After a pleasant 2 hour ride, interrupted by a 30 min. downpour, I arrived in the fishing town of San Juan Del Sur (pop. 6,000).
SJDS is set on a nice horseshoe shaped cove with dramatic cliffs forming at it's far edges. Although the beach is nice, I found it a bit dirty.
While cruising up the main street looking for a vacancy I was waved to by a beautiful couple sitting on the veranda of Posada Nina. It turns out they were real estate agents from Montreal, but became fed up with the city life, sold everything, bought a camper Volkswagon and are in their 2nd year of touring Mexico and Central America.
Elizabeth and Alain are now hoping to settle down in SJDS and buy a small posada (B & B).
Their "business card" reads;
"Elizabeth et Alain en voyage...Ne savent quand reviendront....."
E and A were spending the next few days at their friend's, Nina, untill their rented home is ready. Nina offered me a great deal on a room which I booked and was promptly invited to join them all for supper in Nina's kitchen where we were joined by E&A's visiting son, Maxime, and Nina's son Roberto and little daughter. It was great to have a home cooked meal in a family enviornment.
The following morning, I left my moto locked up near Nina's and hitched a ride with a gang of Italian surfers and headed up the coast 12 kms by 4x4 to the remote surfing beach of Playa Maderas.
From there it was a 10 min. walk on the beach to an even more remote beach, Playa Majagual and the beautiful "Bahia Majagual Eco-Lodge", where I spent the next 3 nights on a hammock under a palapa 20 meters from the high tide line.
Days were spent walking the many beaches that scalloped the coast and just laying on the hard clean sand that sloped ever so slightly to the surf. Every 5 minutes or so a wave would slowly creep up to me, bathing me in 1 or 2 cms. of water and then slowly recede.....as they say in Costa Rica, "Pura Vida" (the good life).
3 days later I returned to Nina's and found E&A packing up to their new rented house a few blocks away.
It was also Alain's birthday and I was invited there to their beautiful new home for dinner with Nina and her family. Nina cooked a fabulous lasagna, and with the rum and wine flowing, we all had a great time.
It was hard to leave the company of Nina and E&A. In the space of only a few days they felt like family.
However time was getting short, and early the next morning we all kissed good-bye and it was off to Costa Rica.
While the Caribean of Nica and most other countries of Central America are also very beautiful, such a the "Corn" islands of Nica, and "Rotan" islands of Honduras, there just isn't a developed road network serving the Carribean side, notwithstanding the rain there at this time of the year.
It's for these reasons, that except for Guatemala, and Costa Rica, I have not visited these areas.
With Costa Rica's (CR) reputation for being the most "North American" like country of all Latin America, I was off from Nicaragua with high hopes!
Not only is CR safe but it's also very friendly.
It's been a democracy since the 19 century and is now one of the most peaceful nations in the world. In fact the armed forces were abolished after the 1948 civil war, and CR has since avoided the despotic dictatorships, military coups, terrorism, and internal strife that has affected the other countries of Central America.
CR is also famous for it's enlightened approach to conservation and the enviornment, with over 25% of the country protected in one form or another.
That however changed as soon as I hit the border.
First of all the clerk said I had to wait because his computer was down...10 minutes, he said.....well 2 hours later after begging and pleading, he simply stuck a form in his typewriter, typed a few lines, stamped it ...and said good bye. I could have killed him. My plan was to hit the capital, San Jose, before dark, and losing 2 hours was going to make this run difficult.
At least the roads were great, as they were with Mexico and the rest of Central America....in fact in all the 18,000 kms I had put on my bike so far, I encountered a 10 km stretch of road in Nicaragua, and another soon to be found in CR, that was even close to the dismal roads we have in Quebec....sad, but true!!
After an hour or so as I gained a few thousand feet of altitude, it began to rain lightly as it typically did under these conditions since leaving Guatemala. I pulled into a small "soda", as little road side restos are called in CR, for some nice dark CR coffee. The owner said that CR is comprised of about 20 micro climates, and that while it was raining there, it could easily be sunny and hot 10 kms down the road. So after my coffee, I left and sure enough.......!
