September 16, 2009 GMT
Costa Rica

From San Juan, we had a short ride to the border, and when we got there, we were glad we had left early, there were hundreds of people at the border, waiting to cross. It looked like we would be here for some time.
We parked up and tried to work out where to go first. As usual, a gaggle of ďhelpersĒ appeared to guide us through the process, but once again, we fought them off as politely as possible.
Outside one of the immigration buildings I spotted a KLR with US plates and at the window, talking to the clerk, I met John.
Like us, John was on his way to Costa Rica, and he asked us if he could ride with us to Playa Coco, our first stop. We told him we would love to have him along, and after a couple of hours of running from building to building with our papers and passports, we were in Costa Rica and heading to the coast. The clouds were gathering while we were going through the process at the border, and half an hour into Costa Rica, the heavens opened. We pulled off the road and into a little town in search of shelter, and stopped in a Pizzeria for our first meal in Costa Rica.

welcome to Costa Rica!

We ate the steaming Pizza, dried off, and went to survey the sky. It didnít look like the rain was going to stop anytime soon, so we pulled on our waterproofs, and continued on our way to Coco.
We immediately disliked Coco. Saltboxes were dotted along the beach, and the town was dirty and characterless. The beach was a disappointment too, so we spent one night there before heading further down the Nicoya peninsula to Samara.
Samara is one of the last few remaining Tico towns. A small surf town, with a beautiful bay, a football field and a splattering of guesthouses and small hotels along the beach. This was about as far as you could get from the reckless tourist invasion of Coco, and we liked it immediately.
We found a couple of rooms in a hotel on the beach and went out to explore. It really didnít take long. Samara was a very small place, but we all liked it. None of us could quite put our finger on it, but it certainly had something.

samarabeachhorse.jpg The beach was lovely, the people friendly , there was a little market , a couple of shops and enough restaurants , bars and cafes to keep us occupied.
We were walking through the town when I noticed a new bar was being built in the centre. I spotted the owner and we started chatting, I told him I could help him get the place up and running, after all I had opened many bars in London, as well as owning two of my own before I came out on the trip. We chatted and arranged for me come back in a couple of weeks, after Jacquie had left, to work at the bar.
It had been my plan from day one to stop and work in Costa Rica, and Jacquie would go back home and work too. Costa Rica was our half way point, and I was hoping that I would get some hefty tips from the American tourists who were dotted around the town.
A day later, we left Samara and pointed the bikes towards our next destination, Mal Pais, where an old school friend of mine lived, and I had promised her a visit.
We had a tough ride on unmade, unpaved and washed away roads, and finally pulled into Santa Theresa after my first river crossing, tired, muddy, and of course, hungry!
My first river crossing, Costa Rica

One day, there will be a road here!

We met up with my friend, Ruth, whom I hadnít seen for some 20 years, and she helped us find a nice place to stay. That night, we attempted a BBQ on the beach, but the damp wood and damper air forced us back to one of Ruthís friendsí apartment to finish off dinner after several aborted attempts to light a fire.
We hung out in Mal Pais for a couple of days, but the combination of bad weather, constant power cuts, and a lack of anything to do helped us in our decision to move on to the capital, San Jose. John wanted to stay and improve his surfing, so we said our goodbyes, and after a party in the main bar where I DJíd once more, we made our way back out of Mal Pais and on to San Jose.
mal pais beach.jpg
Mal Pais Beach

DJ Dan , rocking the house once more for a free dinner!

I had been invited by the Costa Rica Harley Owners Group to go on a ride with them on the Sunday, and I had also contacted an Italian guy now living in San Jose who rented out apartments. He had said that he would put us up for a couple of nights, so we rode to his place, spent a couple of nights there, and then went to meet the Harley posse at the dealership, only a couple of minutes away from his house.

Ready to roll, CR HOG Chapter at the dealership.

And a hearty Breakfast

We turned up at the dealers and were surprised by how many bikes had shown up for the ride, there must have been at least 40 bikes there, and more were turning up all the time.
There was a breakfast laid on for all the riders, and after a quick pre-ride briefing, in which Jacquie and I were introduced to the rest of the riders, we all headed off in a deafening rumble.
We rode out of the city and up into the mountains, we rode through the clouds and out the other side, we stopped off at a little mountain town that was celebrating its ĒSaintís DayĒ before looping back round and finished the day off in a cool biker bar just outside of San Jose.

We returned to our new Italian mate Pauloís house for one last night, and in the morning we were back on the road and heading south once more to Puerto Viejo, on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, in search of some drier weather.
We had a long ride, stuck behind what seemed like hundreds of trucks that were all crawling along the windy road. It turned out that one of the trucks had spilled its load, and the tailback went on for miles, even skipping down the middle of the road, we were help up by at least an hour, but 5 hours after leaving San Jose, we pulled into Puerto Viejo.
tuba creek.jpg
This was not our first Caribbean town, but it still surprised us at how different the two sides were. The Caribbean side all along central America had its very own identity. The aroma of Jerk chicken and marijuana filled the air. Black skinned Rastas cycled along the path next to the beach, and every bar was playing Bob Marley tunes. The town was a fair deal bigger than Coco and Samara, but still had a lovely easy going atmosphere. Again we bumped into some fellow travelers that we had met before, and we spent our first night at the bar at Rocking Jís with two American brothers we had met at Matildaís.
Unfortunately the weather didnít change, it was wetter than ever. In a beach town where everything is pretty much dependent on chilling on the beach, there ainít much to do when it rains all day. We prayed for the sun to come out, but to no avail. We stayed one extra day just in case the weather broke, but it didnít, so we headed back up to San Jose to hang out until it was time for Jacquie to fly home.
We really enjoyed San Jose. It felt good to be somewhere with a bit of life after so many sleepy, off-season beach towns. I hated the hostel we stayed in, but after being turned away from our first five choices, we would have taken anything with a bed and a roof!
We used the hostel as our base to explore the city; I went shopping for some essentials. The combat trousers I had been using as my riding pants had all but fallen apart, and we both needed new books and odds and sods.
Jacquie and I had one last dinner together in the city, and at 4 in the morning, I waved her off as she rode off in the bus to the airport. I was on my own again.

Posted by Dan Shell at September 16, 2009 05:54 PM GMT

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