Category Costa Rica

to Volcan

There’s been chat among riders about the Rio Sereno crossing into Panama and how great it is. It’s in the mountains, is tiny, approached on a rocky road and not travelled much. Great for the ride and great for being quiet.

It’s not a very long ride from Jiminez through the border to Volcan but I decide be conservative and set-up for the crossing at Cuidad Neily. If the border takes a couple of hours or more I don’t want to be riding to Volcan in the afternoon downpour. And I want time to enjoy the ride back off the peninsula, which turns out to be a wise choice. Good.

But first, the two day track. The border is the dark grey line that passes through Paso De Canoa
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Reversing the route, great views of the gulf

The road turns paved

And sometimes not

And we’re back in civilization. Through a typical town

Crash in Cuidad Neily

On with the PacSafe for the border

Then up into the mountains! The view back down to Neily

Up through perfect twisties onto a ridge

Lucinda and I love it when you can see the twisties you’ve been riding beside you on a parallel ridge. This is pavement riding at its best

Oh no, here comes the rain

Into the clouds

A reprieve and it gets no worse. When it clears a bit we see high altitude farmland

And beside the road at one point we see this. Take a guess. Yup, you got it the first time: Calystegia sepium, only not sepium, something very close, and blue. If in doubt look at the leaf shape and tendril about dead center. I could only laugh. A horticultural disaster equivalent to smallpox and they have it here, in paradise. Oh well

Then, after a nearly perfect ride, the road turns to a kind of sharp fused rock for a few miles which takes a bit of riding-thought to get just right. Speed as usual seems to work best.

Then the border.
This is a very remote place and the border town is tiny. This is the street you get your photocopies at. It’s steep, wet, the rock loose and generally pretty interesting riding.

The Costa Rica Immigration and Aduana (customs) are in the same building, and super cute, like a postcard. Holy smokes, this is different. Usually Central American borders are laid out specifically to fuck with your head

And just as the picture suggests, we whistle through in about 20 minutes. Incredible. But exiting is easy compared to entry. Next off to Panama Immigration, then Aduana, then Fumigation, then Seguro (insurance), then Aduana again and finally Policia.

So, immigration. He’s gone to lunch. I wait

Then customs. You can see it’s customs, if you’re brilliantly observant by the ‘aduana’ painted on the bottom door sill. I love it that they do this to us gringos

The customs girl was a sweetheart but threw me for a loop by insisting I got insurance first. Shit. I asked where, she said around the corner and sure enough, Seguro. But it was locked up. I waited about a half hour. Small border, no rules, except THE rules.

Then I got into my get-the-job-done mood and put the camera away and was done, all-up, in about 2 1/2 hours. Which is not great, but fine elsewhere. Part of the problem was three sets of photocopies. When Policia asked for another full set at the end, much to my surprise, that was another 30 minutes off into town and back. So Rio Sereno is a cute and interesting crossing but today, not a particularly fast one. At least not for me today

And here’s my first pic of Panama

There’s been some press among long-distance riders recently about the quality of the ride from Rio Sereno to Volcan in the mountains and it’s true. Perfect twisties for miles and miles, through to-die-for country

Then my luck ran out. The skies opened, it turned torrential, visibility dropped to less than 100 feet, I had few nice slides, but eventually arrived at Volcan.

Here’s a section of the track into Volcan. Excuse the GPS error at about the 75% mark
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Goodbye Costa Rica. Next time
Image 3

Osa 2

For the next few days I explored the south shore of the peninsula. There’s only one dirt road (full of surprises) but lots to see. There’s no destination, other than returning back to the lodge, so this may seem a bit random.  The track of the road, which stops at the refuge to the west
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But first I’m sure you want to see a crocodile. Here’s mama. Doesn’t look too convincing, but she started to sink as soon as I pointed the camera

But on a mud bank were her 8 little babies. They were about 18 inches long. She can grow to 18 feet.

The scene looked like this

On another bank some cows

Lucinda is feeling neglected, so

The road itself was a mixed bag of dirt, mud, rock and gravel. The good was very good

Semi-dried mud. If I wasn’t out of here by 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon each day this would be a quagmire. The rain is intensifying daily. I stop for pics on the straights so another bike or car don’t pile into me. The roads are rarely straight for long

And some streams. This one was a surprise, we came round the corner and sploosh! no warning. I took this pic coming back the other way. They poured gravel around the streams so they weren’t a bog crossing

There were small houses between the road and the sea

And in a clearing a barbed topped fenced compound with an old twin prop helicopter beside a large house. A paranoid recluse with a story, maybe

At the most western point on the road

And always back before the rain started. Here it is coming in

An abbreviated post because I’m behind.

