February 15, 2008 GMT
Costa Rica

We continue down the main route South and first impressions of Costa Rica is that it has very beautiful scenery and great tarmac. People are friendly too and many wave as we pass by. Its clear that Costa Rica has plenty of money especially compared with Nicaragua - the difference is startling.



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There are bill boards everywhere advertising the latest holiday resort being built, shops and hotels and the "golden arches" have returned, we must be in civilisation if theres a mickey ds..
(Macdonalds!!)

Reaching our destination for that night on the Pacific Coast we look around for a hotel by the beach. To be honest it is quite scabby and expensive $100 a room. So we head back onto the main route and find a Best Western in Liberia for a cheaper rate with Breakfast included.


The hotel is very nice and the staff very friendly.



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Next day we head inland cross country toward the Carribean side of Costa Rica, passing Mountains and lakes as we do so. The road winds upwards once we get off the PanAm and head towards the Arenal Volcano and the stunning lake.


The road around Lake Arenal is twisty with amazing views over the water, along the way we see Ring Tale Lemers and Monkeys and all around are tropical flowers.



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We stop for a coffee before heading on to La Fortuna, originally we were going to stop here for the night, but the town was very touristy and it was only 1pm so we decide to crack onto Sarapiqui.

After taking a detour through Quesada, the weather turned to heavy rain, the humidity is very high and the temperature decidedly warm so we dont bother with the waterproofs and ride on - once the rain stops we are dry inside 30minutes.

Once at Sarapiqui we stay one night in the Jungle at an Eco Lodge which is very different. The rooms are spacious but basic, they are on stilts so you are in the Jungle canopy.



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We see giant lizards on the way to our room and get woken by howler monkeys at 4am next morning. On the way to breakfast we see a poison arrow frog, some interesting birds and a scary wire bridge.



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Next day we reluctantly check out of the Eco Lodge and hit the road again, its another day of stunning scenery and good tarmac as we head south east toward the Caribbean coast. I have to be very careful with the speed as there are traffic Police everywere, I wave as we pass and thankfully we have no trouble.


After passing through Puerto Limon we get our first look at the Caribbean before ending the day in Cahuta.


We find a hotel right on the beach, again it is pretty basic but it does the job - just. The building is made of timber and is infested with termites - the resulting wood dust is everywhere, the beds, floor are covered, nice.


As Em comes to terms with the accomodation, I need to cool off, its seriously hot and after a day in the saddle the sea is calling.



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The locals give me a funny look as this strangely tanned Englishman strips off and dives into the sea. Its very refreshing but I have to be careful as the rip tides are fierce - I wondered why no one was swimming.


We take a look aound later that day trying to find somewhere decent to get a meal, no luck, so we decide to spend the food budget on alcohol and we get smashed at the bar instead.


Heading out early next morning we go straight to the border and check out of Costa Rica. This takes about 10mins. Then we have the infamous Banana Bridge to cross before we can enter Panama. This bridge was the main rail supply route for the Banana trade hence the name.



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We walk the bridge first to suss it out and it's not pretty. Boards are missing and cracked, pedestrians everywhere. At first Darren thinks its best to ride on the sleepers between the tracks, but then we spot that a few are missing so the only option is to choose a route along the planks.



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I walk the bridge while Darren waits for a nod from the guards as to when to cross. We decide the best option is to follow a truck through, a good plan which works well until the truck decides to stop halfway.


As Em waits halfway across the bridge, I sit waiting for the chance to cross and the longer I wait the more nervous I get. This is not helped when a local comes over to me and crosses himself then taps me on the shoulder.


I decide to take my helmet off, if I do end up falling into the water the lid woud probably break my neck, it also means that I have better visibility - not a bad thing.


The truck in front moves off and I wait a while longer for it to get ahead before moving off, I am in first gear doing around 12mph while standing on the pegs.


All goes well until the truck stops halfway, I slow down hoping he will move off before I reach him but no luck. As I reach the truck I stop and try to put my feet down, the left foot dangles down into thin air above the rail track...I lean right and hope.. and breath a sigh of relief as my right foot hits the timber plank.



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The truck moves off and we both get across the bridge and fumigated, that certainly got the blood pumping..


It takes us another hour or so to get the Panama side sorted as we are ordered to take everything off the bike for it's fumigation. Then we have to wait with the truckers at the Customs office for our paperwork to be processed. The truckers are really fun and are having a good time teasing each other and being generally playful. We are told we need photocopies so have to walk 100 yards down the road to get these then come back for our papers.


All this time we are getting heckled by a group of small boys who must be 6 or 7 years old. They keep demanding money and asking to watch the bike for money. The bike is parked outside the armed guards office so it can't get much safer so we just keep telling the boys no. They continue and it is very hard in the 90 degree heat in bike clothing, walking, to not get too stressed by it. One little boy has a shoe shine box that he carries with him. After the stress of the border is over I feel terrible that we didn't pay them to 'help' as they are only trying to earn an honest living. We resolve to next time.

Posted by Darren Homer at February 15, 2008 08:30 PM GMT
 
 

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