Costa Rica – Part 2

25th Jan

A really hard morning but a waterfall swimming bonus.

Ginette was well enough to cycle so we set of after cooking breakfast of scrambled egg and beans on the camping stove, the kitchen was so unhygienic we didn’t use any of their kit.

We had hoped to cycle 50 miles to the Pacific coast,  we had planned on doing some hill climbing in the morning then it should of been all downhill. However we only managed 20 miles.

The hill climbing was much harder than we envisaged with another 10 miles of very steep hills, I had to keep doubling back to push Ginette’s bike up the steeper sections to try to save her arm a bit.

Ginette – the hospital had advised me to rest my arm, keep it elevated and use ice packs. Instead I was doing a full on gym session, cycling up hills and pushing my bike up and down really steep off road tracks. Added to this I was chased several times by local dogs. They seem to be pretty harmless in Costa Rica but it is rather disconcerting cycling and having dogs growling and barking by the side of you. The locals usually come to the rescue either calling their pets, or throwing stones at strays, passing cars will also honk their horns to try and dissuade them.  
Near the top at Berlin a driver stopped for a chat, he warned us how the road in front became only fit for donkeys. Fortunately our plotted route followed his directions, but at Llano Brenes the tarmac stopped. We then had an estimated 3 miles to go to the next main road so we decided to keep going. With no iphone we could only try to follow the tracks on the ipad maps but with no location to show where we actually were.

A Canadian trial biker passed us a few times advising us the road ahead was bad, but we had come down some very steep gravel tracks by this stage and decided to push on. At least this guy was making there and back on his trial bike so after a while he accepted we were daft enough to continue and he popped back a few times with advice on which turn to take.

This stretch of track was very hard, it was incredibly steep, like 30 degrees plus in places and loose big rocks.

Eventually we stumbled upon some parked cars near a bridge and stream. We had found a locals swimming spot in a fast running stream with several cascading waterfalls. The good news was we now knew a proper road was nearby.

We spent a good 2 hours relaxing and swimming in the cool water. The water filter we have been carrying for the year had its first outing, we were both thirsty so used it to enable us to safely drink the stream water.

Ginette – this was heaven, I could have stayed in this spot all day, but we still had some hill climbing ahead of us and the only fluid we had was the filtered water and I wanted something cold and fizzy.

When we left the area we had another 800 metres of hard climbing up gravel roads until we found the tarmac, then it was an easy downhill stretch to Ortina.
We stayed in a cheap but grimy hostel in the town, but as a treat had pizza and beers before settling down.

We ended the day knackered but happy, we really did get to see the “real native Costa Rica” and the waterfall area was not only free but well frequented by local families, they were in large groups of grandparents to parents and grandchildren swimming and cooking BBQ food. It was a delight to share this area with them.

 

26 Jan 2020

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.

A 30 mile cycle finishing at the Pacific seaside resort of Jaco.

Shortly after leaving the town the turning we needed to take had signs forbidding cycles, a quick check for an alternative route showed a hilly longer diversion so we opted to take the main road. It wasn’t too bad and had a hard shoulder we could stay in, we were on this road for only a few miles for our turn off.

Ginette – this main road happened to be the motorway!

We stopped at a bridge over Rio grande Tarcoles, along with nearly all the other drivers on this route. From the bridge we could see a load of large crocodiles swimming and basking in the sun. We took our bikes along the footpath which turned out to be a mistake as the footpath was a dead end so we had to push them backwards from the centre of the bridge back along the path with all the other tourists coming from both directions and having to squeeze by us.

We Met a Californian cyclist who had started his trip in Alaska and was soon to finish in Panama, he rode with us for a short while but whizzed ahead on one of the downhills and disappeared in the distance.

We had a bit of a sting in the tail with a hill climb with 10 miles to go, it was very hot and Ginette was struggling so we took a shade break on the hill. The temperature cycling up was 40 degrees. After our break the bikes had been left out in the sun and my Garmin read 49 degrees.
Reaching the coast the winds bought the temperature down to 36 degrees, hot hot hot.

Ginette – the climbing on the bike was fine, it was the heat, my body really can’t cope. I felt my heart working harder and harder and from past experience I knew the wisest thing to do was stop and find some shade. Gary was a star, he has been really patient and supportive – love him to bits.

We are in hostel in Jako, we were offered a camping spot for £6 but Net opted for a room for £23.

Ginette – to put this in context, we would have pitched the tent next to the kitchen area of a very busy, noisy hostel. The shower would have been a public shower next to the kitchen and the toilets a good 50 meters away by the reception area. 

We dropped our smelly clothes off at the launderette and spent the afternoon drying out our wet kit (tent, bags etc) which was most of our stuff then had a while on the beach.
The sea was really warm and a pleasure to enter, the waves were good as it is a surf area. The town is busy and touristy but not just for us foreigners also for the city folk of San Jose as this is there nearest beach resort.

