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Old 05-15-2011, 12:57 PM   #1
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On Costa Rican time

My Girlfriend Cheryl turned 40 April 27th. She stated she really wanted to do something special to mark this milestone.
One day back in Febuary, I was riding in the desert at a slow pace and could here my cell phone ringing. I stopped to answer the phone. It was her calling me about great airline prices to Costa Rica, just under $600. That's it, that's where we're going. So after doing the ADV search and reading many great stories about other ppl's trips. We decided that a motorcycle was definitely the way to go. This could almost be my birthday . After calling a few motorcycle rental shops. Wild Riders seemed to be our best option with fare pricing and bike choice.
A long 2 and a half months later we are boarding the plane with only 2 reservations, the first night in San Jose at Apartotel El Sesteo a place recommended by Wild Riders. They would pick us up at the airport and take us back to the room and then of course picking up the bike the following morning.

Somewhere above Nicaragua

We know that the rainy season will be starting soon........

We landed at 6:30 and already dark. Our first slap in the face was walking out the door of the plane and the humidity was more than we had expected. Almost hard to breath. The curbside is strewn with taxis all begging for a chance to take some of our money, but we spot our ride holding a sign to take us to our hotel. We felt like royalty even though the ride was just short of a box van with oiled floor and seats provide for an interisting ride to the hotel.

Our hotel the next morning, poolside looking down at the breakfast area.

Breakfast is served with tropical fruits and a rice and black bean mix that we had been reading about. I typically do not like black beans, but these where almost sweet and it all was very tasty. After breakfast we were given directions to Wild Riders and finished packing up. By the time we made it back down to the reception area we already had a message from Wild Riders. They were coming to pick us up. So we waited outside for them. In the short time we waited we noticed that all the building and homes had window bars and security gates, makes you wonder what kinda nieghborhood your in. At least in Phoenix that's the sign of a bad neighborhood, but we were corrected with that anology. There, if a home doesn't have bars on it that simply means that they ran out of money during construction.
After arriving at Wild riders and meeting the owner Thorston, we were given a map and some ideas on where to go and where not to go, also some tips on driving around San Jose and Costa Rica. The bike rented to us was a Dr650, it came with a plate on the back for our large duffle bag and they also provided some saddle bags, something of which they said they did not have, they went through great lengths to accomodate us.
And we're off, not knowing where we exactly are, due to the fact Costa Rica does not mark the roads very well.
First stop is Volcano Arenal, we were able to find a few road signs pointing us in the general direction. At some point we started climbing higher into the mountains, there was alot of burning going on to help control the vegetation. At some point we stopped to take a look at the scenery when the wind shifted in our path. The smoke had a smell to it that had a familiar odor to it. But we are law abiding citizens and we don't take part in this kind of activity, but we did talk about a friend who does for awhile , who would've loved those gps coordinates. It must be banana leaves, yeah it's got to be banana leaves.

We're not sure how long we stood here, but there's more to this place than that. So we slid back on to the bike and continued up the road.

After all that excitment we had the munchies.

Nachos por favor !!!

Our first look at Arenal

Trying to get set up for a photo opportunity, the clouds come in quick and start to cover the mighty volcano.
Maybe tomorrow.
Eating_goat_with_the_Cartel , Never_ventured_never_gained
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Old 05-15-2011, 01:37 PM   #2
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We arrive in La Fortuna and pass the ever so important gas station, (This will come into play later). We decided that since this is our first trip here and that for the next 10 days we will be riding 2-up on a very narrow seat that we should take some precautionary measures when ever possible. We needed hot tubs, a/c, food near or on location, hot shower and sometimes cold shower,bar, and comfortable beds, This place rocked.

Jungle out the back door and Cheryl already waiting for pampering

This place had 28 pools, most fed from the volcano hot spring

Sorry baby, this is your massage tonight

This is where we met Jimmy, our bartender for the evening. Although we didn't get any pictures of him, we did talk about riding motorcycles in Costa Rica. He had a wreck 4 months ago and was still healing up from it. They lack safety gear, but do wear helmets. They can spot a foreigner by the way they are dressed in saftey gear. He really liked our gear, I could tell by the way he eye balled and touched the jackets. He makes his commute everyday from home to work totaling 60k. the roads are dark and wet at night most of the time and the lighting on his ybr 125 is poor, but still loves the rush of riding.
This guy joined us for dinner

He measured almost 2 and half inches long.

