Page 41: - No Return Ticket - Just a Ride Report /w Pics - From the beginning
On to Panama. Or……..?
It’s a one day ride to the Panama border. It’s going to be a long day so we start out early in a little rain. It wasn’t enough to warrant putting on rain gear though. In northern Costa Rica to travel east you need to follow a zigzag pattern of roads. The roads are scenic, are in good shape and have a lot of turns and twists, nice. The maximum speed limit through the entire route is 48 MPH (80 KPH). The cops here have radar and it’s going to cost me money if I get caught. Heidi constantly is giving me squeezes and pokes when I’m going too fast. Once an on-coming car blinked it’s headlights at us. We have seen this before. It could be either a ‘greeting’ or most likely a ‘warning’ of a hazard in the road ahead, possibly a radar trap. Oh yes, about a KM up the road are 2 motorcycle cops and one guy has a radar gun in his hand. They are standing in one of the numerous ‘school speed zones’ where the limit is 15 MPH when kids are present. The speed is 24 MPH when no school kids are present so I still had to hammer on the breaks a little. I slowed down soon enough but we still got waved over. These guys were super nice. I never had to show them anything. They enjoyed hearing about our trip and looking over our 1200 motorcycle. They gave us some warnings about the place we are going to. They indicated a ‘snatch and run’ robbery risk of stuff on the bike. (That’s why everything on our bike is secured down) We thanked them. They wished us good travels “Bien viaje”
The closer we get to the Caribbean the denser the jungle. We ride through a lot of ‘old growth’ forest and areas where trees cover the entire road in a tall dark canopy from both sides. It feels like we enter a tunnel. It’s so dark it’s hard to see the pot holes. There are a lot more fruit stands along the road here and banana farms. It seems much more tropical. The plants are bigger and greener. The Caribbean side of the country ‘for sure’ has a unique feel.
While tooling through Limon we get our first glimpse of the Sea, cool. Now ‘everything’ is Caribbean looking. The houses are old, made out of wood and painted with pastel colors; blue, pink, yellow, orange. Many of them are built on stilts, I imagine those houses were built after the last hurricane hit. This is getting exciting.
We have had several travelers tell us good things about Puerto Viejo. It’s a small surfer village just miles from the Panama border on the Caribbean. I did some research on the internet but failed to get a good idea of the type of places available and the prices we should expect to pay. We decided that if the cost is too high we would at least stay three nights and cross into Panama on a ‘good day’ and time.
This is looking better all the time. The jungle is thick and moist, the kind where a lot of the trees are old and huge. The trees have a large variety of giant leafed plants growing up their trunk and hanging down the branches. Everywhere there is shore there are palm trees, the kind that have yellow coconuts and bright green and yellow prongs, Nice.
The road turns to dirt and holes about eleven miles before town. Washboards are everywhere. Locals drive on the wrong side of the road sometimes because they know the washboards are better on that side. We rattle into Puerto Viejo and stop right at the start of Main Street. We just needed to take off our helmets, catch our breath and talk about what approach we should use to find a place to stay. In ‘no time’ a tall clean cut Rasta guy walks up to us and asks if we need any help with anything. He said that if we are looking for a place to stay he has a nice place real cheap. I said “Thanks but no, we’re just chillin out” He says “dat’s coo mon” As he was walking away he says “if yous want some good cooke or ash, I can help you mon” I waved my hand low back and forth and said “No thanks man” He said “OK, but I’ll be here, at this corner” He was real polite... ?
We proceed to ride around Puerto Viejo looking for a place to stay with good parking and is affordable. We ride right past most of the places in town, no parking. On the other side of town we start to look hard. The first place was too expensive. The second place was too expensive. The next place was cheap but it was full. Next we find a place that was over our budget but is right on the beach with great parking. I negotiate for a lower price if we stay a week. The price came way down. We moved in.
We like it here, the vibe of the village, the vibe of the beach, the hiking, the surfing, everything feels good. And we are right on the Caribbean and on The Beach. The sound of breaking waves are heard all day and night. There’s something about the constant ‘white noise’ of breaking surf. The loud surf drives some people nuts, it makes us feel at home.
After staying just a few days here we started looking around town for long term rentals. We found several, some very cheap and some very expensive. We could have rented a whole house right in town with a small fenced in yard for $410/month. We could also have rented an apartment at a hotel for $650/month. The prices were good but no matter what the price, all other places were not on the beach. I prepare to make my bid for one month at where we are.
