It’s 6am in the historic lobby of Gran Hotel Costa Rica. It’s empty now except for me and the bell boys; it cleared out quickly with a large group of Texans from Trinity Lutheran Church just boarding a waiting van and other private drivers collecting day trippers to explore volcanoes and national parks.
I sit, writing on an old couch where JFK sat during his stay in the hotel in March 1963. The beautifully patterned ceramic tiles, chandeliers and furniture are untouched since his stay; unfortunatly so are the upstairs carpets and bedrooms. I could call it ramshackle but let’s settle for old world charm.
It’s a nice setting to start writing again, we’ve been so busy, I’ve been distracted, fallen off the wagon, written nothing. We’ve been clocking up the miles, spent two days on open seas on a catamaran sailing from South to Central America, taken speedboats, jeeps, buses and countless taxis to get here to San Jose where we are only eight hours from our final Latin American destination Granada, Nicaragua where we’ll stay a month.
Getting here, we’ve passed countless car crashes, been involved in one ourselves and narrowly missed another. As well as been thrown off the bus at the Panamanian border and of course been bitten by lots of insects; each variety leaving a different bump. As I write, the 10cm line of sand fly bites on my upper thigh is itching like hell.
But, we’ve had the most incredible time.Swimming over shipwrecks,snorkelling with baracudas on coral reefs, sailing from one palm-treed sandy Carribean cay to another.
Meeting the most wonderful people on the way.The fabulous Colombian couple from Medellín, Oscar and Piedad,who accompanied us to Tayrona National Park ,rented a Caribbean beach-front hut with us and bought us drinks and exotic fruit while they told us all about life in Colombia.
Just so you know, Colombia is friendly and safe. It is wonderfully varied, from cool highland mountains to tropical, jungly lowlands. It has everything, modern exciting cities, Caribbean and Pacific coasts ,delicious food and fresh juices. It’s worth a visit!
We’ve met wonderful travellers enroute like our fourteen shipmates on the good ship Santana who were fun to be with. They were aunts and uncles for Darragh; swimming, snorkelling and diving with him and playing card games around the cramped dining table every night.
Others too,like the professional young doctor in the dilapidated clinic in the Casco Viejo of Panama City who gave me antibiotics for a leg cut that just wouldn’t clear up, in the heat and humidity here. Of course, five days snorkelling didn’t help much, especially when the fish were nibbling at my scab. Seriously! Not a nice feeling.
Then there was the other helpful, courteous doctor in Paso Canoas who wrote a supporting letter to allow us cross into Costa Rica after border police refused our entry, insisting on evidence of yellow fever vaccination after our trip to Colombia.
We’ve meet kind, cheerful chatty taxi drivers and of course others who wanted to rip us off. You always have to check the price before you sit into a Latin American taxi but in Panama City, the answer I usually got when I asked how much it would be was ‘ How much will you pay?’ The serious negotiation began then.
Anyway, we’ve negotiated our way here to JFK’s couch in the lobby of Gran Hotel Costa Rica. It’s been a long trip, an amazing adventure and we feel a sense of achievement to have travelled up from Cape Horn.
I’ll fill you in on all the details some other time but now I’m heading for some Central American rice and beans for breakfast.