Packing up in the morning and carrying our stuff out to the bike I see this little guy working in the morning.

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Old 05-15-2011, 04:32 PM   #3
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thanks.. do continue..

have some friends thinking about going.. would love a first hand no bs accoungt, the good, the bad, the uglier it gets,,
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Old 05-15-2011, 04:38 PM   #4
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Old 05-16-2011, 05:40 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Steveize View Post
have some friends thinking about going.. would love a first hand no bs accoungt, the good, the bad, the uglier it gets,,

Hopefully this RR does help your friends, if I leave something out, let me know. Good luck.
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Old 05-16-2011, 07:04 PM   #6
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After leaving Monteverde we are stil unsure where we are going to end up next, but we have to have some general idea of where to aim.

We stop here for some wholesome breakfast items. This is the first time breakfast was served on our schedule. Most hotels serve breakfast between 8-9a, it forces you to slow down, the lifestyle there is more easygoing, less stress - no suprise there when you think about it.

The ride down the mountain was alot of fun. It was steep, allowing us to cut the engine, save gas, but more importantly, enjoy the view in silence, we make it to the black top and find a real gas station. You pull up, get off bike and they fill her up. All the money exchanges right there in front of you, get back on bike, and pull forward. Almost like the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld.

I like energy drinks, this one is new to me.

Has the strength of what appears to be 5 D battery's

Not that great tasting, but I did finish it.
All recharged

The maps came out and interest peaked from onlookers, maybe it was the bike. A 650 is a huge deal down here. Seems everyone is excited when they spotted ours. Nonetheless a guy riding a xr200 came over to ask about the bike and then provided directions.
Tamarindo is a town on the North-West side of the country on the beach. that looks like it would be nice, but we heard that it was a little on the expensive side, maybe we'll take the interstate 1 up to Libera and stay there for the night as it might be cheaper, then we'll be able to see Tamarindo the following day and not have to spend the night there.
Ok, we have a plan. Where's interstate 1? The guy points to the road in front of us. That's not an interstate, it's just a 2 lane paved road.
He say's, NO, good road, Maybe 3 - 3 1/2 hours, you'll be there.
And we're off. Wait this sign says it's interstate 3. We stop. Look at the maps, pull out the gps. The gps confirms that this is in fact interstate 3 and no highway 1 on it. This has got to be the right road.

I find some of the homes down here interesting

Another road side stop, as it is really hot and we need to get something other than water to drink. coke a cola. A group of guys sitting outside this bar are throwing a few back, Oh-yeah, it's Friday.

As we sit there trying to cool off with our drinks, we hear something large coming down the road and it doesn't sound good.

This big fellow was getting pretty hot himself and demanded it was time for a break as well.

Another road side break and interest point, a concrete bull.

And yet the most interesting place on the whole trip.

Arizona. We're almost home, don't let the dog jump in the bag.

Future motorcyclist, also interested in the big 650

We skip Libera, due to the fact the town really didn't have anything that interesting. Cars and buses overtaking each other, everyone seems to be in a rush. About 5 hours later we reach Tamarindo. I know the guy said 3-3 1/2 hours, but to be honest this wasn't the first time we heard this.
Makes you wonder what American movie they saw that line in. Like in Mr. Mom. 220-221, whatever it takes. We've started laughing about it at this point.

Butts are sore and we stink. We talked to a surfing school who directed us to a place that was affordable. If going down here yourselves, you will find that people here try and help you every way they can with directions or where to stay and eat.
The guy hands us a sticker for the bike as we leave.
Sorry to say we didn't make it to this guys recommended hotel. We saw one close to the beach and we are just done riding today.

They have large yard that is secured and on the second attempt we get A/C.

After showering and cooling down we decided to go take a walk on the beach and have a swim. We opted to leave the camera in our room, I think mainly do to exhaustion. We swam and found a nice restaurant to eat and watch the sun get swallowed up by the Pacific. And after a few drinks we stroll back to our room to get some much needed rest.
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Old 05-17-2011, 08:25 PM   #7
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We got up with sun and decide to walk around town to get some breakfast.
Nothing opens until 9. We don't want to wait 2 hours, so we make a decision on packing up and ride to the next town.
The hotels down here want you to check out with them, but they didn't open up 'til 9. We take a chance that no one will come into the room and steal towels, left the keys behind, and hit the road.
Taking the road that hugs the shore line we find ourselves in a cul-de-sac. We should have known this, we were here last night. But, on the way back out we see a restaurant that just opened. We're the first customers for the day.