The Osa is completely exotic. It lifted me out of whatever funk Monteverde and Manuel Antonio had put me in. Maybe Costa Rica as it was once. I’ll come back and take more photo’s

Osa 1

I’d also heard that the Osa peninsula was similarly remote, with just a few roads and plenty of crocodiles and great dirt roads. Headed here

The track in to Puerto Jiminez
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The road south from the coast road, about 40 miles through the jungle

Once in a while, signs of life

Until we came to the water, the Gulfo Dulce. Stuffed with Hammerhead sharks, btw. They swim in massive schools here, one of the largest populations in the world. And in the rivers, stuffed with crocodiles, currently at their most dangerous as they raise their baby crocodiles

You can imagine how hot and humid it is

Even the rivers looked tired. But they were probably stressed out they had crocodiles in them

Over the smaller rivers, small bridges

Until we got to our lodge, on the beach. If you look carefully you can see my sweat-soaked suit drying outside of my door


Manuel Antonio is a recommended destination but I was glad to leave. Tourist hotels, people everywhere, stuffed with ex-pats. It wasn’t the sea I wanted to stay at. I’d heard there was a dorm lodge on Quebrada point that was isolated and pristine. So off I went. The small track down the coast
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Deep in the coastal jungle, a moody place and nearly no-one around. I should have taken a pic of the white-knuckle boulder field ride in from the road

Bats sleeping under the steps. They were about 1 1/2 inches long

A great pool in the river by the lodge

It was bloody hot so I stripped and jumped in within minutes of arriving. Cold!

Nice tropical views while floating around

But the real reason I was here was to see the beach. I’d heard it was a tough climb down and guaranteed to be alone. Half an hour later I was on the sand. True to promise I was alone. The jungle came down to the waters edge. Looking south

The water washed up to the base of the trees. High tide. To the left is mist from the surf off the north point. See the video below


Looking out, some bluffs in the distance

I walked out into the sea. Warm. Warmer than the river. It was hard to get a representative shot of this magical and secluded tropical beach, so a 360 degree video does the trick


Little snails busily buried themselves. But when snails make plans, God laughs


Toucans aren’t common anywhere. Except around here I guess because there was always one or two hanging around. A cool Toucan video


Another sort of Toucan is the less common ‘la Cucinga’

If I wasn’t a week behind on my posts, more on this. But the short version is this was the highlight of Costa Rica so far. It was nice to be alone somewhere. But things just kept getting better from the vague malaise Monteverde put me in. The suns sets over Quebrada

to Manuel Antonio

A two day post

Yesterday I started into the Monteverde cloud forest with high hopes of being surrounded by wildlife but it was not to be, which I sort of expected given various other forays with similar expectations. But this is the most famous cloud forest in Central America so I was curious about what that would be like.

The forest is preserved largely as a result of the efforts of 8 Quaker families from Alabama who settled here after WW2.

As we approached it looked that this. That peak to the left is the summit

Walking in it looks like this

Looking up, it looks like this

In a mud wall was this little bird

And that’s what we saw – birds. Beautiful birds, very shy and way out of range for my little point and shoot.

There were small orchids

I was surprised by the small scale of the trees and the how low the canopy was. This is about 80 feet up

Here’s a nasty bug. If you pick it up it squirts and if it hits you it the face you can’t see for 5 days.

On our way out the cloud started rolling in

And back at the lodge this fellow on a tree

I was underwhelmed by the forest. I guess I’m going to follow the sea. More on this another time – hurrying to get this done and going again this morning.

Then, the next day off to the sea. The track looked like this
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And the dirt road for the first 25 miles looked like this. Another classic ride with perfect views
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Leaving the town of Monteverde

The valleys below

And on these steep hillsides

Balancy cows

Down to huge muddy rivers

Past stunning glades


To the sea!
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Which we followed for about 100 miles, to Manuel Antonio.

Some riding through all the green


Dinosaur hunt 4

A two day post

Yesterday I walked into the forest at Arenal with a small group from the lodge hoping for great things. On my wish list are sloths, boas, monkees, a fer-de-lance, Quetzals, jaguars, leaches, lots of things that my imagination conjures and that are all here somewhere

( It wasn’t to be yesterday. So I’ve done something about that. Today I rode a tough road to Monteverde to what is claimed to be the most pristine cloud forest in Central America)

But anyway, yesterday, before we could get into the trees, hidden on an embankment was this splash of yellow

We woke him up. A small eyelash pit viper. Very dangerous, if it bites you you lose that limb, at the very least. He seemed more curious than pissed, based on his facial expression I’m sure you agree, so got a nice shot

Then into the forest

We hunted around forever and basically saw nothing. There were monkeys very high up in the canopy though. A group of 4 here. Yup, we couldn’t see much either

I thought this miniature wild bees nest, above a termite mound, was pretty cool. A bit bored, I shoved my finger into the termite mound and ate some termites

By a pond was this fellow. The most over-photographed animal in Costa Rica?

Then back at the lodge, this guy. Not able to Wiki what it is as there are so many like it

And, unfortunately that was pretty much it.

So off we went this morning. I was told the 65 miles to Monteverde would take 4 hours. What? They said the last half was difficult.

