’s even more current and waves: not a very successful attempt, but still a very nice swim. That evening we build a campfire to finish the trip.
Maarten gets up at 6 in the morning to head to the shuttle bus that will bring him to San Jose airport. We say goodbye and I decide to sleep some more. I wake up an hour later to the sound of Maarten cursing outside of the van. Turns out there are two hotels in this teeny tiny town with the same name and the bus was at the other one. With a normal bus instead of a shuttle bus it will take forever to get to San Jose. Even worse, in this town the buses only go twice a day. So we pack up the van and drive 1.5 hour to Limon, the closest big city with very regular quick buses. I drop Maarten off at the station, we say goodbye again and I head back to Playa Uva for what was supposed to be a very relaxing day. I do nothing all day. Pretty tired I decide to go to bed at 20:30. To be woken up again an hour later by a very happy Mike and Lyndsay banging on my windows.(they might have had some very good drinks). They just came back from dinner and decided to camp here too. I grumpily go back to sleep.
The next morning Lyndsay wants to see the sloths too because she hadn’t seen one yet. (They seem to live here and we saw them every day). We look everywhere on the whole beach to find them to end up finding them right above their car. Mike and Lyndsay are crossing to Panama today and try to convince me to join them. I’m only shipping to Colombia in about 4 weeks and I really don’t feel like doing borders today. So now it’s time for our final goodbye. From now on they’ll be way ahead of me. I try to do nothing the rest of the day but at the end of the afternoon an American comes over to ask me about my van. She owns a similar one back home and wants to know how it is to travel like this. I get invited for drinks with her and her friends. I never say no to a beer and a chance to talk about travelling. After the beers it really finally is time for a good night of undisturbed sleep on my last night in Costa Rica. Tomorrow I will head into my last country for Central America: Panama. I realize that this is the first night in more than a month that I don’t have visitors or other travelers around me. Weird…