This is Wendy, she works here and was a very good hostess

This is what breakfast looked like

We asked her about the roads. They didn't seem all that bad. Everyone who we talked to, or whatever we read about, talked about how bad the roads are. We didn't think they were all that bad considering they're mainly dirt and built on the coast.
She was very interested in our travels & excited to hear we had been going all over Costa Rica and had no plan to our plans. After we asked if she was interested in traveling the U.S., she told us about how her sister had tried, but was denied on a couple of occasions. She would like to come here, but it's very hard to obtain a visa, and doesn't want to put forth the none refundable fee and get rejected like her sister.
Her sister never got a reason to why she was denied.
She explained to us that the rainy season hasn't officially started yet and so during the dry season they do all the repair work in preparation for the next season. (Incidentally, if you want to ride on great roads, come right before rainy season starts!)
We find ourselves leaving at 9:30, forced into the time schedule of the Tico's....
Making are way out of town, for real this time.
We find yourselves lost, yet again. This time we're not sure which way is North or West.
Being that that the roads are so poorly marked we see a sign to head toward Lagarto. With this bit of information, we look at the maps, because the gps is not helping us out here, we figure we must be in Veintisiete de Abril. This is good to know. Following the sign takes us to an intersection, turn right stays on blacktop, but no no sign at the end of the road that way, going straight takes us through a neighborhood and onto a dirt road. Thinking we're going South we head that way. The road narrows and starts to climb into the mountains, the trail starts to get rougher and we begin to think this road doesn't go anywhere. We stop at the top of the ridge to look at the maps again.

About the time we are about to turn back a young boy in his teens comes up the road, we don't really understand his spanish, but we think he says the road goes through. The road gets rougher yet, it appears we are on a wide hiking trail. We pass some homes, they don't appear to be more than a shanty of sorts, basic shelter. We here the most wretched screams, they go through our spines and reaction is to throttle hard to get away from what ever is making that noise, bike starts to fishtail a bit and we make it a little farther away, stop to see what it was, we spot another home buried in the jungle and then we see it. That has to be the biggest pig we have ever seen.
Apparently not all big things live in Texas. The road ends on a hill with a tree laying down in front of us. A guy came over from off of his porch and confirmed, the road ends here.
Heading back to town we find another road that takes into the jungle once again. this time it dumps us out on a paved road, we've got it now. Passing some guys working on a motorcycle they wave at us and we return the wave, I'm getting a bad feeling we're heading North, the bike comes to a stop, the maps come out, the gps is turned on, and I'm not trusting this gps. Where going the wrong way. We turn around and pass the same guys working on the bike, waves are exchanged and we continue, until hitting that stupid little town again. That has to be the right way, the bike does a u-turn (I think it's starting to do it on it's own now) and we pass the guys working on the bike again for the third time. We wave, but this time they just stare at us. God, I hope we don't have to go back this way.
Sure enough we are going in the right direction now. The blacktop ends and where back on the dirt. We prefer this as it allows you to slow down and stop without feeling like your going to get run over.

Someone's property up in the hills

Took some time to have some fun with these statues

The humidity drops a bit as we get closer to the ocean.

One without the bike

Through another town of unknown name

We arrived just in time to see a player get injured. the teams work together to get the injured man off the field and quickly return to their game. Man these guys are hard core.

We make it to Playa Samara

Cheryl's stomach is bothering her and wants a Sprite or something like that.
Just across the street we see a restaurant and decide to go see what they have.

Ahora Si

And this is Sabina the owner

That's right, a vegetarian restaurant. Who convices us that it's not a soda we want, but an all natural drink. (watermelon, mango, papaya, banana smoothies, whatever your heart desires.)
She's right, we are feeling much cooler and more energized.
She's actually from Italy, and moved down here to run this restaurant, pursuing her dream, and also as a way to support her vegan life, and try to pass this information on to others.
She's not pushy, but makes valid points, and doesn't get upset with the fact I'm going to eat meat. She was very funny & we ended up staying much longer than we planned.
Cheryl's starting to feel better.

