27. April: The bus arrives shortly after six am, we manage to get some good seats in the front of the bus. It is a dusty, rocky, bumpy road of which there seem to be quite a few in Costa Rica. We're taking the bus bound to Puntarenas and we will get off at Lagarto to take the northbound bus on the Pan-Americana Highway to Liberia. There are quite a lot of people on the bus and me getting up so early and the rhythmic shaking of the bus put me off to sleep and I do sleep through most of the trip. We stop somewhere where there is a kiosk to get some drinks and something to eat and I ask the driver if we are at Lagarto already. He says no but he'll inform us when we are.
Lagarto is not much more bus a T-intersection of the road from Monteverde joining the North-South Pan-Americana. We get off here and wonder when a bus in our direction will arrive. There are a handful of other tourists and locals waiting at the bus stop too. About a quarter of a hour later a big bus stops and yes, he will pass Liberia. Some of the other tourists are en-route to San Salvador, well, that's a longer journey than we have in mind! The bus is luxurious, with a/c, video (they show 'Terminator') and real good seats. This is quite a difference from the last bus and I'm glad about the a/c, since it was getting hot outside, both from the rising sun and also now that we were much a lower elevation than at Monteverde.
The bus is comparatively expensive, 2000ñ. We ask when we'll reach Liberia and the driver says in about 20 minutes. Well, there are a couple of stops and we peer out, wondering if this was the right one, but I'm sure the driver or the conductor will inform us when we arrive. When we get suspicious because we were way over our time limit, the conductor notices and says 'Liberia!'. He comes over and discusses something in Spanish with Annewien and it is so great that she understands and speaks so much more than I do, because she can actually communicate more complex situations. Instead of turning back, a more complex arrangement will be made. Apparently a bus of the same company is on it's way in the opposite direction and will meet us in time. The driver would radio the other bus to stop and to take us back to Liberia! We drive on and on, but there is no sign of the 'other' bus.
After over half an hour we do pull over and transfer over, amidst sniggers and smiles of the conductor and the other bus driver. We lose over an hour due to this mishap. Liberia is hot and dusty and we have arrived smack in the noonday sun. The first hotel which is nearby is called 'Guanacaste' but it has shabby rooms and none too cheap, so we drink a cool coke, remount our backpacks and walk into Liberia proper, since the main road on which we arrived is some distance outside the town. We try two other hotels and eventually settle for 'Hotel Liberia', which got bad marks in the LP but is quite acceptable, although the mattress did have a loose spring sticking into our backs!
We had a shower and sleep a bit then look around town for a way to go to Rincon de la Vieja. The hotel next door advertising this trip is already full, the official tourist office is closed (it seems permanently) so we go to a Chinese restaurant to have lunch. It's chicken rice, try out another 'tourist office' (travel agent) and they a young girl there giving lots of information and also offering trips to 'Rinconcito Lodge'. We book one night room with bath for 24$ pp and 51$ horseback-package to see parts of the volcano. The volcano summit has been cloudy for a number of days so we skip this attraction.
We also ask for a Salsa Disco and the young lady knows where they are: on the other side of the Pan-Americana. We then go off and buy advance tickets for the bus ride back to San Jose, since it will take place on a weekend and lots of passengers are normally expected then. Then we sit at the central park of Liberia, enjoying watch the locals. We end up in the evening at Kurñ Discotheque having only locals, no tourists, starting off slowly then speeding up and lots of dancing Bachata, it's really great!
Today is Annewien's birthday (well actually tomorrow, but we're past midnight) and we decide to order 'Perfecto Amor' drinks. Well, the bar mixer must have had a day off, they were so terrible that we returned them and got some other drinks instead, which were good enough. We dance some and then return to the room. It is a hot, humid night; the fan is turning furiously at full power but it's still difficult to sleep well in the heat. The thin curtains blow over my upper body and are an additional disturbance. I still have no gift for Annewien's birthday (I thought I could perhaps find something en route, but with such a dearth of shops it's next to impossible to do so).
I have to discard our distrust of locals trying to help us, they seem to genuinely do and leave you alone once they feel it's ok. First, on the bus when we missed the Liberia exit, one person got up and asked us whether we understood what the conductor said. Then in Kurñ Disco, another guy asked us if he could help us with the drinks.