27th Jan 

Happy birthday Hayley.

Our clothes were in the laundry so we chilled out in the morning doing admin and in Nets case a job application.

We managed 43 miles despite not leaving our accommodation until lunchtime.

The road was mainly flat with a small hard shoulder to cycle on most of the time.
We past jungle and lots of palm oil plantations.

Ginette – even though I am against the mass production of palm oil,  it was interested to watch the locals cultivating it. 

We stopped to see what a couple of van loads of tourists were gawking at and saw a couple of large Macaws playing kiss chase in the trees.

 

I heard and Ginette saw a large snake slither away from us in the verge as we cycled past.   We also saw a poor road kill mammal with white fur and a black stripe down its back, a car stopped but then continued, I wonder if he was thinking of a nice edible road kill for dinner.

Ginette – it is the rain forest, which unfortunately means on a daily basis we smell and see dead animals. It is not as bad as Tasmania but in the heat it can be a little stinky.

The temp varied from 38 to 32 degrees depending on cloud cover, as the evening drew in the clouds showed signs of a lot of rain to come.

We reached Quepos near dusk, the free camping spot we aimed for was not a good place for a tent (we found it on I overlander and this spot would be ok for a vehicle). It was late so instead of trying to find another spot we opted to book into the wide mouthed frog hostel (you need to say this name with your fingers stretching your mouth open) we had two beds in an 8 bed dorm. The place had a pool and a kitchen and for £12 each we even got a free breakfasts.

Ginette – it was great to end the hot day with a dip in the pool. Hostals are great because you get to speak to other people on their travels, however I am not keen on sleeping in dorms. Gary and I slept, in bunk beds (Gary on top and I was in the bottom bunk), which meant the first face I saw in the morning was a strange man I had never met before, in the bottom bunk next to me, which was rather disconcerting. The dorm beds in Costa Rica have not had curtains around them which means you have little privacy. 
IMG_6639
Tuesday 28th Jan

Whale tail beach.

Breakfast included in the hostel, just as well as cooking in the kitchen with so many others around would have been problematic. It had rained a lot in the night so we made the right decision not to camp. We managed 40 miles along a mainly flat road, my body was tired so I was glad when we called it a day.

 

The ride was a mix of palm plantation and wild forest, the forest stretches we cycle on high alert waiting with anticipation in the hope to spot some exotic species.

We saw plenty of birds and one large iguana crossing the main road. There was about 8 vultures making a meal of a (recently killed) dog.

We stopped at a campsite called El Chaman in Uvita next to the Parque National Marino Ballena.  The campsite cost £13 for the pair of us, we had a shelter over our tent, electric hook ups and our own sink. We had use of the kitchen.  The site also had a turtle egg hatchery in the grounds.  Another benefit of the site was we could access the National park beach area without paying the £6 each entrance fee.

We would have been a little disappointed if we had paid to enter this beach,  although it was pretty it was no better than all the free ones we had stopped at along the coast.

When we arrived at the campsite it was still 34 degrees so we laid out the tent but didn’t put it up so as to keep it cool. The beach area is famous for its wildlife and whale tail shaped peninsula, unfortunately when we walked to this feature the tide was rapidly coming in so the feature was underwater with the sea looking like it was having an argument. This is where two seas merge into one.

As the sun set the locals came out in force, (the staff that collect the entrance fee all go home at 4pm) the car park filled up and the little bit of beach areas that the incoming sea had left was busy with families larking around in the sand and sea. The sea was really warm so bathing this time of day was heavenly.

It rained again but with the shelter over our tent we hoped to stay dry, we also hoped it as it had cooled down we would have a comfortable nights sleep.

Ginette – When we first arrived at the camp site we were offered a pitch site next to the toilets, in my best spanish I expressed my concern and we were offered a better site.  However this was next to a hillbilly family, who were really helpful, they helped blow up one of our air mattresses and showed me where the toilets were. However the teenage boys returned to the site very late, drunk and proceeded to have a burping competition. Gary was fast asleep but I laid there hot and sweaty waiting for them to go to sleep. No sooner had they settled down than I could hear their dad snoring loudly urgggg!! That was my party trick, although I’m competitive, there was no way I could compete with the noise coming from their tent.

Wednesday 29th Jan 

Short day for two tired bodies.

It was very hot in the tent last night, sleeping naked and the sweat dripping off our bodies.

Ginette – added to the noise from our neighbours tent, barking dogs, the heat, I had agreed to sleep on the air bed with the big air bubble, which effectively meant I spent the night trying and failing to to get comfortable. I was glad when the sun came up and I could finally leave the tent.
We went for a swim in the sea before breakfast and then a shower to cool down as the sea being warm didn’t chill our old bones. It looked like rain with big black rain clouds above but after a short while of cycling the sun broke through and started to cook us again.

