Chris' 1994  R100GS/PDChris' new bike, a 1996 F650 ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

Jan 9, 2003.-- Costa Rica:  Country #45 and our 3rd New Years Eve away

Credit to Rica lives up to it's name--Rich Coast

-- Story by Erin --

Sunday, Dec 29th: We crossed the border into Costa Rica with relative ease.  It took some time to process the paperwork on the CR side, and $11 US for each bike, but no hassles.  It was a short ride after this to reach Turtle Beach on the Pacific coast, where we were meeting Chris' parents and their friends, Avi and Hannah, at a nice resort called THE LOOKOUT.  Hannah's brother Lev is part owner and chef at the hotel.

Chris' parents treated us to the luxurious accommodation while we spent time with them there.  It’s a huge treat for us since our usual accommodation normally is backpacker accommodation in small rooms with thin walls.   While Chris' parents did the "flight of the Toucan" through the canopy of the rainforest in harnesses and on special cables stretched between trees, we were hiking on the forest floor looking for birds and spotting monkeys. 

On the road that day, we met a motorcycle traveler named Remus on a BMW R1100GS.  Remus is a New Yorker on a trip from Alaska to Ushuaia.   He also happens to be of Romanian descent (he was born there) and speaks a little Hungarian, which was a pleasant surprise in the jungle for Chris' parents and interesting for us to hear his stories about immigrating to the US.  He hung out here with us for a few days.

Monday, Dec 30th:  Frank and Rosa, friends from New York, arrived to help us ring in the new year, AGAIN!  Last year, we all danced and celebrated the new year in Ushuaia, the southern-most city in the world.   This year the climate was decidedly more warm and humid.  New Year's Eve day was spent frolicking in a nice little waterfall nearby while enjoying the company of chatting parrots and a dancing toucan in the trees.  The owners of the property have several of these lovely birds living freely (not in cages, thankfully) on their property.

For New Year's Eve, we had a wonderful top-notch dinner at our hotel highlighted by the dessert------ chocolate lava cake!!!  We rang in the new year with Chris' parents, their friends Avi and Hannah, along with our mates Chris, Simi, Frank, Rosa, and Remus.  A really nice start to 2003!

New Year's Day, 2003:  Lev's wife, Susan, mentioned to us that there was a festival happening in Boruca, a village inhabited by indigenous people in the mountains nearby.   Since there are very few indigenous groups left in Costa Rica, it was a good opportunity to visit one on a day when we could see some of the richness of their culture.   Good thing we all went in the rented 4-wheel drive because the road was steep, rocky, with deep sand in places.   The village was at the top of a mountain with spectacular views of the valleys and rivers below.  It was the festival of the Devil, with dancers dressed up in costumes made from local plants and hand-carved and painted masks.  The dancers taunted one of the participants dressed up like a bull.  A four-day event, culminating with the bull being killed, entails much drinking of beer and the homemade whisky, chicha.  The villagers were very kind and didn't seem to get irritated by us foreigners running around snapping photos of them.

Thursday, Jan 2:  We said goodbye to Chris' parents, for the fifth time now on this trip.  Robi and Gabi are now retired, and there seems to be a competition as to who can travel to more places.  They were recently in Europe, China, and Tibet, and in May they are going to Russia to spend some time cruising on a river boat -- Chris' only objection is they are spending his inheritance!  :-)

We were heading to the Caribbean coast, the folks were heading north to see volcanoes, and Remus set off towards the south, to meet his parents in Panama City.  Our caravan of 3 bikes and a jeep headed across the Cordillera mountains to the east coast.  Soon after we left the Pacific coast and headed inland we started the long climb over the mountains.  The summit of this pass was at 3,400 meters, quite high anywhere in the world let alone for a small tropical country in Central America.  Of course, we had just received our new mesh, summer m/c jackets for Christmas and the first day we used them we crossed a high-altitude pass where temperatures dropped to 10 C/50 F.  We stopped for a much-needed warm meal at lunchtime and dug out our fleece jackets to throw on over our new jackets.  The going was quite tricky as there were many curves, fog, potholes, and lots of truck traffic to deal with.  The scenery is beautiful though in this area with lush green cloud forest and lots of interesting birds.

We arrived on the Caribbean coast at Puerto Limon and it’s a whole different atmosphere.  I started to notice the difference about 50 kms from the coast--- there was traffic but no one was driving aggressively.  In fact, no one was even driving the speed limit!  Everyone was doing a good 10 kms slower, and politely moved to the side and waved us by when they saw we wanted to pass.   In Puerto Limon, the population is largely Afro-Caribbean with the "tranquilo" atmosphere to go with it.  Most people here speak English just as fluently, if not more so, as Spanish.  Chris started speaking to a policeman about directions in Spanish, when the officer broke in and said, "Hey boy, where you looking to go?".  Very friendly and a great laugh!  After a brief stop here to load up on cash, we set off south down the coast to Puerto Viejo (near the Panama border), surfers’ paradise.

After a quick look around town, we found a nice beach-side spot to pitch our tents.  The nice owner of the land invited us for a fish dinner of barbecued red snapper the first night.  We were so close to the beach that we had big crabs wandering around our tents at night.  The days were brutally hot and humid here, but we managed to deal with it by relaxing in our hammocks in the shade of the palm trees.  By night, it cooled off sufficiently for us to wander the small town in search of a good meal and a cold cerveza.  This village was discovered long ago and is now a bit of a hippie hang-out, known for Reggae music, dreadlocks and marijuana.   Depending on how you look at it, it's either a happening place with lots of options for eating, drinking and shopping, or overcrowded with Gringos with too much money and time on their hands.  We thought it was a bit of both.  However, there are lots of places to go up and down the coast to get away from it all and find quiet beaches and jungle all to yourself.

Monday, Jan 6:  Departed our cozy beach campsite after a long good-bye breakfast with Frank and Rosa.  We needed to get to San Jose (the capital in the middle of the country) to get Chris' Ohlins shock repaired.   Frank and Rosa left for the beaches on the Pacific side for another week of holiday.  Where will we see you next year?

Now we are in San Jose with Chris and Simi.   It's your average big city capital, with lots of traffic, people and the resources we need to get things done.  Maybe because so many people painted a negative picture of this place for us, that we now think it’s not so bad.  There's a nice walking/shopping district in the center and some nice colonial buildings.  People are very nice here, so it won't be a hassle to stay a few days.

From here we go north to the volcano Arenal, which is still actively spewing lava, and then across the border to Nicaragua.


Sunset from our hotel over the Pacific.

Photo courtesy of Robert Ratay

New Year's Eve 2002.

Photo courtesy of Robert Ratay

Toucan giving us a show.

Photo courtesy of Robert Ratay

Festival of the Devil in the indigenous village of Boruca.

Photo courtesy of Robert Ratay

The perfect lunch:  Cheap, delicious, and good friends

Rosa, Gabi, Erin, Simi, Frank, Remus, Chris, and Robi

I picked up a hitchhiking grasshopper.


Paradise on the Caribbean side.


Looks like Frank & Rosa are enjoying their holiday

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