Continuing to head South

We find a section of beach to ride on.

After leaving the beach we start to here a weird noise from the bike. We have to stop and take a look, this isn't our bike.

That's the chain roller, it was sitting on top of the swingarm at the pivot point. It just ripped off the frame. I guess the roads are pretty rough.

We fear that this could become a problem, the frame could start to crack, and more importantly, this isn't our bike.
But this place is too interesting to just pass by.

It's the Pizza Tree in La Jabilla, Coyote. the place is run and operated by a guy, originally from Canada, who moved here 20 years ago. He makes a mean pie, in a real brick oven.

And one of his kids serves us in the tree house.

After our dinner we went down to talk to this guy some more. Had to ask, why a tree house? As a kid he built many tree houses in Canada, business was getting slow for him and so with some free time he built this.
He was also responsible for building most of the road that we road in on.
He gave us some recommendations on where to stay tonight as it was starting to get very late.
We hope we made it to the place he recommended, it was late and dark now. We pulled into this ranch like hotel and out of the dark came the owner. We asked him how much the rooms where, but he insisted we look at it first. It's clean and has A/C, we're happy, but he's not satisfied, he wants to show us more, but it's dark and we're tired. He takes us around the back to show us the patio, I don't see anything. How much for the room? We give him the asking price, retreat to a cool shower, and a nice firm bed that welcomed our aching bodies.
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Old 05-15-2011, 05:16 PM   #8
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We headed North out of town to go around the back side of Arenal. Finally some dirt roads. We entered the park to hike, but the volcano was covered with clouds and was very hard to make out, so we opted to save our $20 (park fee) and keep going.

Coming up to a fork in the road was 3 guys on 2 dr400's. they had just come from around the lake and said it was beautiful, although looking a little doubtful that we would make it, but then reassured us that we would be OK. It was then at this point that we realized we were taking the route Thorston had said was only accessible with 4 wheel drive. But we'd come so far.
Our first water crossing

Not one of the more graceful techniques, but it works. The bottom was full of slimey grapefruit and bowling ball size rocks. Made it through without a hitch.

The 2nd crossing was not much more graceful, but I didn't expect it to be as this one was moving alot faster and was much wider.

Had to ride to the outside because it was more shallow, even though it meant riding through more water and then into mud on the bank.

Next water crossing, better style points

The reward

Remember when I talked about the gas station at the beginning of town, this is where that comes into play. We looked on our way out but did not see one. The next thing you know - your surrounded by jungle, water, volcano, reptiles, birds, and filled with the pure excitement of being in the wild, gas took the back seat in this planning. Words to remember, fill up when ever possible.
The bike started to die out and then stall. Checking the maps and knowing how far we've already come means there's no going back.

Not sure at just how far we've circled Laguna de Arenal we think that we're closer to Tilaran (a town on our map), and we're off.

One of the many OSHA approved bridges. You can see that the tree supporting the planks to make the bridge is not willing to die just yet.

Coming off of the bridge with the excitement of tour bus full of Japanese tourists at the Hoover Dam we spot this little market and the family that runs it are willing to sell us some fuel. We filled up one gallon of fuel in a milk jug and poured into the fuel tank of the bike, that will be enough. The young gentleman looks at me and simply says, no. He knows this area and not wanting to make that mistake again, we take his advice and add one more gallon at $5 a gallon, but we're happy to pay it. We ask for advice on which way to go. The mother of the guy who got us fuel took a big interest in the map at this point and started looking it over and in spanish (I need to learn more) advised us to go toward Monte Verde. "Es Muy Bonita". That means that's where we are going.

The road immediately starts to climb, the jungle atmosphere disappears and the mountains turn green.

A bus stop at a fork in the road

A short time later we reached at small resturant (Soda) and decide to get something to drink. They ask if we're interested in going to the waterfalls. 4 big ones. What the hell, you can't discover Costa Rica without really exploring it. The man behind the counter exchanges our money for a map and offers to watch our gear. We'll be alright I told him (that was stupid). We park the bike at the trailhead and change out of our riding clothes into swimsuits and sandles, put the 35 lb duffle bag on my back and head out on the trail, which immediately goes almost vertical down.

