It’s been very quiet on this blog for a long time, I know. Why so? Well, staying put after having a sore bottom for a full year isn’t easy, and it takes some time until you can stomach going through your photos again – or even write about it.
To keep it short: Instead of continuing with the blog I decided to try to create something, well, real. And it’s a book! I’m launching a Kickstarter Campaign for a photobook of this trip – so this is where I’ll finish the story – and I’m pretty sure that those of you enjoying the photos from this blog will also like the book.
Not even two months into my trip I managed to injure my knee and wasn’t sure whether or not I could continue travelling. Thankfully I could finish my trip without major drawbacks and to this day I am happy how everything worked out. Being a well-behaved European I had a travel insurance – how it did or didn’t help me is what I want to write about.
Please Notice: I can only write about my personal experience, things from this post might not apply to other insurance companies or countries (Europe here); please be aware of that.
If you’re still in – here’s what happened: For my trip I quit my job and therefore had no medical insurance. This did not seem that much of an issue to me because the medical insurance that came with my job was not valid in Latin America. Therefore I didn’t really think I’d need one. I purchased a travel insurance from a well-known company which did advertise with hundreds of thousands of Euros for expenses and 100% coverage for medical treatments abroad. And that’s the catch already, but I’ll come to the details later:
I always thought of my travel insurance as a replacement for my medical insurance while travelling – but it is far from that.
But What Happened?
Not even two months on the road I managed to tear the ACL in my left knee while exploring some back roads in Bolivia, during the rainy season, on a 300 kg motorcycle and with little to no experience in off-road riding whatsoever. Call it “learn by doing”.
Thanks to the help of my back-then travel companion Michel, lots of tape and the soft knee-brace I could lend from a german girl we met in the middle of nowhere (now that’s some happy circumstances right here), I managed to get to La Paz where I could rest a little and have my knee checked – with good news: It was only a partial tear.
It took me a little to get comfortable in Costa Rica, but having good friends over for a visit did sure help. Being able to talk and, well, especially swear in my “native language” was a very welcome change. Also exploring the country in the worlds’ toughest Toyota RAV4 (with air-con!) was quite a nice contrast to braaap-ing an adventure bike through the daily downpours of the central-american rainy season.
Having had playa karate almost exclusively for ourselves we headed North again towards the well-known PN Manuel Antonio; the vibe immediately changed from laid-back to sell-out: Accommodation was no longer aiming for the odd traveller, the street leading to the national park was lined with places for the run-of-the-mine tourist. Fabulous Backpacker’s next to resort hotels, no heart, no charm. The price-quality ratio seemed to have hit rock bottom, the only place we managed to find that was within our budget was run by a US ex-pat who we had to ring out of bed, mid-week, at five o’clock in the afternoon, just to point us to a dump-hole directly next to the street, two beds, no bathroom, no air-conditioning included, take or leave.
We chose to leave and decided to roam the place looking for a better option. Upping our budget a little and thanks to low-season we managed to hit the jackpot: A three room apartment with air-conditioning, two bedrooms, our own kitchen, a pool table on the terrace and a jetted tub. I immediately called out dibs, grabbed a beer and enjoyed a long bath. Needless to say I haven’t been as clean since, well, a very very very long time.
The next day we were rudely awakened by a pair of Toucans which kept hammering at the windows of the living-room. While it certainly was nice to see those animals from close up it would be our wake-up call also for the following morning, right on time at 5 am.
On our way to the park we had to fend off what felt like a whole village of “certified” tourist guides, but managed to enter just fine without much of a hassle. On the way to the park we also successfully persuaded Fabian to finally get himself a hat to compensate for his lack of a magnificent head of hair – due to a low tolerance against sunlight he already earned himself the title “señor tomate”. And yes I am perfectly aware that I am also rather a Jason Statham than a George Clooney in terms of hair, but at least I was wearing a hat since the very first day that I started my trip. And: Yes, I just did compare myself to Jason Statham and George Clooney. Get over it.
Back on track: Thankfully the park was not overrun so we enjoyed a nice stroll along the well prepared tracks until we eventually laid down on one of the several nice beaches, where we had to protect our precious afternoon snacks against thieving raccoons, monkeys and even iguanas, whilst avoiding to stay in the shade of the poisonous manzanillo tree.
Well, this post kinda exploded but it has been approved by a selected audience and is thereby posted in full length. So. While I spared you the details about Panama, here comes a long story about Costa Rica – and this is only Part One. I recommend you to grab a snack and something to drink if you want to get through the whole of it with no break.
With friends coming to Costa Rica I had a bit of a head-start on Matthew & Megan as well as Leonie & Peter. Even though all of us knew that in Costa Rica we would be faced with much higher prices than anywhere else so far I was taken aback when actually setting foot onto Costa Rican soil…
My first stop in Costa Rica was Puerto Viejo, an infamous backpackers’ hotspot. After a bargain night in a luxury room I decided that I most definitely did not want any part of what was going on there and headed up the coast towards Limón, where the road would lead inland to San José. I had spent enough time in the Caribbean so there was only little to loose, plenty of beaches waiting on the pacific side of the country. Also, I had a lot to figure out before my friends would arrive – most importantly where to store my bike while we would roam the country with a 4×4 rental together.
Meanwhile I was simply panicking. Yep. I was furious and desperate at the same time, Costa Rica was waaaaaay over my budget. It’s Central America’s Switzerland at its finest. While it may not appear to be incredibly expensive if visited from Europe, on a trip like that it is just mind-blowingly expensive. The cheapest meals were starting at a price I had skipped restaurants in South America for, markets serving lunch are hardly found anywhere, comedores (local restaurants serving lunch and dinner and sometimes breakfast) as found literally everywhere in South America do not exist in the same way. Not even talking about fruit juices which start at a whopping three USD. That was my average lunch budget for South America right there. For a jug of juice. The closest resemblance to a local restaurant was now called a soda (yes, that sure was confusing), the cheapest meals the casados. Still, not even close to what you’re used to from the sometimes amazing menu del día (daily menu) down South.