I go in to negotiate a month stay. Cecilia is good at her business. She first gives us a good price for a bottom floor apartment that is really dark. Next she says “I think you are a little like a gypsy, like me, you may like this other place” She shows me the tree house apartment, but says “That’s more money” I say “How much?” “How much will you pay?” “$850 a month” Our apartment is on the 3rd and 4th floor all by itself. The bedroom is the only room on the 4th floor. It feels like a Swiss family Robinson home. There’s a wrap around deck and the kitchen is sunken and wide open to the outside air, facing the beach. Just when we think it can’t get any better, it does.
Like Hemmingway when he wrote “Old man and the sea” while living in Cuba, that’s what this place feels like to me. It’s a dream becoming reality. This is by far the coolest and most unique place we have ever lived. There’s a great surf beach just a few hundred yards down a path. It’s a 15 minute walk into town along the beach through a palm tree trail. Walking toward town there are several open air restaurants and bars, some right on the beach. Everywhere there are young backpackers and surfers and everyone is here to have a good time. Just down the trail is the famous ‘Rockin J’s’ tent hotel and bar. They have a bon fire every night right on the beach and travelers from all over the world stay there. Part of our mission on this ride has been to meet and get to know the local people. And I think we have done a pretty good job of that so far but meeting people from other countries who are traveling can also be very interesting. Our guide book says this beach rivals the surf beaches of Hawaii but without the attitude. And we can tell you first hand that the attitude here is ‘No Problem Mon’. Bicycles, backpacks, swim suits, sandals and surf boards. Add beautiful beaches and palm trees and you have Puerto Viejo.
Our original ride plans were to spend 3 months or more in Costa Rica while we wait for better riding weather in SA. All my research made CR sound like the kind of place for us. As we rode we talked with a lot of travelers who had been to Costa Rica and they all commented on how expensive it is; hotels, food, internet, beer! Our plans evolved. We decided to just pass through the country and spend more time in Panama, which is cheaper. Well, first a week stay in Playas del Coco just happened. Then 5 weeks in Samara seemed necessary. Now…….
Ok, I finally took time and got a hair cut. All the razzing did me good. Heidi needs her hair cut too so I am on the job. Here We Go. I try to be more professional each time I cut, acting like I know what I’m doing. This brings out even more complaints and ‘corrective action’ suggestions from Heidi. “They do it like this in salons!” I say “You told me to do it this way last time! Take it easy. Stylists are very temperamental you know” We both have a good laugh. Meanwhile Heidi is proclaiming this is the most frightening part of the adventure. I reminded her that that’s a ‘good thing’ and to “Keep Still” ……..The roles I won’t play.
Heidi says I need to throw away my orange ‘Nicaragua’ T-shirt. She says “I don’t want to be seen with you in public with that gross shirt! That thing will never get clean. And there’s a hole in it!” I have to agree I need to buy another three dollar T-shirt but I’m hanging onto this one until we leave Costa Rica. I say “I’ll sew it!” Another laugh.
Thursday night is dream night. That’s the night we take our malaria pill, cloroquine. It’s getting to the point now where Heidi and I say to each other every Thursday “Are you ready? Hold on! This is the dream night” Our dreams have been unbelievable and vivid but most of all they have been memorable. Sometimes I’m glad to wake up. Often I wished I didn’t wake so soon. It’s a ride and you never know where you will go.
The malaria medication is different for South America, different mosquitoes, different strain of malaria. I wonder if those are dream pills also.
Just a few pics:
Beach Hike: We haven’t found the end yet.
Hiking south from Puerto Viejo there are several beach obstacles and at times we had to take a short path through the rain forest but after an hour and a half, there’s still no end in sight.
We made it to Punta Uva, it’s a good beach where a lot of locals and tourists come. Next time we plan on taking the 5:30 AM bus to Manzanillo and attempt a beach hike all the way back to Puerto Viejo. Should be fun.
A few miles past Puerto Viejo the road ends. From there it’s 5 miles of rain forest trail through a protected area before you reach Panama. Heidi and I go to check out the trail.
The trail starts out wide and even.
But quickly becomes more primitive.
Sloth in the tree
Just ‘hanging out’. The ‘word’ is that if you get here just after sunrise you may see Toucan’s. No such luck today, maybe next time.
The path emerges at postcard like overlooks.
The beaches run for miles.
Not much to report for the next few weeks. We will be just ‘hanging out’ ……………..
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