July 10, 2008

Welcome 25/06/08
We loaded our gear on the large Lancha, up in front. The boat was full with passengers, but as the boat started moving, everybody fled to the back of the boat, hiding from the light rain, so we had room for the bikes and we sat comfortably with the best views.
The boat ride was beautiful. We saw millions of birds and even a monkey (finally, our first monkey). The vegetation was remarkable.

Everybody grumpy in the boat.

In Los-Chiles we waited an hour for the immigration to open (lunch break). One could think of scheduling the ‘morning’ boat so it will arrive not exactly on lunch break, but it gave us enough time to see the town, try the ATM (no communication…) and buy some food.
We finally left, around 14:00, cycling through fertile farmlands. The road was like a bad roller-coaster, going up & down all the way; very tiring!
Around 17:30 we started searching for some place to camp. Everything was wet & muddy, but sleeping with the waterproof cover of the tent would be too warm for this tropical weather. We were looking for a roof. We were in anew country, totally different, extremely more modern, so how will people react to 2 dirty cyclists, asking to camp?
We saw a nice house, with a porch. We tried our luck. We asked the 31 year old husband, just as his 25 year old wife returned from work, with their 2 year old daughter. It was a normal car, not a pickup truck, and its windows were transparent, not black! After Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, this was a nice change.
They accepted us and immediately showed us the toilets and shower. Everything was like back home, the kitchen, the living room, the washing machine, etc. They even had the technology of laundry pins… it was strange being in a ‘normal’ place!
The husband, Marlon, asked us about dinner. We showed him our simple food supply: instant soup, some vegetables (We finally started upgrading our instant soup) and pasta. He took it all! We were a bit confused, but came in and helped cooking. They added some vegetables and soon we all ate a tasty vegetable soup. After, Marlon made local coffee, especially for us. Even with the coffee Rani crashed at 21:30 and Gal soon followed.
In the morning we all ate breakfast and Merlon took us for a short tour of him parents Finca (farm), where they produce lots of milk, among other things. He left to his office (a lawyer) and we stayed, sitting at the porch, writing these lines, waiting for the rain, which started at 04:00, to stop.

Wet Season - Part III 26/06/08
we continued on this 'flat' road, up & down, up & down, crazy inclines, very tiring.
We took left, towards San-Jose, the capital, via Volcano Poas National Park. In the late after noon (after a few flat kilometers!) we stopped in a small village, at the shop, to buy vegetables to our vegetable-pasta soup, the rising star of our dinner options: easy to make, vegetables you can carry, pasta and Knor soup with no expiration date, lots of liquids and a taste that doesn't matter after a long cycling day.

While shopping, it started to rain, and continued. An hour later, it was getting dark, and we were still waiting in the shop. We started worrying about a place to camp. Finally, Rami started chit-chatting with the owner about camping.

He told us of a petrol-station, 2km ahead. It continued to rain and Rami hinted something like: “If this was not a shop, it would be the perfect place to camp, under the roof”. It took him a minute, but then he took us to the back yard and showed us the perfect spot. He showed us the toilets/shower, in the house, obviously, and we quickly prepared ourselves for the night.

The only problem was that late at night they locked the door and we had no more access to the toilets... traveling in more modern countries.

The roller-coaster.
Pineapple kingdom.
Finally, a huge Iguana.

In the morning, just as Gal was about to prepare coffee, our host stopped her and invited us for coffee inside. We entered and were surprised to see the wife prepared a full breakfast for us: the traditional Gallo-Pinto, ham, eggs, avocado, toasts, fried sweet platanos and fresh Costa-Rican coffee.


We were ready to attack the mountains.
We reached a small town. Gal's knees were tired, so we checked the local hotel, as it started to rain. It was very early, so we decided to go first to the Internet café, make the best of the wet situation, and later decide whether to stay or continue.

After 30 minutes of slow connection and heavy rain, the town had an electricity failure, so for over 2 hours we waited in the useless Internet café. Rami ran to the supermarket, but was stuck there for half an hour, in the heavy rain. Finally, he returned, and desperate we took the room. It rained all night and we watched movies via satellite TV.

