Do You Know The Way To San Jose?…luckily for us, our new driver Jeffrey does 🙂 Which leads to the final instalment of my Costa Rica Travel Diaries, and a handy musical interlude from Dionne Warwick…
We wake in our slightly damp room for the last time, a final alarm call of monkeys and birds and frogs to ease us into the day. The bounding out of bed at first light – or before first light – is a distant memory. We reluctantly, despite the dampness, pack away our week one suitcase and head for breakfast. There’s the small matter of an $89 bar bill to pay. Surely I haven’t drank $44.50 dollars worth of tequila sunrises over the past two days? Maybe I have. Our bar bill is considerably less than others. You know who you are.
As we arrived by boat, we also leave by boat. We get an impromptu wildlife tour as the caymans are out in force this morning. There’s even a crocodile lurking on the banks waiting to wave us off on our merry way. Soon though we’re back on dry land, waiting to lug our suitcases up a muddy bank towards our brand spanking new bus. Alfredo’s bus driver shoes are big ones to fill but we’re willing to put our lives in the hands of Jeffrey.
We’re soon on our way. And these next two days have a couple of long bus journey ahead of us. Today’s journey is broken up by a lunch stop at the same hotel that we made a toilet stop at three days previously. We arrive at the same time as several other tour groups. This means a queue for the rice and beans buffet winding out of the door. The sloth is still around, up a tree on the other side of the busy road. Less cautious tour groups than those led by Andres dodge the traffic to get a shaky mobile phone photo.
Jeffrey navigates the winding steep roads towards San Jose with aplomb. There’s a bit of confusion when we get to the city when we’re dropped off to walk across to our hotel, only to find that there are roads closed and Jeffrey and the bus can’t get through to meet us. We get back on the bus, only to be told the roads are now open. So we get back off again for an impromptu city tour with Andres. And then we come across a roadblock where an oxen parade is taking place. Andres stalls for time while Jeffrey navigates his way through a congested city centre to meet us at the El Presidente hotel.
I don’t know what I expected from our San Jose hotel – a sort of chain Travelodge/Holiday Inn type of residence maybe – but the El Presidente is a surprisingly elegant and modern hotel in the heart of downtown. We check in to our room and open our week one suitcase for the final time. From tomorrow it’s clean and fresh clothes all the way.
Mr Fletche and I go for a quick stroll around the local area. Andres’ warning about carrying big conspicuous cameras ring in our ears so we don’t stray too far. We do happen upon another road closure, this time for a parade protesting violence against women which was pretty emotional. We head back to El Presidente and straight up to their rooftop bar for a drink. We’re soon joined by six more of our tour family – it’s almost an unspoken agreement that we will all dine together tonight.
We peruse the hotel restaurant menu but decide to venture out to an eatery called El Patio that Mr Fletche and I had spied earlier. It’s a fun evening and the food is good, although they don’t stock the craft beer on the menu or any gin. We’ve inadvertently come out without replenishing our cash supply and have to borrow $5 from Jack and Katie. Matt and Charlotte only have a $50 note, which the waiter won’t accept, so Paul and Hayley bail them out with sufficient colones. We’ve known each other a week and we’re already in debt to each other…
It’s strange waking up to the sounds of traffic and church bells rather than birds, insects and monkeys. We’re looking forward to our time at the beach. To all-inclusive food and drink, and finally unpacking. At the same time though we wish we were embarking on a new and exciting adventure.
We all pile onto the coach after breakfast for the final time. There’s a sombre mood as if we all sense that this is the end of our Pura Vida family bubble. Will we even talk to each other again, once we’re exposed to other people? The answer of course – for people who don’t follow my social media – is a resounding yes. But we’re all restless as we head out of the city. Even more so when it’s two hours into the journey and we’re all so desperate for the toilet that our eyeballs are floating.
Andres has one final surprise though as the toilet stop finally materialises. Mi Finca is not only a handy pit stop, but also the home of a number of scarlet macaws who swoop amongst the trees above us. One is clearly the Greatest Showman of the group and goes full “This Is Me” strutting it’s stuff for the crowd.
It’s the final wildlife we’ll spy on our Grand Tour. We’ve had a quick whip-round and Hayley – group spokesperson – presents Andres with an envelope stuffed with dollars and colones. We like to think we have been the best tour group Andres has ever had, and we will forever be seared on his memory. In truth, he is off to start the Grand Tour all over again, picking up a new Pura Vida family. We drop off Andres at a Walmart near the airport, and pick up a new tour guide. He will be accompanying us on the final leg to the Riu Palace. I forget his name. I will call him Andres Mk2.
And so our Grand Tour ends, as Jeffrey makes the final turn into the sweeping driveway of the RIU Palace. Any worries or concerns I had about taking a group tour have been truly eliminated. It’s been an amazing week spent with some wonderful people. But I am more than ready to ditch that sweaty damp suitcase, unpack clean and fresh clothes from suitcase no 2, and eat something other than rice and beans…
And so I finally reach the end of my Costa Rica Travel Diaries! After all, no-one wants to read about a week spent reading, drinking cocktails, eating, counting insect bites and a fruitless search for my beloved travel mascot Eeyore. Do they? However there will be a review coming up of the Riu Palace, and blogs on what to pack for the Costa Rica Grand Tour, and what it’s REALLY like taking a group tour with a bunch of strangers!