The track
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Around Tileran, wide open spaces. And the clouds were building

This was a disaster – the rain isn’t supposed to start until about 2:00 and it’s only 10:00. I didn’t want to ride a tough road in big rain. I pulled in at the next town, too late, and suited up, soaked to the skin and chatted to this guy, Jose, who showed me pics of his bikes on his phone. See him in the following video, taking shelter from the rain

Central American rainy season, everyday after lunch


A surprise about rainy season, in the mountains here, is the violence of it. The thunder and lightning are intense and don’t quit. All afternoon and all night mostly. Today a massive burst happened right overhead and shook us hard as we rode. It wasn’t going to quit so we climbed high up into the clouds for another 1 1/2 hours. A very rewarding ride and made us feel good about how we’re doing and some things ahead. Tomorrow, I hope, muchos cool animales peligrosos.

Lake Arenal

Still weak from the bug, we set off in sunshine from Liberia. We’re obviously being pushed for a total bike overhaul before South America because we lost the Rotopax, which was due for doubling and having a new base plate made anyway. We pulled into a gas station and it wasn’t there. Going back to see what had failed, the base plate we had made in Antigua had broken between two bolts. And it could have happened at any point in the last 50 miles so I didn’t bother to go look for it. You drop something here and someone picks it up fast. A good thing it was due to be upgraded in Panama anyway. But things are showing wear and tear. The steering feels notchy in the middle and harder to turn. Sure feels like steering head bearings but these were replaced in LA and should have another 20K on them left at least. But add it to the list. And the forks are due for an overhaul. So I’m beginning to get this organized before crossing to Colombia.

As soon as we’d gassed up and took the left to Arenal the rain started with a fury. I had the ARC rain suit ready and on it went and off we went. No pics until the Lake, by which time it had slowed and the clouds were lifting.

However, the day’s track
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And here’s some detail from the last 40 miles. Twisting climbs and drops. Magnificent. Add this to your list.
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And some where to the lower left of the lower track, above, was our first view of this moody, tropical, lake

And from higher up Lucinda insisted on one

Lush beyond lush

Everywhere you look. Sure the Lumix shoots a bit green but I’m not playing with the colour levels. It’s all emerald green

Looking up one of the many creek ravines

In the above pic, if you look closely there are two guys net fishing, same as the pic I got in El Salvador, and we caught the net in the air again.

Then through a bamboo forest

Down to the water

Then at the head of the lake, this monster, Volcan Arenal

Pic from Wiki, Arenal just 7 years ago, and ready to do it again. Hopefully tonight

to Liberia

Yesterday, when I was strong enough to get out of bed and check on the bike, I found poor Lucinda with a flat front tire. Both sick. In a way I wasn’t surprised – the dirt road two days earlier had plenty of sharp rock. I rolled the wheel around, couldn’t see anything, pumped it up with the compressor to 36 and went back to bed.

A couple of hours later I went back with a bowl of hot water and a bar of soap, checked the tire carefully, then the valve – nothing. The tire pressure was down a couple of pounds. Shit, I thought and went back to bed again.

This morning it was down 8 pounds. I packed, filled the tire and started riding around Granada looking for a tire shop with a tank and thankfully found something. Off came the wheel, into the tank and lo and behold, no wonder I couldn’t find the leak. It was between the tire and the rim. In the tank


It was leaking a bubble a second and you’re wondering why no bubble in the pic. Try catching a bubble on film during a 1/2 second transit. But here’s a bubble I caught of one waiting on the rim, pre-launch, dead center in the shot


Anyway it was a relief I didn’t find something needing a fix. We deflated it, cleaned and lubed it and off we went, at about 10:00 a.m.

Although not feeling so hot Lucinda (feeling much better than me) and I headed in the direction of the Costa Rican border. I wasn’t so thrilled with a few things about Nicaragua, I like Mexico, Guate and Salvador much more, despite not having given it the same exposure and despite the better security. Hugh, Blake, Colin and Eddie had crossed this border days earlier and told me it had taken a few hours. Plus there was a ride, probably in torrential rain to Liberia on the other side. A bit ambitious and my fall-back was to see how it looked at the border, check in on my mood and health and if need be return to San Juan del Sur and do it tomorrow.

I got to the border at noon and decided to go for it. Exiting Nicaragua was a breeze, maybe 45 minutes. As Eddie warned me in an email, Costa Rica looked a bitch so I forked out $10 for a helper to point the directions (no shame in that, many do it) and got through in under two hours. So total about 2:45. It’s probably a fact you can get through faster solo than in a group. No talk, no checking in with others, just focus. I think groups should break up on border day, leave the comfortable shelter of friendship, and do it alone. Just a theory!

I was in too much of a hurry for many pics but here’s a couple of typical scenes. The money changers, etc


Some flair to the booths


These can be immigration, customs, insurance, copy places, whatever but the most important thing about them is they can be (and are, in the case of Costa Rica) a hundred yards apart, require visiting maybe twice, in no particular order and can drive you crazy. The helper points directions to prevent you from loosing it and makes sure you don’t forget a step. Helpful when you’re tired or in a hurry. Only my second time. Then off into Costa Rica where the skies opened and we rode into weather chaos. Thankfully Liberia was only an hour or so away at rain-speed so no problem.

A strange bug in the hotel room floor this morning


Anther view. I’m sure you’ve figured out what’s going on here


Into Liberia.

The heavy rain is now a daily fact and it’s going to get worse as I head further away from the sea. The day’s track. Innocent looking for such a difficult day

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