Climbing 28/06/08
it was still raining in the morning, but we decided to continue anyway. Rami was a bit grumpy.
At San-Miguel we turned south and started “the climb”. We had about 1,800m to climb in about 35km. We tried to ignore the inclines ahead of us, but knew, from other cyclists, it will be tough.
At about the middle of the beautiful climb (jungle, monkeys & waterfalls) we reached “El Angel”, a factory, in the middle of the mountains. Rami immediately stopped to investigate. It was food products, specializing in juices, jams, ice creams, sweets and more. We enjoyed chocolate-coconut ice cream, bought bread & jam for the way and Rami especially enjoyed the complementary guava juice. The owner, a 'gringo', living in Costa-Rica for over 20 years, helped us in contacting Jairo, from Santa-Barbara (a suburb of San-Jose), who we tried contacting in the last few days.
Interesting, that the most developed/modern country in Central-America has the worst cellular infrastructure.
The last words of the owner of “El Angel” were: “I think it's gonna rain...”.
We continued the climb. We passed through clouds and it started to rain and didn't stop.
We entered a national park. The scenery was amazing; more jungle, more monkeys, more rivers, more waterfalls, more butterflies... more!

Green Costa-Rica.

A small animal.

El Angel.

Towards sunset, at about 1,500m, we were invited to camp near a small shop. We had time, and the place was a bit small, so we continued, what turned out to be a tiring move. The area became too populated, with modern houses (toilets inside), so we found ourself climbing another 2 hours, to the pass. It was almost dark, we were wet & cold (we're always taken by surprise when entering mountains) and Gal needed to the toilets, badly!
By luck, there was a simple rustic guest house, very relaxed and quiet... with hot water!
Finally, after a long, rainy, cold (we were at 2,000m) day, Gal undressed and entered the shower with the small electric heating element. After a minute the electricity jumped and Gal was freezing in cold, mountain water. In the following minutes Rami was holding the electricity plug, playing with it while Gal suffered in the cold shower.
When she was finished, the owner replaced the plug and Rami got an almost warm shower.
After warming up with a boiling soup and garlic bread (first time; the bread was so dry, Gal had to do something with it!), we sat outside, drank some of our Nicaraguan rum (Flore the Caña) and watched the cucujos (the fire beetle of Mexico and the West Indies) in the surrounding fields.

Cooking in the room.

Jairo 29/06/08

We had a 1,000m downhill to the valley of San-Jose and saw hundreds of cyclists enjoying the weekend. We reached the main plaza of Santa-Barbara, where we met Jairo.
We contacted Jairo through Warm-Showers a few weeks earlier, asking about cycling Costa-Rica and about stool-tests (we are starting the famous 'Latin-America stool-test' trip), and were invited to stay.
He was a nurse in Intensive care in one of the best hospitals of Costa-Rica, so he helped us a lot with the stool-tests. This time the lab tests coast $130, so it made them much more reliable than the $3 tests in Tegucigalpa (which we thought were fake).
Gal was sick (strong flew or Dangi?), so, we stayed more than we planned and got to spend time with the fantastic family of our host (and learn how to make patacones).
Jairo – thanks for everything, how you and your family welcomed us and spoiled us in every way, giving us a true feeling of home.
Good luck on your future cycle-tour. We'll be waiting (in Israel?)

Dogs on the way.
Jairo, trying the BOB.

Getting drunk with the local spirit - Pura vida!
P.S. - Gal's pedal was worrying her, squeaking for the last 3 weeks. The manual (who carries the manual of a pedal?) said Gal was 3,000km late on replacing the grease. A bike shop around was clueless, so we did it in a garage... and it worked!

Greasing Gal's pedal.
Solid state!
With the family.

Towards the Caribbeans 05/07/08

a year and a half into our honeymoon, Rami finally took Gal to the Caribbeans (on her demand). The route took us, again, across the continental divide, through an amazing national-park, up to the clouds, through a tunnel (which was too claustrophobic for Gal, so Rami did 2 trips), down 2,000m through a rain-forest in heavy rain (the peak of our rainy season till now) passing millions of rivers and waterfalls. We stopped twice and covered ourselves, till we gave up. We were so soaked we were laughing.

The rain-forest.

We reached the lowlands and were invited to camp on the balcony of a house on the Rio Costa-Rica; nothing like falling asleep to the sound of a strong river (we're writing these lines while camping on a beautiful beach, with the sound of the waves.

