Puerto Jimenez

Girls standing in front of accommodation in Puerto Jimenez Puerto Jimenez is an interesting little place.  We arrived around 4pm and were immediately pounced upon by locals trying to lure us to their accommodation, treks, tours, lodges. We managed to send one packing when we realised that his accommodation was way out of town but took up the offer of another who had hung back initially.  If we hadn’t been so travel weary we might have had greater presence of mind to ignore his offers too and head into town to explore further.  However, there were thirteen of us with large packs and we were hot and tired and the only place to sit and wait while a team went off to scope the place out was the side of the road.  Javier, the in-country agent had suggested that there were some hostels just round the corner from the bus station and that seemed to be where the old guy was taking us so we succumbed.  A hostel was found that would accommodate all 13 of us together for a price that fitted our budget.  The Hospedaje Fanny Lu was basic.  That’s it.  Basic but clean. And there was wifi.
Street in Puerto Jimenez, shops selling gifts and soyuvenirs and a dvd rental placeOur very first impressions were that PJ is a launching pad for adventurers in search of wildlife and a taste of the jungle; there seemed to be little there but guest houses and Jungle tour offices. But as we walked out to eat we saw that there was more and as we explored this morning the bustling little town grew on me.  It reminds me a bit of small settlements along Golden Bay or up in the Coromandel where the young and hip made their home 30 years ago looking for an escape from city living and never left. Squeezed in amongst the everyday shops that provide the necessities for living and the offices advertising the best, the most adventurous, the chance to see the most wildlife jungle tours are shops selling arts and crafts,  jewellery and hair braiding, all locally made and run by aforesaid ageing hippies.
Costa Rican number plateThere are also heaps of places to eat all sorts of food.  Of course, the staple is Gallo Pinto and always the cheapest and most filling option.  But the restaurants that line the waterfront offer fresh fish which I for one could not resist, as well as nachos, quesadillas, spaghetti and real Italian pizzas. The port of Puerto Jimenez used to be a busy one before the road took the place of the ship as a means of getting produce across the gulf.  Boats still head over to Golfito where the nearest hospital is but it is more of a leisure marina now with yachts berthed in the harbour.  Families bathe in the shallow, warm water, flying fish are flashes of silver as they skim the surface and small seabirds dive and swoop to catch the flying fish as they jump.  On the day after our trek we cooled off in the water before eating in one of the seaside restaurants, treating ourselves as a reward for our efforts.
Sunset at the beach with palm trees on the left hand side of the imagePJ is also the stomping ground of the goldminers who pan for gold in the rivers in the Osa Peninsula.  Not in the Corcovado National Park as that is forbidden but very close to the edge of it!  They come into town every month to sell their gleanings and swap it for a different sort of gold!  The numerous bars are a testament to their presence.
Pizza restaurant in Puerto Jimenez

Adios Nicaragua, Hola Costa Rica

Ferry port, very much a building site, a car in the foreground, signs and cones with barriers. In the background the volcano of ConcepcionWe were welcomed into Rivas by some very friendly taxi drivers.  Experience has taught me to be circumspect at the descending hordes of people offering taxis, buses, accommodation but sometimes you have to trust to instinct and these guys seemed genuine enough.  They assured us that the bus we had intended getting was not available; it had already left and there were no more that evening.  It was getting dark, and the thought of navigating the building site that was the San Jorge port with full packs and weary girls, to find a bus and then to negotiate a busy bus station and still have to get taxis to our hostel was rather daunting. twin monuments in a town square remembering the heroes of the Nicaraguan Revolution of the 1970s.So we negotiated a price and off we set.  Our taxi driver proudly talked about Nicaragua and its people and he even showed us his house!  He also showed us where the Spanish conquistadores and Nicaraguans signed the Declaration of Independence in 1821.  A cross and a statue mark the point in the road.  He told us about how Christopher Columbus came in 1492 and the Spanish stole the land of the indigenous people and drove them out.  He was proud of how all the countries that were colonised by Spain have now achieved their independence and their freedom.  There is a real sense here of patriotism and pride in who they are; poor but free after the struggles they have had in the latter part of the 20th century. In the Parque Central there are statues of the people from the FSLN who were instrumental in overthrowing the dictator Somoza.  It has taken the country many years to get over the damage caused to the economy by Somoza and whilst the poverty here is clearly evident systems are in place and seem to be working.
The lady at the Hospedaje Lidia welcomed us in a much more friendly manner than the Señora in Ometepe but she was still quite dour! However, once the girls greeted her in Spanish and made efforts to communicate she relaxed and was much more chatty. We were ready to eat so headed out towards the Parque Central where our taxi driver had recommended a cheap place to eat local food. Drummers with large bass drums playing in a town square in the eveningAs we got closer we could hear the sound of drums and presumed it was some sort of procession – another bit of information from our taxi driver.  We have been hearing fireworks all the time we have been here and he said they are set off during the processions which are part of the nightly celebrations leading up to Christmas.   When we arrived at the square an area to the right was filled with drummers drumming all different types of drums, there were also trumpeters and percussionists.  On the stage a large group of girls were dancing to the beat.  It was fantastic to listen to and watch.  They threw the large bass drums over their heads and swirled them around without missing a beat! Each section played and then passed on to the next or accompanied each other.  It was totally mesmerising and we stood there for over half an hour. Gallo Pinto, a traditional Nicaraguan meal, plantain chips with rice and red beansThere seemed to be no sign of them finishing so we made our way to the restaurant which was actually at the corner of the square so we ate our delicious Gallo Pinto whilst still listening to the band.
To finish the evening off the girls danced to the very cheesy Christmas music playing from the bandstand in the Parque Central.  It is interesting how differently we behave when we know that the people who are watching us will never see us again!  It makes me think about how that idea plays out in an online environment where we can maintain a certain amount of anonymity or even re-invent ourselves completely.  Food for thought.