After another 2 hours of great riding on 2 lane CA1 (Pan American Highway) the traffic flow came to an abrupt stop. After waiting 10 minutes, I decided to pull into the oncoming lane and get by all this traffic, which after about 10 kms seemed to be all "semis" (18 wheelers) and other big trucks. I continued another 15 minutes, passing all this stopped wall of traffic until....I was face to face with an oncoming police car. His lights and siren immediatly came on and he stopped me. But all he did was inform me that this was a major "demonstration" by all the truckers of CR because of the governments policy on safety inspections. Their tactic was to totally shut down the CA1 about 20 kms farther down the road at San Ramon. He then took off saying I should not be using that lane and I should wait until the demonstration would be over...which could be hours !!
Once he disappeared behind me, I continued riding the oncoming lane of traffic...I wanted to be in San Jose before dark.
Finally arriving at San Ramon I spotted a huge demonstration of truckers - around a 1,000 of them in the highway shouting and waiving banners, with the road completely blocked by burning tires, and a barrier of cut down trees.
So there I was in the middle of the riot amongst the truckers, facing off with the police on the other side.
Even though there is a basic rule that foreigners should NOT under any circumstances get involved in any political demonstrations, I decided to use my sales skills to "sell" these guys on the idea that their cause would be better served if they could show the public that they had no fight with tourists, and especially since it was now raining again, they could show they had a heart, and let me past the barrier.
I wound my way through the crowd until I reached one of the leaders at the front who spoke some english. I pleaded my case and he bought the idea. He then yelled through his megaphone, and within minutes the crowd began to cheer me on, and dismantle the barrier to let me through.
Well this worked better than I thought, until at the other side, I was promptly arrested by the police for taking part in a demonstration as a foreigner. While in handcuffs I explained I had NO sympathies with either side, and that all I wanted to do was to get to San Jose before dark. Also the truckers who now saw their "new friend" beign arrested, began to become quite agitated and with the police being quite outnumbered, they decided to make their own "PR" show, and let me go.
Now it was a race against the sun which I lost. I rode into the outskirts of SJ in the dark. And like when I entered Managua, it was pretty scarry since I had no idea where to go in this city of almost 1,000,000 people.
Call it a sixth sense or what, but with a turn here and another there I found my self at a neat hostel in the middle of town. It was a converted mansion and even had a garage where they let me park my bike.
While touring San Jose the next day, I saw a poster showing a trip to the Carribeen side of the country to the Park National Tortuguero where in this highly protected area you can go to the beach at night with certified guides and see the leatherback turtles emerge from the ocean at night and lay their eggs.
Having seen this phenomen many times on TV, I jumped at the chance to see this first hand and promptly set up this 2 day adventure with a local outfitter.
I was told to be ready to be picked up from the hostel at 0530 in the morning. It was a long ride to Tortuguero by mini buss, then 4x4, and the final 90 minutes by speed boat.
After making arrangements with the hostel to leave my bike in the garage, I was off to T, a small town of 600 people and 10 hotels. The town is set up on a series of natural canals that parallel the ocean, ond here we see both howler and spyder monkeys, toucans, parrots, iguanas, alligators and many other jungle animals.
After checking in to the hotel and an early supper, I napped untill "Jungle Tom", the outfitter, woke me at 2130 to say it was time to head to the beach.
Well, what an experience it was!
To to watch 400 lb., 60 - 200 year old leatherback turtles measuring 4 feet by 3 feet come out of the ocean at midnight, dig a hole 6 feet deep and lay approx 125 baseball sized eggs, then cover them up and dissapear into the ocean for another 3 years...was amazing...WOW!
The next morning while touring the many canals we came across this encampment with a huge Canadian flag. It was a non profit organization out of Toronto doing research on the turtles. After a tour of the facility, it was a long ride back to the Hostel.
The next morning it was off to the coffee plantation, Finca Rivera, 100 kms south of San Jose, high up in the mountains. This plantation is owned by the family of the sister in law, Ginnette, of my good friends from Boston, Laurie and Glen.
