Today was a good day! Nothing like a blast of fresh air and wildlife to shake off the travel dust. The public bus from Quepos to Manuel Antonio was a whopping 150 colones, which is less than 30 cents. After traversing a shallow river and climbing a slippery hill, you find the entrance to the national park. The park is well-marked with signs introducing the various flora and fauna, and sternly admonishing visitors NOT to feed the monkeys. Apparently the poor critters are suffering from heart disease and other health problems related to eating people food. The beaches are beautiful and the trails are gorgeous.
After fielding a snarky comment from an American jerkwad who clearly thought I was trying to hone in on his guided tour, I tried to stay clear of the groups with tour guides. It´s pretty easy to spot monkeys and sloths and other wildlife... you just watch for the gaggle of people with their cameras pointed in the air. I decided to take the waterfall trail, which seemed to be the road less traveled. It snaked through lush dense rainforest, up steep slopes and across winding streams. Beautiful! And, as luck would have it, along the way I met a nice American family from Connecticut. The daughter, a GW student, was doing a summer study abroad program in Costa Rica, and her brother and dad were visiting her down here. I hung out with them for the rest of the afternoon and they invited me to join them for dinner.
I managed to hook up with my CouchSurfing (virtual) pal Julia via email and suggested she come out and meet us for dinner at El Avión, a restaurant made from the remains of a crashed CIA plane that was supposedly involved in the Contra scandal. A little touristy, but cool! And thanks to the eagle-eyes of my new American friends, we were able to spot Julia and spent the rest of the evening munching and conversing. I had managed to secure bus tickets to Monteverde the next day (through Puntarenas again, joy!) but Julia was going to stick around for another day, so we agreed to meet up in Monteverde at the Pensión Santa Elena, a hostal that came highly recommended from several sources.