Not a lot of wildlife spotting today but we did hear the howler monkeys. As we were both tired we stopped at Palmer Norte, a small town where our road joined the Pan American highway, we arrived at around 1pm so an early stop.

 

If we had continued the only places we knew of to camp would have been behind two petrol stations, and being both weary and hot we had, had enough for the day.

I had a hair cut in the afternoon, whilst Net had a nap. In the evening we had a meal in our room I had a chicken take away dish and Ginette had cheese on bread we washed this down with some nice cold beers (beer from the supermarket is the same price as soft drinks). The room in the motel had air conditioning so we had a relaxing afternoon, doing some job searches, looking at routes and downloading books.

Ginette – this sounds pretty boring but it was a really enjoyable afternoon, it gave our bodies some time to relax and recover from the hot sticky nights in the tent and hostel.

 

30th Jan 

Confirmation that Ginette is a witch.

Feeling rested after an afternoon and evening in an air conditioned room.

Our first 15 miles was along the Pan American highway, it wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be, but was busy enough that we had to concentrate on the road.  We had more hard shoulder cycling on the previous road, where as this road had none now so basically we spent the day getting in peoples way. However we passed a combination of palm plantations, forest and well kept homesteads so the journey was still a pretty one.

We turned off at Chacarita which is the road heading to Puerto Jimenez and the Corcovado peninsula. The traffic was much lighter and we could relax into the cycling.

We ended the day cycling up and down some steep but short climbs with forest all around us. It was a hot day at 35 degrees but it felt hotter as the hill climbs slow us down so we had no wind chill.

All around us I am sure we have loads of wildlife but the Cicadas are hot and in full song so we can’t hear anything else over there high pitched droning.We did see a couple of Macaws kissing one minute and fighting the next, a couple of large iguanas and sergeant birds.

When cycling in these hot forests I find myself switching between studying the trees and banks for wildlife and head-down hill climbing disappearing into my own thoughts. You know the feeling when you are driving to work and you have to ask yourself how did I travel the last 5 miles? Well it’s the same on a bike.

We camped at El Chontal. It’s a dedicated campsite next to the gulf sea. Intially we were not happy with the $20  charge but negotiated this down to $16 with use of a double kayak.

 

By the time camp we set up camp it was dusk so kayaking had to wait until the following morning. There was a large group of American tourists staying in the cabin but not your usual bunch, these guys are members of an over 55 learning club from north Florida, and were staying on site as part of their kayaking trip. One of the ladies was from Colombia and gave us some great tips of places to visit for our Columbia trip.

Oh I nearly forgot, Ginette was stung three times in her chest by possibly a Wasp, hence the confirmation that she is a witch as I have just checked and can now confirm she has 5 nipples.

Ginette – the American’s were really inspirational, the guys I sat and talked to were all in their 70’s but looked much younger. They had such an excellent outlook on life. Their guide was from the Netherlands and later in the evening we had a good chat with him. He told us where to kayak and offered us a couple of shots of rum. 

31st Jan
Meeting bits on Brexit day
The zip on the tent broke in the night, I was unaware until morning but had a good night cool sleep and no bites (could have been the shots of free rum our friendly Dutch guide let us have).
Ginette – We both fell asleep really quickly but I woke in the night because a 4 by 4 drove into the car park near our tent.  Once I was awake I needed to have a wee and as I tried to get out of the tent broke the zip even further.  It was a beautiful night with lots of stars but kind of spooky. I could hear animals moving around and I could hear the howler monkeys which have to be heard to be believed.  On my return to the tent I tried to fix the zip, failing miserably I used a blanket to try and keep the mosquitoes out. Through out all this, Gary slept never stirring while I laid awake for the rest of the night listening to the rustling of animals moving around the park and the monkey chorus. 

 

I have managed to get the zip working again but for how long?

We had a cup of tea on the pontoon and watched the sunrise before taking two man kayak out across the bay to some mangroves. We followed a route one of the Dutch kayak tour operators kindly showed us.  This was a loop through the mangroves through a narrow channel, at one point we had to manoeuvre around a fallen tree partially blocking the way.

This was a cool experience, the jungle was close on either side and we spotted lots of birds, we were even lucky enough to spot a turtle coming up for air in the open water.
The kayak was uncomfortable so we both had aching backs when we had finished.

We said goodbye to the America Kayak tourers and again the Dutch leader helped us with more kindness by letting us have a beer and remains of a proper bottle of red wine. This camp site had turned out to be a good one for us.

