Do you know what I liked best about travelling around Costa Rica on my own? The fact that I was never actually on my own unless I chose to be so. From the moment I stepped off the plane in San Jose, to the moment I boarded the flight to return home, my travels were blessed and enriched by the people that I encountered.
ANA, PUERTO VIEJO
I was staying in the Hotel Pura Vida just around the corner from Ana's house. On my way into town one day I spotted a beautiful little girl standing behind the gates and I stopped to chat to her. The little girl's name was Ivy and Ana was her grandmother. Before long I was invited into the family home to join them in a game of cards! I noticed some pictures on the wall and asked Ana who the people were. She told me that the girl was her daughter, Melody and the two strapping young men were her sons. One son had died years ago in a motorcycle accident and the other son had lost his life in a car crash barely three weeks previous. He was Ivy's dad. I was absolutely stunned and did not know what to say to this woman who, I soon learned, had an incredible faith and strength that carried her through life from one tragedy to the next. I admired and loved Ana from day one.
MELODY, PUERTO VIEJO
Ah Melody, dear, sweet Melody! There is a musicality and resonance to both name and person. I loved this feisty gal from the very first moment we met. Melody and her 11 year old son live with Ana for 7 months of the year and for the remaining 5 months she works as a bartender on cruise ships in order to provide for her family. Melody exuded a maturity and wisdom beyond her years but at the same time she possessed a wicked sense of humour and quite the mischievous streak! A friend for life.
IVY, PUERTO VIEJO
If cannibalism were legal then I think I would have to eat Ivy alive! She melted my heart the very instant I saw her staring at me behind the garden gates with those beautiful, big brown eyes. During the four days I was in Puerto Viejo Ivy became my shadow. I would pass by the house on my way to breakfast and Ivy would be waiting for me. I'd come back home from another disastrous surf lesson and Ivy would be waiting. The day I left she screamed and cried inconsolably, her arms outstretched towards me, begging me to stay. That little girl stole a piece of my heart and I gladly let her keep it.
Apart from having a fabulous set of pearly whites Rolando proved himself to be a perfect host. We became acquainted through a website called couchsurfing.org which connects travellers from all over the world. Basically you offer your couch (or spare bed) to a stranger. It may sound dodgy and downright irresponsible but couchsurfing.org's ingenious system makes sure that the bad hosts are weeded out due to the ratings and review system. Rolando picked me up from the bus stop, invited me out for a delicious lunch of local fare, took me to meet his lovely mum and provided me with all kinds of invaluable travel tips. In short, I had a simply marvellous time with him and his pocket-sized pooch, Paco and felt safe, comfortable and befriended; three things of paramount importance to a solo female traveller.
Rafa was the owner of a horse ranch in Monteverde and I booked a private trek, just him and I. As we trotted through lush green forests and galloped over coffee and banana plantations I discovered a sweet, kind and gentle man in Rafa. He delighted in recounting stories of his childhood and his family and when talking about the horses in his care there was a detectable note of reverence in his voice. Our ride together was one of the highlights of my entire trip and I will always remember him with great fondness.
ASHLEY AND MIKE FROM PENNSYLVANIA
I first met these two loved-up newlyweds in Montaverde but bumped into them again a few days later in Tamarindo. There is something so terribly exciting about running into people you "know" when you're in a foreign land! We ate out together, conversed together and simply enjoyed one another's company. A fabulously friendly couple with whom I remain in touch on Facebook.
JACK FROM BIRMINGHAM
I travelled over 5,000 miles to meet a Brummie! Jack and I happened to be guests in the same hostel in Tamarindo and spent many a happy hour sitting in a hammock and watching the world go by. Although our travel agendas differed somewhat (Jack was the first to admit that his revolved around women and alcohol), we got along famously and were happy to have a little piece of home in each other.
AND LAST BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST: LUIS AND DUCHI THE DOG!
Luis is the owner of Hotel Pura Vida in Puerto Viejo although it is my own personal opinion that Duchi rules the roost... I had planned to stay in Puerto Viejo for two nights before travelling onto Panama but I found myself so relaxed, so comfortable and so at home in this establishment that I ended up staying four nights and stepping considerably outside of my budget. At this point in my journey I must confess that I was beginning to tire of carrying my life on my back so I made the executive decision to stay put for a few days in order to charge the proverbial batteries. A most excellent decision if I do say so myself.
Oh! Did I mention that Duchi is the most intelligent dog in Costa Rica? Click on the video below for undeniable woof..erm.. I mean PROOF.
Ginger Warrior, over and out.
P.S. Are you still in touch with people that you met during your travels home or abroad? Where did you meet them? How long ago was it? I'd love to hear your stories and you could even post a picture!