Costa Rica may be small, but it has a lot to offer. I wanted to take some time off the boat with my backpack and travel across the country … Without money and without taking a single bus; this is how it went for me:
Golfito- Jaco 237 km
January 14th, 9:00 a.m., my backpack is packed, I had a good breakfast, hiking shoes on and after saying goodbye to Aurelia and Jörg I start walking on the only street here in Golfito. After looking at the map, I picked a beach where I could spend the night in my tent. “Playa Hermosa” is about 150km from here, the bus is too expensive for me, so I put my thumb out and hope that the people here are just as nice as they are in Colombia, the Caribbean, Spain, and where else hitchhiking worked out so well for me.
Of course, hitchhiking is a difficult topic in times of Covid. I am well aware of this and thought a lot about whether I should do this tour at all. So far, Costa Rica has recorded a low number of cases, which is why I finally decided to set off with enough precautionary measures and respect. Disinfectant gel and -spray as well as a handful of masks I have got with me..
Small change of plans
In fact, I managed to reach my original destination without any problems when an American guy picks me up for the last bit. When I told him where I was headed, he kindly pointed out the deep black clouds in the sky. He offered to take me a little further, to Jaco, where he had to drive through anyway. I accepted gratefully and when we reached the small town we decided to go for a bite to eat; What a lucky decision. Because in the hidden Thai restaurant, which we found by chance, I found my accommodation for the next two nights.
While eating, I overheard the owners speaking German and of course came up to them immediately. One thing led to another and I asked if I could camp in their garden. I would not want to disturb anyone and would be gone in the morning.
Utisha and her husband Kristian with their two daughters not only accepted happily, they even offered me to set up camp in the old school building under the restaurant. I could use the garden hose as a shower and the toilets were also open. I was even able to eat at their place and they had no problem with me staying one more night after I arranged to go hiking the next day. Mona and I met in the restaurant that evening. She told of a beautiful path up a small mountain, where we went together the next morning.
The whole time I felt like part of the family. I still don’t know how to thank this wonderful family, my help in the restaurant washing dishes was the least I could do.
Onto the Arenal Volcano, 170 km
After these two beautiful days I continued on the 16th. Next destination: the Arenal volcano. Mask on, windows open and always disinfecting!
Once again I got to know very nice people while hitchhiking. Among others, Chandra and Lance from Canada, who took a little jaunt with no real destination. Without further ado, they drove me over half the distance and even invited me to a soda (the little restaurants on the side of the street) for lunch. It should not be the last time I see this nice couple after saying goodbye 80km from my destination.
After another 3 rides, I arrived in the village of Castillo. Michael picked me up at the entrance to the village. I met him on the first day while hitchhiking when he had saved me from the rain. He was kind enough to let me stay in his small guest house, where his 4 dogs normally live. So I put up my tent again, took a long-awaited shower and after eating the rest of my bread and jam just fell into the tent.
The plan for the next day was to hike to a lookout and admire the volcano with its breathtaking lake from above. Hiking through many small villages and cow meadows was worth the view. When I came back in the afternoon and wanted to take my tent somewhere by the lake for the next night, I met John, a good friend of Michael’s. He spontaneously offered me to camp on his property on the mountainside. After a nice evening with interesting conversation, I fell asleep under the stars and woke up to this view:
Off to the Nicaraguan border, 108 km
After a surprisingly cold night I started my way to the border, to Los Chiles. Shortly after leaving, two Slovenian women picked me up with whom I quickly visited the hot springs in La Fortuna. There we took a pleasant, hot bath in the river. It’s unbelievable what nature has created here.
The only unsettling circumstance was the amount of people who were all bathing in the same river. We were out in the fresh air and kept our distance as much as possible, but masks could not be worn. So first thing back at the car was to disinfect.
After a long day in many different cars, I arrived in Los Chiles, the city right at the border, quite late. It was too late to cross to Nicaragua that same day. Therefore my last ride offered to ask his tenant in town if I could stay there for one night. I thought I would take a look. Around Harry the driver I felt a bit uncomfortable but the 70-year-old tenant immediately made a very relaxed impression.
Nonetheless, I decided to sleep in my tent next door on a construction site where I felt safer. Of course, as always, with a knife and pepper spray ready to hand.
In the end, the old man actually spared me a lot of stress. When my already ailing cell phone finally broke down completely, he drove me to all repair stores and stayed there with me until it was sure it was repaired. Then he dropped me off on the main road towards the border post. Despite caution, my gut feeling turned out to be right with him.
