Costa Rica

Summary: Costa Rica is a tropical paradise nestled between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. More than 25% of the area is protected land in the form of National Parks and ecotourism is a big industry here. My stay was unusual for several reasons: First, I had flown to San Jose, the capital, a few weeks earlier from Guatemala City in order to meet up with Jill for our 2 week vacation in Costa Rica. Among others, we both climbed Costa Rica’s highest mountain, Cerro Chirripo during this time. Then I flew back to Guatemala and continued the ride via El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. During my 1 week of cycling across Costa Rica I stayed near the Pacific Ocean shore, primarily to avoid the big mountain passes of the interior, but also to enjoy the tropical landscape along the Coast. As a special treat, I arrived on my birthday at the hotel owned by an old school friend of my dad from Austria, who had built a stunning resort overlooking the Ocean. It was a short but wonderful stay there and I will never forget the warm reception and great company of that evening. Then on to Panama, followed by one more quick climb and a rushed ride down to Panama City prior to flying back to Florida for a well-deserved New Year’s break back home in Florida.

Photo Album: Costa Rica Ride

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Monday, December 14

Liberia to Roble / Puntarenas

129km / 12883km; 6.75h / 698h; 800m

First 40km to Las Cañas; there long break with brunch and 2l bottle of coke and wireless Internet. Skype with Jill. Late continuation towards Puntarenas; sunny weather, hot and headwind (which cools a little bit).
In Roble I stop at a Pizzeria for some large dinner. The owner of the Pizzeria is so excited about my project that he calls his friend, who works for some newspaper and interviews me and takes some pictures for a photo story about my project. Later the owner’s brother shows up and we chat while I struggle to finish the huge Pizza, a free dinner courtesy to the benevolent chef. The brother invites me to stay at his home for the night and I gladly accept the invitation. They even insist on washing my cloth while I chat with their kids and answer to their inquisitive questions about my gear and my adventure.

Tuesday, December 15

Roble to Quepos

131km / 13014km; 7h / 705h; 450m

Beautiful Bahia Caldera with black sand beach; first time riding along Pacific shore since Mazatlan, Mexico!

Hard work first 25km; then turning onto highway Jill where I drove 3 weeks ago with rental car.
Some small and one 150m hill at 40km before Jacó. On one downhill top speed 78.2 km/h!

Long lunch break in Jacó at 62km and Skype with Jill.

Then easier km on flat (and familiar) terrain. 15min stop in Parrita at 100km. Reading local newspaper and drinking pineapple juice and water. After buying another 1.75l bottle of water last segment through palm plantations. Arrival in Quepos at 5:15pm. Finding cheap hotel, taking shower, then (wild) busride to Manuel Antonio for dinner. Back to Quepos for coffee with tiramisu – I’m invited to some food by an elderly woman who celebrates her birthday with her family – and then email / Skype.

Wednesday, December 16

Quepos to Uvita (Cristal Ballena)

70km / 13085km; 3.75h / 709h; 450m

Day starts with thunderstorm and rain in Quepos, so I sleep in a little bit and then go to the Best Western Hotel for breakfast buffet on the 3rd floor overlooking the Ocean. Some email there and several courses at the breakfast buffet. Back to hotel by 11am and checking out as it cleared up a bit. I start riding around 11:30am; only a half day today for my birthday 🙂
The road continues through the palm plantations and mostly flat terrain. There is a short stretch of gravel road, but only 3km or so – I knew this from our drive along this road 3 weeks ago. After that I stop at an ATM and a little cafe with WiFi. The waitress asks about my bike and tells me that two months ago she saw another biker who was also climbing mountains (Mark Beaumont). Funny how there are areas where there is really only one logical choice for the long-distance biker.
After some more hills I reach the area around Uvita and keep my eyes open for the Cristal-Ballenas resort. It was built and is owned and run by a school friend of my dad, which means that I am likely invited to stay when I visit. To get there I need to take a little side road, which soon climbs up steeply about 100m. But the reward for this last push is a magnificent view from a hilltop complex down to the Pacific and back to the rain-forest covered mountains! I meet the Steiner family on the way up as they walk their dog. I check in and freshen up, later we meet for dinner in the local restaurant by the pool.
Fantastic food (Macademia Nut crusted Mahi-Mahi) and great company round out my Birthday evening.

Thursday, December 17

Uvita to Neily

115km / 13200km; 6h / 715h; 600m

I go for a quick swim in the pool and then enjoy breakfast at 7am with my hosts in spectacular surrounding scenery. We also take some more photos by the pool with the bike. Reluctantly I finally leave around 8:30am. Before 3km there is a good sized hill and in the stale, humid 32C hot air I sweat profusely before my muscles have even warmed up!
The miles are clicking by, though, through the mostly flat terrain with some rolling hills. Soon I reach the turnoff of the road to Puerto Jimenez where Jill and I drove 3 weeks ago.
I have a salad and a 2l bottle of coke while checking email.
Soon I resume as it’s going to be another long and hot afternoon ride to Neily. It’s going well thanks to the flat terrain and beautiful scenery. I sweat so much that my gloves, helmet and sandals suffer from the sweat and get real greasy.
Just a few km short of Neily I stop at a nice airy restaurant for a coffee and to wait out a little rainshower. Eventually I get to Neily around 5pm and head for the Hotel Andrea (with restaurant and wireless Internet). Shower and dinner, email and Skype with Jill – by now the usual evening routine.
To bed late after Blog and Skype by 10pm.

Friday, December 18

Neily to David (Panama)

75km / 13275km; 3.75h / 719h; 550m

I take it easy in the morning and sleep until almost 7am, then have coffee and cereal in the room while checking email and Skype with Jill. I also feel quite tired – like I would like to take a rest day (but don’t have the time for it).
I leave at 9:20am. The first leg is about 20km to the border at Paso Canoas. The road slopes slightly uphill, so I make slower progress than planned. It’s more than 100m vertical up to the border. There the by now familiar truck backup and lots of people everywhere. Leaving Costa Rica is easy, but entering Panama today takes a long time. I have to wait 1.5h in a line (only use the time to write daily notes and get some US$ from a nearby ATM) until I get to the counter; then it takes less than 30sec and I have the stamp in the passport and can finally keep going.
After the border the Carreterra Panamericana is a 4-lane divided highway. From a little hilltop I can see rain at the bottom of the hill. So I stop and wait out the shower under the roof of a weigh station. Eventually I continue with the backpack in the drybag. It’s slow going as it slopes uphill; the road climbs 200m before it levels off. I stop for some coke and food at a super-market. Just as I get ready to leave it starts raining. This time I take the chance and start riding, trying to escape the rain cloud due to tailwind and some downhill. I succeed and stay ahead of the rain, mostly dry. Eventually I get to David / El Varital at about 70km. I find the bus terminal and a hotel where I can leave my bike. I change at a public restroom and arrange for bike storage overnight. Then I head to Boquete by bus, in preparation for tomorrow’s hike of volcan Baru.
Boquete is a lovely little town at the foot of the mountains, with little rivers of clear mountain water running right through the middle of town. The whole setup reminds me a lot of some little mountain towns in Bavaria or Austria. Checking in at Hospedaje Boquete, eating dinner and doing some email & Skype. To bed in a small dorm room at 11pm.