We cycled 22 miles, it was flat but felt like hard work, we were both a little tired and the heat took it out of us. The last 5 miles was on an unpaved road to Dos Brazos, it was once a gold mining town but a new walk into the Corcovado national park has led to a few small entrepreneurs with B & Bs setting up in the area.

Ginette – the heat really got to us, it sapped all of our energy, Gary had another puncture on route so by the time we arrived in the very village we were knackered and hungry. We stopped off for some food before finding somewhere to spend the night and almost fell asleep waiting for our food to arrive.

We camped in a Cabina B&B called Yejos, our camp pitch was under a shelter but not pretty, however the rest of the site was stunning. A little paradise with a small garden with exotic flowers abound. As I write this the frog chorus is playing a tuneful melody from the various species calls.

We met some of the other guests and shared stories, one couple were from Kent, Kenny a Scotsman and a Tracy a Kent girl. They do a lot of travelling to places like India, Sri Lanka, Thailand etc so we enjoyed there company. They are big brexit fans so wanted to celebrate the Brexit signing with a few beers.

During the course of the evening the hostel owner called us all over to see a snake. A viper called Flue de Lees was sitting on top of a fence in a coiled ready to strike position. This snake is highly venomous. We took some photos, and hopefully you can see behind the fence is our tent! A stark reminder of how close we are to these potentially fatal animals.

Ginette – this encounter was a little worrying, I had thought if a snake sensed our presence it would scuttle away, but this snake stayed put, ready to strike. 

As the night drew on the conversation turned to politics and religion, I confirm that these subjects should be avoided especially when dealing with a couple that feel that everyone is entitled to there opinion.

Ginette – This was unfortunate the couple were lovely, very generous and outgoing. They made an effort to include everyone in the conversation but they held strong views regarding immigration (which were not in line with the rest of the group or relevant at all to the discussion on Brexit).  In retrospect we should have tried harder to change the subject or better still not to have engaged at all. As Gary says it is not wise to mix alcohol with politics or religion. Fortunately we live in a democracy and we’re all entitled to our opinions and although the evening came to a close early the following morning we were all pleasant to each other.

 

1st February

into month 12, south east Costa Rica.

A pretty good nights sleep and no more visits from nasty snakes.
We had an old, stray dog guarding our tent, this has become the norm for us and we were glad he was around.


We went for a hike to a mirador and waterfall through the jungle of the Corcovado national park, there was no gate or signs so we didn’t have to pay an entrance fee of have a guide for the advertised €75 dollars a head. The walk was up a steep and narrow muddy track through the noisy forest. Noisy because of the chicadia keeping cool. We didn’t really see much other than a few birds. The mirador was an OK view and the waterfall was only just visible through the trees. I am not saying it wasn’t a nice walk but I wouldn’t go out of my way to do it again.

It was nice mixing with the other guests, even the opinionated Brits who with less beer in their belly were back to the calm pleasant people we first met. The conversation last night played in my head all day. It’s hard to understand how a couple can have such racist views but still travel the world. This couple held strong views against muslims and yet had a second home in Turkey,  a Muslim country home to a religion that they believe to be full of terrorists.  We couldn’t have said anything to effect their views so as mentioned in yesterday’s blog we should have moved them away from discussing politics and religion.

We only had to cycle 8 miles to Puerto Jimenez, we had an hour to wait for the ferry so spent some time in a cafe catching up with friend’s and family on social media.
The ferry ride was about 40 minutes and cost £13 for us and the bikes. We sat chatting to a Canadian couple from Vancouver island that have settled in Costa Rica to retire.

Ginette – I also spent some time talking to some young 20 year olds who were working on a big ship for 2 months.  500 students from their area in the USA were on the boat learning various skills.  Their families paid for the trip and on successful completion they would receive 6 credits each. They were really interested in our bike trip and I almost felt like I was being interrogated, they had so many questions. It was great to see their enthusiasm but it was exhausting. 

Reaching the port we headed to a place the couple had suggested, it turned out to be a complicated booking in process. We met Jim a lovely old American guy that owned the place, he used to sail yachts for a living, has done cycling touring trip in California and spoke slowly about his memories, he was not in the best of health but he took time to share his (disjointed) yarns with us. We had to wait 2 hours before our room was ready but we felt rude to move on elsewhere.  Our patience was rewarded as we stayed in a nice little apartment with a view across the bay. As we wrote the blog for the evening we had a glorious red sunset in front of us.

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Costa Rica – Part 2

  1. David Dutson

    Hi no worrys just glad you two are safe and well and yea i have been following you for a while now you two are nuts lol and wow the views are amazing and yea beer and politics or religion its just bad news and yea we will have to have a get together at some point when u get back to the UK stay safe and well (5 nipples plmsl) carnt wait untill the next blog
    from Dave Dutson

    Like

    Reply

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