Costa Rica, part 2: the Beach.

imageFrom Arenal to the Caribbean coast. Once again I rode only lightly loaded, and caught up to Michael and Mario and the rest of my gear a day later. Testing some setup options for upcoming parts of the ride.

imageDown out of the mountains, banana farms dominate the landscape. They stretch on for miles, green shrubs towering and shading the fruit. Close up, the trees look like they’re growing giant blue fruits, since plastic bags cover the banana clusters to protect and maintain their environment. All of these were property of Chiquita; Dole also harvests a lot from this area.

imageJust be careful that you’re not passing through during a spray fly-over…

image Coast in sight! Continuing the cycling ping-pong game between the Pacific and Caribbean waters.

image And then the rest of the ride down the coast, my only company was constant crab remains. They’re not too great about making it across roadways.

image But wait! Found alive, replenishing their population numbers. They can be very… crabby… about having their pictures taken.

image Catching back up with Mario and Michael, we spend a few days on the beach at Puerto Viejo.

image I’m taking some rest days from the bike, others are wandering around on beach cruisers.

image Coconut trees abound.

image Old boats sit waiting, nothing’s so old it won’t still be used.

image All along the water, small groups of people swim or run through the sand.

image And lounge about waiting for sunset.

image In Cahuita, 10km north, a protected national park hugs the coastline. The hike here is a much more relaxed affair than at Arenal, though a rainstorm swings through soon after we start out and hampers our ability to see much.

image But we at least start out under the sun.

image Always on the lookout for oil, even back in 1910.

image A restful few days and a good end to a visit. From Puerto Viejo, Mario and Michael went back to San Jose to fly home, and I set off for Panama. Only one more country left in Central America. Just gotta cross that Sixaola bridge.

image Easier by bike than with a roller bag, just watch your footing. If it ain’t broke…

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Costa Rica, part 1: Mountains.

imageFirst order of business: meet up with these guys. Michael and Mario came down to visit and vacation before school starts up again. Thanks for the new coffee mug and other supplies!

imageWe met up at Monteverde, one of Costa Rica’s premier cloud forests. Note: cloud forest implies the place is in the clouds. High up. On top of the mountains. This is all true. It’s an important thing to keep in mind when you tell the non-cyclists to choose a place to meet. Good Andes training though.

imageCloud forest, home to ever present moisture and fog, creating an extremely fertile habitat for all kinds of species. A welcome break from the heat.

image Spotted in the forest: the Quetzal bird of Central American lore. These birds are talked about everywhere (Guatemala’s names its currency after them), but Costa Rica is one of their few homes. Above is the male…

image And the female.

image Also these guys. The tentacles are a parasitic fungus that killed the beetle and are now using the nutrients from the body to grow. Life is crazy.

image Hanging out in the nest.

image These ain’t your stunted little Alaskan trees from the far north anymore.

image Outside the forest itself, back to blue skies.

image And then time to move on. Our next destination was Lake Arenal, less than a day’s ride away. Eager to ride out of the mountains, Michael and Mario took some of my gear with them by bus, and I met them later that day.

image Formed by the Arenal volcano, the trip from Monteverde to Arenal requires a bus to the edge of the lake, a boat ride across it, then another bus to La Fortuna or one of the other towns at the base of the volcano. By bike, there’s a great dirt road ringing the lake.

image Rideable, with a few streams to ford. These are very effective at keeping down traffic.

image Together again, we trekked to the La Fortuna waterfall.

image Whose small collecting pool provided quite the workout to swim in.

image Afterwards, we set out on the hike up to Cerro Chato, a crater lake in there inactive volcano next to Arenal. Inactive volcano, good for hiking. Active, less so.

image Though billed as only a 7km hike, it’s a brutal test of your legs and knees as you heave yourself up rough hewn steps, slowly clambering up the side of the volcano. For hours.

image Peaking with a view of Arenal.

image And then a 100m climb/slide down to the lake, by which point you’re probably just as soaked with sweat as if you had already gone swimming.

image Green is a pretty reoccuring theme here.

image The next day a good day for body recovery and some bike maintenance. Time for an oil change.

image Oil, clean on the left, dirty on right.

image And finally saying goodbye to an old cycling cap. Anne and Kamil brought down this guy’s replacement back in Guatemala, and I’ve been carrying this one just as a spare since. Its sees its final use as an oil and chain cleaning rag.

Next up, to the beach!

Day 309. Nicaragua-Costa Rica: border crossing on the Pan American.

13 May 2014

Approach late in the afternoon, was going to stop at the last town but decided just to cross and spend the night in Costa Rica. Nicaraguan side massively disorganized, long line of semi trucks waiting, for customs or to be sprayed by DDT and pronounced clean. Money changers appear out of nowhere, this the same as every other border crossing. This time too, a man appears with the exit paperwork form, can buy it from him or get it free at the window, your choice. But the Nicaraguan office to stamp out nowhere to be found. Don’t go to the window with the sign “Leaving Nicaragua”, that would make too much sense, the women there wave you away. Hunt around some more and eventually receive permission to leave.

On the Costa Rican side, everything suddenly becomes distinctly American. Roped off lanes organize us all into lines- lines!- and metal detectors await us. Would have taken a picture, but, you know, too much an American border feel. The un-American part is that smiling at the guards frees you from suspicion and clears you to go. The guys chilling outside welcome you to Costa Rica and then you’re off riding, 1 hour left before official twilight. 1 hour left before camp, food, sleep.