I stayed in Ginnette's home and met her parents, sister and four brothers who run the plantation. The next day it was off to the fields with one of the brothers, and after a 1 hour hike up the hill side it was 5 hours of back breaking work with macheties, clearing the undergrowth from around the coffee plants.
After a day of rest I decided that this would be the most southern point of my adventure. Being already weeks longer than I had planned, there was simply no time for Panama....which combined with South America, will be part of my next adventure.
After saying goodby to Ginette's family it was off to Playa Tamarindo, on the Nicoya Peninsula on the north Pacific coast of CR.
......to be continued.....
First of all, some corrections and additions on my stay at the coffee plantation south of San Jose in the town of Jerico. The "Finca" is owned by JEANNETTE'S family who is married to KENNY, the brother of Laurie (and Glen), my sailing friends from Boston.
Kenny and Ginette live in Maine, but set things up for my stay in their second home next to the family home in Jerico, Costa Rica (CA).
There I met most of Jeannette's family, Don Francisca and Dona Celina, her parents, and Juan Bautiste, William, Olman, Celi, and Henry, her brothers and sister.
They immediatley made me feel at home in Jeannette's and Kenny's home.
My first day there I exlored the beautiful moutainous countryside, while Olman and Henry worked in the coffee fields.
That evening I said I wanted to join them the next day to work on the plantation....they looked at me like I was crazy (not too far off).
So the next morning I met Olman with his machetie. I asked him where mine was...he laughed and thought I was kidding, but he soon understood and gave me a machetie too.
After an hour hike straight up we arrived a the section to be cleared. After a short "course" on how to use this razor sharp tool, it was down to work. After 4 hours I was wacked out, and my hands had small cuts everywhere...but I was not going to give up until Olman called it a day - I had to prove that Canadians were tough ! (Beat that, Glen!!)
Finally an hour later, he said that was it for the day...thank you Olman...and we headed back down, stopping now and then to pull oranges off the trees...mmmmm.
As a coffee lover, it was a real treat to see some of what goes in to producing it...you can now call me "Juan Valdez" ! :-)
Returning to the farm, Olman made me lunch, and I slept the rest of the afternoon.
OK, now off to Playa Tamarindo to meet Julius, a friend of my doctor, Ivan Rohan.
Playa(beach) Tamarindo and nearby(1 km.), Playa Lagosta, is one of of the most beautiful and rapidly growing areas on the North Pacific coast of CR, and no wonder. The beaches are beautiful, uncrowded, warm ocean, and consistantly great weather.
In Lagosta where Julius has his beautiful home minutes from the beach...see "Photos", there is simply no more ocean front land available.
His spectacular home is available, by the way, for minimum rental periods of 2 - 3 weeks and it's a great deal !!! Let ME know if you are interested. (You can check out his developing web site at " www.TamarindoRentals.com ".
Julius decided long ago he was just fed up with the rat race up north and set up his life here where he has been buying and developing prime realestate.
I spent a week with him wherein we shared our lives together, whether working on one of his latest construction sites, watching the sun rise and set over the beach, or eating fresh caught fish with our feet in the sand. He is a terrific guy and after a week it was hard to say goodby to Julius and Tamarindo. (Thank you, Ivan Rohan).
Now it was time to head home, but not without stopping in Mexico D.F. to celebrate Mexican Independence Day - Sept.15th - with Miguel, Roberto and friends of (Club) Motolatino, to be followed a week later by a visit with my old Crand Canyon hiking buddy, Lou Martin, in New orleans
Here I am in front of the Jaguar Inn in Tikal, Guatemala.
My "border brokers" entering Honduras.
Waiting out the rain on the way to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua.
On Nina's porch, San Juan Del Sur.
Dinner at Nina's with (L to R) Nina, daughter, Maxime, Alain, and Elizabeth. A&E are in the process of painting Nina's dining and reception area.
Bahai Majagual Eco-Lodge.
On a boat in the "canals" in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
At Julius' (Ivan Rohan's friend) in Lagosta, Costa Rica (near Playa Tamarindo).
This is Julius at his pool.
Julius making me work for my supper at one of his construction sites.
Morning and sunset at Playa Tamarindo.
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