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Peregrinations Mexico and Central America on Motorcycle: Open road, open heart, open mind.

Week 25: South to Costa Rica!

COSTA RICA | Wednesday, 14 September 2011 | Views [1365]

In the past week, an unprecedented change of pace has taken over my life. From the beach life on LCI to the mudpits of the Nicoya Peninsula, from the familiarity of my Little Corn family to the mayhem of traveling with three other motorbikes...there's a lot to cover here in such a short time.

It all started when I left the island last Tuesday. After six months of being on my own on the bike, I am utterly unaccustomed to public transportation, so the trip back to my bike was exhausting: panga from Little Corn to Big Corn, walk to the airport, shaky plane to Bluefields, taxi to the dock, wait two hours for a boat, take the lancha two hours upstream to El Rama...and arrive to find my bike...fine! Thank goodness for that. It looked like someone had tried to remove the left pannier (and failed! Go Happy Trails!), there was trash and birdshit on it, a bit of rust on the pannier frames and chain, and the clothing I'd left inside smelled a little on the moldy side, but aside from that everything was ready to go. The bike fired up after a few longs pulls on the electric starter, and we were ready to go. But first, a restful night in El Rama (considerably friendlier than Bluefields, for the record, although that's still not saying much).

I resumed my motorcycle adventure the next morning, with an easy 180 mile trip back along familiar roads to Granada. Pulling out of town, I hit a speed of 35 mph and thought to myself, "Woah, back it off a little there!" I realized that the fastest I'd gone in two months on LCI was when I ran over hot sand to jump into the ocean. Seriously, life was slow there.

The ride was easy and straightforward, through jungle and grazing fields, and past flannel-and-Levi's clad men on horses herding cattle the color of the Burnt Sienna crayon in Crayola boxes. I had one run-in with the authorities, my third time being pulled over in utter violation of the law: this time I was riding with an expired bike importation permit, no insurance, no stamp in my passport, and an expired Nicaraguan tourist card. Whoopsadaisy. The cop had me at his mercy, but merely pointed out the deficiencies and sent me on my way with a smile and a wave. Really? Awesome.

I spent the night in Granada. Aside from a building fire across the street and a subsequent blackout, it was a normal and uneventful night. I left bright and early the next morning for the Costa Rican border for two reasons. First of all, I was in the country illegally, and itching to get out before the fines amounted to anything more. Second of all, I had been in touch with another adventure rider, Tyler, on www.horizonsunlimited.com/HUBB, and he and a few other riders would be crossing the border that same day. With any luck, I might be part of a group by the afternoon!

The border crossing went as expected: $105 in fines, three hours, and I was done. As soon as I finished, a motorcyclist pulled up and began the process. His name was Arthur (from Israel via Russia, riding a Honda XR650), and he was in the group I was looking for. Soon after, Greg rode in (from Toronto, on a BMW 800GS). Finally, along came Tyler (American in Australia, riding a 2007 Ural with sidecar), with Kate (British backpacker, lived in Mexico awhile) riding shotgun. We were a full on motorcycle gang! Right away I knew I'd get along with these guys. We are all roughly the same age, all solo travelers who had met up in the past few days, and all traveling with an open mind. Couldn't ask for more!

Or, could I? How about a sweet beachside house in Playa del Coco for a few nights? Done.

And an awesome Costa Rican girl to hang out with? That would be Ana. Done.

Oh, and diving in the Pacific with all sorts of sea creatures I'd never heard of before? Sure, why not. Consider it done.

That was Playa del Coco in a nutshell. Then the fun really began. What appeared to be a straight-forward three-hour drive to Montezuma on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, with the help of a few wrong turns and a bring-it-on attitude became a day-long adventurous slog through mud, rocks, potholes and sand. Only Tyler, Kate and I got this badly off track, so the other complication was getting in touch with the others in the group. This is Kate and I posing for a picture at the beginning, when we though the road was bad enough for a photo:

Three hours later, the road ended here:

To get there, we'd had to negotiate this:

And this:

For me, the most incredible thing was that I could do all that! And more that didn't get photographed. Even though some days I still feel like I haven't a clue what I'm doing down here (who's idea was this, anyway?), days like this stick out as examples of how far I've come in my motorcycling skills, and how much fun this whole adventure is. Tackling these rough roads with new friends, and coming out the other side upright and victorious is an incredible feeling. And when the road takes you to a place like this...

...it's even better. This is Coyote Beach, where we magically popped out. We camped there for the night, and met the others in Monteverde/Santa Elena the next day. Monteverde is an adventure-tourism hub, but in that very tame Costa Rican way. It sits at the end of a tedious dirt and pothole road, high up in the mountains. I actually was cold there, and had to snuggle down into my blankets at night to keep warm! Monteverde was also the site of my first hot shower since July 1st, over two months ago. More than that, though, it was a place where we went on an "extreme canopy tour".

There wasn't much time to observe the canopy as we went flying along a series of fourteen ziplines, but by the end of the trip I couldn't have cared less. The cherries on top were the heart-pounding "Tarzan Swing", which consists of a vertical plummet followed by a wild and free soar through the trees, and the "Superman", a 1-km long zipline where you're harnessed in belly down so you can fly like a bird high above the valley. It was beautiful and fun, and more exciting than I had believed it would be.

Since then we'd descended from on high and ended up in Uvita, a chilled-out beach town and our jumping-off point for the Peninsula de Oso. Tomorrow we take a back road (ie: not on any maps) into the peninsula, and after that we'll hike through wildlife-infested jungle and beach for a few days. Then it's on to Panama! Costa Rica is a lovely place, with fun and technical roads connected by smooth, paved main arteries, and plenty of street signs, and citizens who actually obey traffic laws. And Costa Ricans themselves are incredible friendly, happy people--noticeably so. I'd be loath to leave if it weren't  for three things. One, it's very expensive. Think Mexico/US. Two, it's easy. And three, I'm finally traveling with a group of stellar, like-minded motorcyclists, and I don't plan on leaving them any sooner than I have to.

Until next time,


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