Viento Fresco Waterfall's: Approching the first waterfall

After a short dip, we're off to the next.

Riding jacket and bathing suit

The 3rd waterfall

On our way to the 4th and last waterfall the trail is not as well built and we finally decide that we should still do it anyhow. And got a big surprise on our way down.

They seemed to be just as curious to us as we were to them, but they didn't have a camera, yet. They started moving in on us, I can see that they're interested in the camera, possibly for themselves to take pictures of people, who knows, they started getting too close for our comfort, we moved on.

4th waterfall from a distance

The hike back out was tough in this heat and humidity, at one point I had to stop in the shaded area. I'm not sure how hot it was, but I know it wasn't cold. I could see my breath as if it where 10 degrees outside. Calves where burning, lungs hurt and gained another useless set of stinky clothes, but well worth it.

Onward to MonteVerde!
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Old 05-15-2011, 05:42 PM   #9
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Viva La Costa Rica

Wow, you guys rock. That was Good, fun reading, and those photos, are awesome. Thanks for taking the time to bring this adventure to us all. And please continue to tells us more of it...
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Old 05-15-2011, 06:54 PM   #10
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We arrive in Monteverde about the time the sun goes down, not sure what time it is. We don't take watches with us on vacation and our cell phones didn't work down here, which is fine by us, early settlers only watched the sky to let them know when it was time to get up and go to bed.
We pull into the tourist info center to get details on where is fuel and a place to stay.
Just as we shut the bike off this guy walks up to us and offers us a place to stay, hands us a flyer for his new hotel he just built. We're nervous, in the states if someone walks up to you and offers help, you're usually nervous.
Not sure if this could mean trouble we start to quiz him.
Where is your hotel?
Just down the road.
Where can I get fuel?
There is no fuel here, but I know a guy.
What is your name?
Looking at the flyer, his name checks out.
We still decide to ask the info center. They don't know this guy, but he is correct. Only one man in town sells fuel.
At some point you have to throw caution to the wind and trust someone.
Thorston at Wild Riders had said that Tico's are genuinely nice and almost all have cell phones.
Alright Freddy we'll give you a shot. So down the road we go following a complete stranger on an old DT175 down the back roads out of town. A short time later we pull up to a hotel built in his own back yard. Looks decent, appears to have about 8 rooms, and looks pretty clean.
We give him the already cheap asking price for the room and move our stuff up stairs.
No A/C, Hey Freddy there might be problem?
No he says, it doesn't get that hot here, you'll be fine.
OK now on to the fuel situation.
He directs me to follow him. I tell Cheryl to stay at the hotel and I follow Freddy out of the yard onto another back road. At some point I'm thinking this is nuts. We just meet this guy and he's overly helpful, but I press on.
Following this smokey 2-stroke through the hills and eventualy into a back alley, making sure not to be able to get trapped we arrive at this house, and the guy already has fuel waiting for me. He must have called ahead.
Now I'm fueled up and feeling alot better we leave this house and take yet another road in a different direction, but we find blacktop and run across what appears to be a corral snake. Freddy stops and then I stop next to him. He replies, did you see that? Know I know we are OK.
It seems that when ever people are interested in wildlife or pets, there generally good people.
Cheryl and I are ready to eat now and we saw an interesting restaurant back in town, built around a tree.

It's called the Tree House. This pic was taken the next morning as we were leaving town.

The food was incredible. I think I had some sort of pizza but Cheryl hit it out of the park with fillet mignon covered in chocolate sauce.

They had a live band with no electrical cords, and they rocked.

There was traditional dancing to go with the music.

They provided such an entertaining atmosphere that we could hardly contain ourselves and were invited up to help with the music. But we stunk that up and were asked to sit back down. jk...

This is Freddy at the Hotel La Puesta Del Sol - we would highly recommend him.

Freddy's dog

One thing to keep in mind if visiting the Santa Elena - Monteverde area. Your high up in the mountains and it is cooler, but very windy. The wind had us up part of the night, it sometimes felt peaceful and other moments made you wonder if the roof would blow off.
Next morning we were up and had declined Freddy's offer to give us a guide to some of the highlights in the area, due to high winds. But he insisted on us staying until he got back from the grocery store.
When he got back he just wanted to see us off. He is a very genuine person and gave us each a hug on departure & wished us best of luck.
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