< Nicaragua | Panama >

Cosa Rica


After a very windy Day riding along Lago de Nicaragua, Nicaraguan customs took one last parting shot at me by levying a two dollar exit fee. I gladly paid, since it meant that I could finally enter Costa Rica, a land whose tap water is acclaimed far and wide to be drinkable, and whose many national parks mean that I can finally camp with ease once more.

After crossing the border, I got my passport stamped (twice: the first time I got it stamped I couldn’t actually find the stamp in my passport, so I went back to get it stamped again) without having to pay an entrance fee. I finally got to get rid of all the papers crammed into my passport which I acquired from Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. I never understood why I had to carry those papers, and any thorough examination of them would reveal several inconsistancies: in Guatemala, my profession was organ trafficker, in Honduras it was sword swallower, and in Nicaragua it was trapezee artist. And english-reading police officer would have been concerned, but none of them ever were. Either Costa Rica didn’t ask for me to fill out my profession, or I have some unfinished paper work to attend to. I had planned to be a monkey tamer.

At any rate, the first 10 miles into the country were lined with trees and tropical birds. The locals were friendly and had all of their teeth, and the roads were excellent despite their reputation as being the worst in Central America. After talking with an expat I met in La Cruz, I discovered that recent foreign investment had brought with it a lot of money for transportation infrastructure improvements. In fact, while I was sitting in his house eating breakfast, a maintenance truck was preparing the road in front of his house to be paved.

My second full day in Costa Rica was a day of rest. When I woke up in the morning the wind was blowing quite strongly, and I’ve finally developed enough sense after nearly 10,000 miles of riding to just stay put when the wind was up.

But when the wind was still up the next day, I figured that it was just a feature of the landscape, and I grit my teeth and set out. It came at me as a crosswind until Liberia when I finally turned toward west and was able to sail at 20 mph without pedaling. I found that to be very excellent.

The next day I finally arrived at Playa Tamarindo and settled in with some cracked-out Costa Ricans at the local campground. I walked the beach, did some swimming to beat the heat, and enjoyed the view from the shade. But Playa Tamarindo was too developed for my tastes, and seeking solitude, I set out south along the costal road.

Every few miles I would gain a view of the ocean as the road wound its way down the peninsula, and after a long and bumpy day I arrived at Playa Ostional and set up camp. The black sand beach I was nearly on is a protected sea turtle egg-laying zone, and the evidence of a recent hatching was scattered all over the beach in the form of empty egg shells and sea turtle prints. I hope the little fellas had as good a time swimming in that water as I did.

The next day was more bone-jarring, colon-rupturing riding down to Playa Sámara. I forded several rivers spotted several birds and monkeys (the toucan remains elusive). Just outside of Playa Sámara I met three local cyclists at a local watermelon patch, and devoured what they offered me. It was delicious and rich and the perfect thing to combat the heat.

In Playa Sámara I cooked, swam, napped in a hammock, and swam some more. It was an edenic time for me, but after a day of doing absolutely nothing I headed the call of the road and pressed on. While stopping to devour some carrot-orange juice (delicious), I made the critical error of sitting on some fiberglass. That ruined one of my three pair of underpants, and I still itch a bit as I write this.

In the city of Nicoya, my quest to find a spare innertube continued to go unfulfilled, but I spent a relaxing hour in the shade of large tropical trees in the central park. And then I continued to punish my butt by jostling over more stones and washboard towards Playa Naranjo.

To be fair, I only had two 6 mile stretches of dirt from Nicoya to Playa Naranjo, and aside from the choking dust which got kicked up by every passing vehicle, it was a pleasant ride. I saw more monkeys, some interesting trees, and finally the northern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. Arriving at Playa Naranjo, I settled in to wait for the ferry. While I was waiting, three other cyclists on a Guatemala to Costa Rica tour pulled up and over the next couple of days we bonded over beer and thrill-seeking sports.

Jim helped me out incredibly by donating his water bottle cage plus liter bottle to me, his mint condition tire, and a spare tube. That was a huge help to me, since the lack of all three of those things was beginning to worry me considerably.

Jim, Joel, Kurt and myself spent the next two days recovering from the beating that the Nicoya Peninsula delivered us, as well heading up to Monteverde to zoom over the cloud forest canopy on a zip line tour. That was a lot of fun.

But as they had a few days left on their tour down the coast, and I had to head up to San Jose to find parts for my bike, we parted ways. And up I went out of the infernal heat and humidity, through the clouds, and back down into the central valley of Costa Rica.

And I spent a couple of days in Alajuela unintentionally. I went there in the first place because I wasn’t allowed to ride on the highway directly to San Jose, and so I detoured through Alajuela. But while there I met a man of mixed britannic desent with whom I tried to catch a bus to Volcán Poás. My luck with buses to volcanoes continued, of course, and after waiting for a full hour in the spot we were assured several times was the correct one, we gave up.

While we were waiting, some daylight hookers took an interest in steve and myself. And even after trying to convince them for several minutes that we just were waiting for the bus, they wouldn’t leave us alone. So it finally came out that they were hungry, and Steve and I went to a bakery and got them some pasteries. After that they stopped trying to have sex with us for money, and were very friendly besides.

Steve and I took the food we bought for ourselves to the local parque central, and with the sounds of parrots squawking above of and locals chattering around us, we had a good conversation about the types of things one talks about while sitting on a park bench.

Later Steve left to catch his plane back to Honduras, and I stuck up a conversation with a 78 year old man of Czech desent (like myself) from Florida, who had met my great-aunt some forty years ago. I guess the Bohemian world is smaller than I had realized…

The following morning, it was finally time to knock off the last 15 miles to San José, and find a bike shop which could do the service my bike needed and I was unequiped to perform, as well as score some new innertubes. I was successful in the former, and thought I was successful in the latter. But later, when checking the tubes our more closely, I realized that they had the wrong type of valve, and I would be stuck in San José at least one more day to return them and see if I could get the correct ones.

To my great fortune and surprise, my delay in San Jose allowed my friend Jeff to meet up with me, and we spent the day trading stories from the road and eating. Jeff has been riding down from Los Angeles since late November, and I had always been too far up the road to make catching up possible for him. Alas, we wouldn’t be riding together from there, since he made it to San Jose via bus to meet his sister and travel with her by that magical conveyance for the following several weeks.

My departure from San Jose led me up and then down, down, down through a cloud forest into the Carribean lowlands, and finally down into Panama. While stoping to enjoy some food on the side of the road, I saw leaf cutter ants hauling their load, tropical birds squawking, and giant blue butterflies fluttering by. What a wonderful place Costa Rica is, and even if my butt didn’t enjoy it thoroughly, the part of me that remembers did indeed.

< Nicaragua | Panama >