After the relief of being able to use my cell phone again, I encountered a setback at the border post: I would need a Covid test to be allowed to enter Nicaragua. These precautionary measures are reasonable, but unfortunately I don’t have the 80 € for the test, as much as I would have liked to see Nicaragua.
Well, then to the Caribbean coast, 306 km
So, what now? If I can’t see the Nicaraguan jungle, I might as well go back to the sea. I’ve already been to the Pacific, from all sides of Costa Rica I missed only the Caribbean. So there I had my answer: Off to Limon, to the Caribbean coast.
It was already 1 p.m., but I was still able to set off. I was about halfway to Limon and it was soon getting dark when someone took me with him, who said he wasn’t going far but I thankfully got in. For me every meter helps!
Fortunately for me, I was even able to stay in his house that night. In a real bed! At night we visited his cousin, where I cooked mashed potatoes, granny carrots and scrambled eggs for everyone. Real typical German!
20th of January, on to the sea
Following the recommendation of Hair and his cousin, my destination was the small village of Cahuita. It was only 167 km away, but the way there was quite a long one. There are days and areas where hitchhiking works faster or slower.
The way was absolutely worth it. When I arrived in the afternoon, I first bought myself a breakfast / lunch; What’s the cheapest I found? Oatmeal with milk and an apple. I was enjoying my gourmet meal in the small park when a nice older lady came up to me and spoke to me speakin English and we started talking.
When she asked where I would sleep tonight and I just gave a shrug, Meryl offered to introduce me to her landlord. He offers camping on his property, which is exactly what I could need.
I am glad Meryl came up to me in that park, because that was the start of many lucky coincidences. Wyndell, who owns the campsite and hosts two weekly community lunches, let me sleep in an empty cabin.
After seeing the preparations for lunch and offering to help in exchange for a place with my tent, we had a deal. Then it was time to chop vegetables, set up tables and chairs, serve food, wash up … That evening I had a roof over my head and the feeling that I had done something useful.
So many nice people
Wyndell’s project brings people together every Tuesday and Friday to enjoy the delicious typical food and music together. In Corona times everything is outdoors and all cooks and helpers wear masks and gloves.
That’s how I got to know Manuel, a musician in his 60s who travels through the country with his guitar and is a real jokester. We talked for a while, and when I mentioned I had to go to San Jose soon, he offered to take me with him when he drives there in two days anyway. Lucky me!
To the capital, 200 km
We agreed to meet on the 22nd in Limon, where I got the opportunity to admire another small concert and even be guest at a radio interview.
On the 23rd then we drove all the way to the capital of Costa Rica, 200km away. After an entertaining drive, we arrived at his home, where I could spend the night in the guest room. Such an unusual comfort!
That same afternoon I left for a café where I wanted to meet Irina and Felipe. My aunt had made the contact from home through her German course. Both have been learning German for a few months because they will soon be moving to Germany. We seized the opportunity and met for a language- and culture exchange.
We had such a good time that we extended the night for a beer. It’s a shame that I had to leave the next morning, otherwise I would have liked to visit them again. I wish them both good luck and fun in Germany!
On my way back through Jaco to Golfito, 329 km
Even though I met nice people in San Jose, I was really happy to get out of the big city. Even though everyone wears a mask here, I feel more comfortable outside of big cities. You just have to find a balance and can avoid such big risks.
I wanted to spend the next night in Jaco and then continue to Golfito the next day. Fortunately for me, someone took me with him very close to my destination. Before I drove the last bit from there, I was invited to go fishing with some local fishermen. Of course I didn’t say no. So off to the small fishing boat to catch shrimp in the afternoon.
For better or worse, this also includes tastetesting after the work is done. I think the face doesn’t need any more words …
After this exciting tour, I made the last 17 km to Jaco. Who made it this far may now be wondering. why again Jaco?
I can only say that I not only wanted to split the 329 km to Golfito, but above all I wanted to meet Utisha, Kristian and the rest of the family again and say goodbye. It is really something special to meet such kind and loving people, and after all their help and hospitality I wanted to say thank you again.
That night, Chandra and Lance, the Canadians I first met while hitchhiking, even offered me a room in their apartment … By far the most comfortable night I’ve had in a long time, and once again friendliness that I do not know how to thank for.
The last 233 km went like clockwork, as always with a lot of waiting and walking on the side of the road in the blazing sun, but at 3:00 pm I was back “home” on the Aurelia. I was exhausted but overjoyed and grateful for all the unique experiences and the wonderful people I was able to meet.