The roar of the stadium electrified the air. As the bus dropped us off, we could hear the yells and horns of the many fans who came to see the Costa Rican National Team. The game had not even started at this point. We still had 40 minutes before the national anthem. When the kickoff began, it was a whole new type of energy. Fans were screaming and rooting for their team as they approached the goal, and sighed when the ball narrowly missed the goal. When the referees made bad calls or when the other team had players “get injured,” the crowd would chant some things in Spanish not suitable for this blog. It is hard to compare it to any other experience. The security would not permit coins or anything that people can throw. It was amazing to experience this part of the culture. It was easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of the moment. Even though Costa Rica lost, the game was a great way to see a less “tranquilo” side of Tico lifestyle.
After a late night at the game, we had an early morning for some independent travel to Montezuma (and by early, I mean 4:15 in the morning. At this point in Costa Rica, no one is on the roads. It only took 15 minutes to get to San Jose and we had to wait for a while before our bus left (which was just as empty as the streets). Between the 2 buses and ferry, we finally arrived at our hostel and were greeted by monkeys. We had to climb up stairs to get to our room, but it was worth sleeping in the middle of the forests and getting to see so much wildlife.
During the rainy season, Montezuma is a bit of a ghost town, which means everything is cheaper. We went on a tour of Isla Tortuga, which included a 45 minute boat ride (in which we saw a dolphin) and 2 snorkeling trips. The fish there were beautiful and the beach was calm. By far was this the most beautiful beach I have seen thus far. Wild pigs, parrots, and crabs lingered around the beach while people swam, rented kayaks and jet skis, and played volleyball. During our snorkeling portion we even got to see a sting ray jump from the water and swim around us. It was a mesmerizing experience. On our way back, our driver spotted two sea turtles swimming in the ocean. I could not believe how well they camouflage themselves. I thought it was just one of the many rocks until one of them stuck its head out of the water.
All this being said, the highlight of Montezuma is the beautiful waterfalls. We knew ahead of time that it was a bit of a hike, but that could not have been more of an understatement. From the beginning you have to climb up rocks and hold on to ropes as you scale across rocks. After sweating through my swimsuit and almost falling numerous times, we finally made it to the first breath-taking waterfall. A few Ticos climbed up the waterfall and jumped from the top. I however was content wading in the water and appreciating the views. But this was just the first water fall. The harder hike was ahead of us.
To reach the second and third waterfall, we had to climb through tree roots and up rocks. Being afraid of heights, I had to constantly tell myself to not look down. At times, the path was not clear and we had to figure out where to go. Fortunately there were ropes to help people along the trail. Unfortunately that also meant that particular part was either steep or difficult. After some time and a few breaks, we made it to the second and third waterfalls. People jumped from the falls and climbed the rope swing. It was a great experience, even if the water was icy! Fortunately, there are stairs we took from those falls back to the entrance. We got to avoid going back through the climbing section.
The main thing I learned from this trip is to take earlier buses. We waited until the 2:30 bus. While it was nice to sleep in and enjoy the beach, we had to stand on the two hour bus ride to the ferry with our bags. And it rains most afternoons, so the ferry was rather wet. We spoke to some police officers on the ferry and learned a lot about their job here, which made it worth it. We learned they do not write tickets or do much with traffic: there are traffic cops for that. The police also travel all over the country. Unlike in the US, police are not confined to their city. Here, they travel every so many weeks to work in a different location. It was interesting to learn about the differences on something I had never thought of. Now I understand why sometimes the police give me wrong directions to bus stops!
This week was amazing. I got more bug bites, scrapes, bruises, and sunburns than I can count but the memories I have are unforgettable. Montezuma was beautiful and the people there were so kind. Now all I need is a massage to work out my sore muscles from all the craziness of the weekend. Pura Vida!