The final few days of my time in Costa Rica was spent in the capital San Jose and seeing that this city has very little to offer in terms of sightseeing and pleasurable activities I decided to sign up to a 4 in 1 tour, taking in some of the most outstanding scenic points located around the city.
Paying the pricey sum of $82, more than twice the price it cost to live on the coffee plantation I was working on, I was expecting a lot from this trip, but like previous experiences, something always seems to go wrong when I try and enjoy myself!
First stop on the tour was the nearby active Poas Volcano. I already knew that there was no chance of seeing any flowing red lava, but I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed upon reaching the summit and there was nothing to see but clouds. I put this down to bad luck, and as there was another three ‘top’ attractions to be seen I decided things could only get better. How wrong was I! At our second stop, the La Paz Waterfalls, deemed the most beautiful waterfalls in the whole of Costa Rica, a tropical downpour decided to unleash its fury on us. Such weather isn't the best when having to navigate steep slippery steps and halfway through the stop a group decision was made to return back to the bus. When I say a group decision, this 'group' decision was made by three annoying families who unbeknown to me had decided to come dressed in only shorts and t-shirts, and I was quite happy to see them suffering and shivering uncontrollably on the bus afterwards for cutting my viewing pleasure short. How rude!!
If the trip wasn't already bad enough upon leaving the La Paz Waterfalls a caring lorry driver in front of us decided to fall asleep at the wheel and plough across the road into the oncoming traffic. This meant a nice 2 hours stuck in gridlock with the three annoying families constantly moaning about how cold they were. I tell you, I was so tempted to take a swing at someone, especially at the end of the 2 hours waiting the tour leader decided it was now too late to make it to either of the two other places we were supposed to see, instead turning the bus around and headed back to San Jose. As a way of compensation the guide kindly stopped at a roadside shop and bought us two punnets of strawberries to share between 15 people, which I saw more of a mocking gesture than a gesture of sympathy. Basically I ended up paying $82 to see clouds, rain and eat three strawberries. Even Wimbledon doesn't charge such ludicrous prices for the same entertainment! Money well spent if you ask me!!
If I wasn't already annoyed with the days entertainment, halfway through the trip my camera's memory card decided to corrupt itself meaning that at the present moment in time I have lost all of my pictures from my first 3 weeks in Costa Rica. I was one angry man! I have heard rumours that there is the chance of being able to retrieve these with the help of some computer software, but as there is little chance of me getting such software in the near future, I’m not holding my breath!
Although I hate being a tourist in such situations, you do get to meet some interesting people and have some remarkable conversations. Upon entering the tour bus, I heard one women whisper to her husband that it looked as though I had come dressed like a homeless person. The cheek! Obviously all homeless people must wear flip-flops and a backpack, and not be dressed in baggy jeans, a side pointed cap and matching fluorescent orange designer bags like this couple were. While at Poas Volcano a rather obnoxious old lady decided to open up her heart and tell me all about her life and daughters life, and that her daughter had now joined some 'weird cult' teaching 'sustainable development'. I wasn't really in the mood to confide in her that I also have been learning this 'weird cult's' teachings and that I had just got a Masters in the subject!
There were also a number of people on the tour that seemed only interested in bragging about what University they went to, what degree they currently hold, and what jobs their parents have. I'm sure at any other time, such conversation I would find riveting, but I find such conversation a little strange considering the outstanding beauty and differing culture that was on offer and which wasn’t worthy of even one sentence!
As I am about to leave Costa Rica I must admit that this country has surprised me in a number of ways. The infrastructure competes with any developed country in the Western world. Even the most rural villages located at the top of steep mountains and hidden amongst the clouds have an ample supply of running water and all homes have electricity. I am still slightly uncertain to what the traditional Costa Rican culture is, as the is a huge amount of American influence here, which cannot be helped considering its proximity to America and the fact that the majority of the people visiting here are also American. Unfortunately though I think such culture goes a little too far when the prominent feature of a cities skyline is no longer a beautifully old catholic church, but a giant golden 'M' standing alongside it, as can be seen in San Isidro.
Talking of McDonald's, the stance in Costa Rica on fast food is completely different to that witnessed in either America or England. In America and England fast food is seen predominantly as a food of the lower classes due to its cheapness and availability. In Costa Rica eating such fast food is seen as a status symbol, showing wealth and culture. Considering the Tico diet is so healthy, hopefully they will see the light before it's too late!