'Camping' on the Rio Costa-Rica.
Cooking Platanos.
Rio Costa-Rica.

Most of the day was flat and boring. Every now and then the road passes through a short, beautiful jungle path, making us imagine how the place looked like before humans conquered it.
At one point, we saw something fall from a huge tree (not a coconut tree). We stopped and looked and saw it was a huge iguana, running for cover. Till then we didn't see too many iguanas.

Banana republic

In the late afternoon the road cut through a banana plantation, and them another plantation and another and another. We entered a famous banana area. It was time to find a camp spot, so we asked at the entrance of what turned out to be a huge banana plantation (surprise-surprise) if we could camp. After 3km inside this labyrinth of bananas, we reached one of the processing building and were invited to camp near the canteen. We got a tour of the toilets/shower (camping in an industrial 'something' means good infrastructure, like electricity & running water) and were invited for dinner: the typical rice and beans.


More bananas!!!

At the plantation - different faces (and hair).
Leaving the plantation.

The Caribbeans 07/07/08 (Ralph, Mazal-Tov!!!)
The closer we came to Puerto Limon, the biggest Costa-Rican Caribbean port, the traffic became worse. Lorries popped-out from nowhere. The last section was dotted with “container cities” and caravans of trucks were raising dust clouds all around us, on this narrow road. We cycled straight through notorious Puerto-Limon, to the beach/port/center. We were excited!

Container city.
The traffic!
Another container city.
Finally - the Caribbeans.

Boat to Colombia - Part I
we spent an hour in the port, in search of a boat to Colombia, with no luck. People were very helpful, and told us of a boat, arriving in 2 days. Gal didn't want to miss the cycling on the Caribbeans, so we left Puerto-Limon towards Panama.

A narrow stripe of coconuts was the only thing that separated the road and the beach.
Finally, traffic was sparse, we had shade from the tall coconuts and the road was flat! A fine introduction to the Caribbean coast.

P.S. - the population changed to Afro-Central-Americans with the heavy Jamaican accent. Rasta-man, good vibration!

Rami on the beach.
More beaches...

Banana break.

Robbery attempt - Puerto Viejo 09/07/08
04:00 – we woke up to go and see the sunrise at the near by beach, at Puerto Viejo Talamanca. We walked on the only lit street, to find a nice spot, facing east.
3 hooligans, "black as the devil", came to us and said something in Spanish (“
vamos a hacer un algo muy male” – we are going to do something really bad). We quickly turned and entered a private residence, while one of them followed and went for his pocket, probably for a knife. Gal, instinctively, shouted and woke up the owners and the hooligans fled.
we waited a bit and returned (300m) to a 'safer' beach. the 'tourist-infested' village was slowly waking up and there was day light, making us feel a bit relaxed.
30 minutes later, while sitting on the beach, we saw a female tourist. Gal wanted to warn her not to walk alone... before Gal got a chance, the woman asked us about her black bag, which was snatched from her yesterday evening. welcome to tourists paradise!
confused and grumpy, we cycled the next day the 50km to the border.

Sunset on the black beach.

Playa Negra.
To Panama.

Goodbye Costa-Rica 10/07/08

Costa-Rica is a beautiful country, but we didn't enjoy the cycling there. the country is small and very populated near the main roads and towns with big supermarkets every 20km (so we didn't have a voyage atmosphere). The campo (countryside) is very developed as well, so in the first 2 days we were excited being in a 'normal' place, but it became boring quite quickly, very Americanized. A side effect of the heavy US influence is the lack of street food - nothing!
Another problem of modernization is finding a place to pee and shit in a neighborhood of houses with toilets inside...
Most of the roads are very narrow (we don't know a bout the Pan-Am) with heavy traffic, many trucks. We were told Costa-Rica has the worst statistics of accidents in Central America (surprising).
Coming from Guatemala/Honduras/Nicaragua, prices were high, groceries, lodging or tourists activities. If it was up to Rami, prices should have been lower (good idea).
But, it was not all bad; the scenery, cycling through the national parks was of the best we had in all our trip, and we finally saw monkeys (Rami was waiting for monkeys for a long time, since Lopburi, Thailand).
And most important, the people were friendly and hospitable, with this good naiveness, which is hard to find in modern places.