Time was running out in Central America, we had 6 nights left before our trip through to Colombia. We had to make it through Costa Rica and Panama to get to Panama City for our flight. After San Juan del Sur, we were still feeling the beach vibe so decided to take a trip through to another beach town called Montezuma. The guide book says it used to be a spot where free spirits (the term we’ve made up for people who are a little on the quirky side and are trying to find themselves in Central America) used to head to for weeks on end – to do what free spirits do. Since Costa Rica has grown in popularity, Montezuma has become closer to the tourist trail meaning a few more normal people have infiltrated the free spirit vibe. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but at the very least we knew we could sit on the beach and swim in the ocean. Getting there from San Juan del Sur to Montezuma was another matter…
We’d read up a bit about getting to Montezuma from Nicaragua, with mixed reports on where to get buses from/too and how long it would take. Neither of us could be bothered with a big trip, but we just had to deal with that first world problem! A taxi to the border was simple, 35 mins and $20 later we were there passing through both borders no worries at all. On the other side we talked (in our limited Spanish) to a guy organising buses and he confirmed we could get to ‘Punterenas’ (where we needed to get a ferry to Montezuma) on the bus we were standing by. On we got, pretty happy with the ease of things so far. It was going to take about 4hrs to get to Punterenas, after 5hrs on the bus we decided that perhaps we’d better check everything is still going to plan. It wasn’t. The bus was never actually going into Punterenas, rather stopping on the side of the road near there, where (of course) we would know where to get off). Cel managed to get the driver to drop us at the next stop so we could cross the road to the bus stop on the other side – 7hrs into it. Next we realised we had enough to buy a bottle of water and that was about it, so I went running off toward a plaza to find an ATM – we were in luck and I hauled out a wad of Costa Rican Colones. Just as I got back to the bus stop and we were trying to work out what the hell we were going to do, a bus pulled up and a guy yelled out “Montezuma” – things were turning in our favour! 1.5hrs later we were in Punterenas and boarding the ferry across to the peninsula that Montezuma sits on. The ferry was a nice change to buses, with the sun setting during the 1.5hr journey, we started to relax.
The next bus was waiting for us on the other side, we got on, sat down and got ready for our trip to Montezuma, or so we thought. 1.5hrs later, we stopped in a place called Cobano and were told we needed to get off and change buses – both of us were near breaking point, until we heard the final leg of the journey was only 7km. The bus change ended up being a 30 minute wait, then a 20 min bus down the hill to Montezuma ! We’d arrived and after wandering round a few accommodation joints, we couldn’t be bothered any longer with looking for value so got a nice private room for $30US a night. Showers, food and sleep ensued! 13hrs was the total, 6 different vehicles and one uselessly unhelpful bus driver!
‘Free Spirits’ in Montezuma
Montezuma is a tiny town on the coast, we discovered that after walking the length of it in around 5 minutes. It has the normal tourist shops, bars, a supermarket, lots of free spirits playing with fire sticks and juggling, and of course beaches. We walked for an hour or so Northwest along the sand and reached around 4 different beaches, I’m pretty sure they don’t end there either. The water is warm, blue and there’s a bit of surf which Cel and I pummelled ourselves in bodysurfing late one afternoon. We plenty of time chilling on the beach during the day and given it was so warm at night, we took wine and beer onto the beach after dinner and sat there soaking up the ocean air and talking about life – we were trying our very best to embrace the free-spirit nature of Montezuma! We definitely noticed the difference in price of things (as expected) and put our culinary skills back to the test whipping up a couple of meals in the hostel – while it sounds like a bit of a pain it was pretty good fun, I guess we’d missed cooking.
The waterfall that broke the jandals back
Aside from the beach, Montezuma has a few other attractions, one of which is a 14m waterfall and swimming hole. We’d heard good things, so decided to take the 30 minute walk up a riverbed to the fall. It was hot work in the middle of the day, but once we got to the fall we realised it was well worth it. We were straight into the pool below the fall to cool off, we sat in the pool and watched a young lad jump from the very top of the fall into the pool – local knowledge of what’s safe I guess! While we didn’t attempt a leap off the top, we did manage to swim into the current of the fall and get in behind it, jumping off a lower set of rocks on our way out. Took me back to the days of waterfall jumping in Thailand and Laos!
A picnic lunch and another swim later, we thought it was time to head back into town. Carefully navigating the river beds stones and pockets of mud, we got about halfway down before, ‘POP’ the front prong of my jandal broke. Now you may think it is not terribly interesting to hear about a broken jandal but I’d already broken another pair and this was the last. At the start of the trip Cel through I was mad taking two pairs, she understand why now! As luck would have it, the supermarket (think a 4-square) sold Havianas, so being the brand advocate I am, I grabbed a new pair and paid a small fortune for the pleasure!
After our three nights in Montezuma, it was time to get ourselves moving to San Jose so that we could catch a bus through to Panama. The trip to San Jose was much easier – we even got to sample some local food from a vendor who jumped on the bus part way through. San Jose itself was like many of the other big cities in Central America – busy, lacking a bit of character and supposedly quite dangerous. We avoided most of it by hanging out at an outstanding hostel ‘Bekuo’, playing pool, eating nearby on their recommendation and ploughing through our books. An 11pm bus to Panama took us out of the city, a 16hr ride later we were hoping to be in Panama City!