Puerto Viejo is a small town on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. It’s known for its laid- back vibe and great food. It’s also very expensive for a backpacker budget so unfortunately we could only stay a few days.
The town has lots of bars and restaurants and a particular favourite of ours was Lidia’s Place. She has been serving up traditional home-cooked Caribbean food for years and it was fantastic. We loved the curry beef and coconut curry fish, with rice and beans and a side of fried plantain.
There are a couple of Animal Sanctuaries close to the town, but with hefty entrance fees we decided to visit only one. Researching online we were horrified to discover the rumours that the famous Sloth Sanctuary is no longer releasing animals back to the wild and just keeping hundreds of sloths in appalling conditions at the back of the centre where visitors don’t go. This convinced us to visit the Jaguar Rescue Centre instead, which still effectively works on a rehabilitation and release ethos.
The Jaguar Rescue Centre isn’t just for Jaguars, they have all sorts of animals including monkeys, sloths, birds, caiman and other big cats. Many animals are orphans, some have been confiscated or others found where they shouldn’t be (caiman in swimming pools!). There weren’t any Jaguars when we were there, but this is actually a good thing as it means they are all in the wild. It was a really nice project to support and great to hear the stories behind all the animals.
We headed to Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, just for a night before our flight to Mexico. We took the bus and on arrival we were hounded by taxi touts. We just ignored them for a while and eventually went with a guy that seemed OK and promised to use the meter.
Then the scam we had been waiting two years for happened…
When we set off the driver spoke a little English, but when he realised that Carrie spoke some Spanish he started bombarding her with questions, talking really fast and trying to distract us. When we stopped in traffic we noticed him press a button on the side of the meter and the fare started to rise by the second! Carrie started shouting at him in Spanish to stop the taxi and saying she saw what he did to the meter. Seth started shouting in English but all of a sudden the driver didn’t speak English. We told him we would take another taxi so he started panicking and getting annoyed, saying he would take us back to the bus station or we could just pay him 4000 colones. Absolutely no way! We knew the other taxis at the station were in on the same scam so we agreed to pay him a lesser amount we thought was fair to take us to our hotel.
After that he was extremely nice as he knew he’d been caught out and could get in a lot of trouble. He had turned the meter off and was making excuses about it. When we arrived at the hotel we were still fuming but in the rush to get our bags from the trunk we forgot to get his license details. No harm done, we just can’t believe this trick has finally been pulled on us after years of watching the meter like a hawk whenever we take a taxi.
Costa Rica ladies and gentlemen, the ‘safest’ and ‘friendliest’ country in Latin America! To be fair the scenery from the bus ride did look beautiful and had we not been on a backpacker budget we would have loved to explore more.
Next stop, Mexico!