Costa Rica and Panama

I arrived in La Fortuna, Costa Rica in the dark, cold, and rain. I was drenched. When I took my hands off the handlebars, rivers fell out my sleeve. It was quite the scene at the posh backpacker hostile.

I try not to ride at night, but the border took for ever. There is a funny logic to the borders I’ve been noticing. Each has been one of two scenarios. 1. Low stress, but take forever. 2. High Stress, but quick. Costa Rica was the former. 

I got my documents just fine and overall it was somewhat organized and civilized, but when I went to get insurance the saleswomen was on lunch. The gal showed up a casual 45 minutes late and nonchalantly gave me the “give me 5” hand flash and proceeded to apply makeup right in front of me. The gal who finally stamped all my papers wasn’t much better, infurupting what should have taken 20 seconds 5 times to send texts.

Lunch on the way to La Fortuna

 I eventually got dry, but this was the start of a multi day battle that left all my stuff smelling of mildew and other rank smells. 

Costa Rica is nice. Everything is different tthan the rest of Central America: the people, prices, national parks, cities. It’s very American. There are things I liked and things I didn’t. I hated paying a lot for rice and chicken, so I mostly ate papayas and yogurt during my time there, or pb&j’s. I hated the tourist culture. Everyone was trying to sell you some zip line tour or other bullshit tourist garbage. On the other hand, the jungles were beautiful, and the fruit fantastic. 

I hiked Cerrl Chato the first day with a couple people I met. Didn’t see much. Very foggy. Still fun and beautiful. The trail was eroded and very slippery. Most people we saw were covered in mud. There is a crater at the top that is great for swimming. 

The next day I drove to Puerto Viejo. Again, the rain plagued me. I checked out two national parks and got my bike washed. For $5 I had a kid do a magical job. Some ass hole ran over my helmet though, cracking my shield, so I have to look for a new one in Colombia. I don’t think the bike had been cleaned since before I bought it, so it feels like new. 

Puerto Viejo is a cool town. Very Afro-Caribbean. Lotta Rasta culture and backpackers. Dreadlocks that would hit the ground if not taken care of. 

 I met one guy from Virginia who took me out to dinner. He did the overland thing 7 years ago and has been in the real estate game in Puerto Viejo ever since. It was cool getting a somewhat local look at the place. La Ruka is a great hostile. 

I saw monkeys, snakes, frogs, and sloths. Also a tucan and a lot of other colorful birds. The park was called Cahuita. Very nice, but small. It was sad knowing everything was confined to a small peninsula, totally cut off from the rest of its natural habitat by a big road and other infrastructure. 

I left early for Panama. The border was again long and frustrating, but low stress. There was a German couple in an Astro van they bought in anchorage going through the whole thing, which helped a lot. The gal was very becoming and was great at getting the lazy workers to do their jobs. I was quick to hand my papers to the people immidietly after, before they could go back to slacking off.after what felt like forever I got my papers and was free to go. I was stopped twice the first day at routine police stops to have my papers checked. It was very rainy and I had no shield because of what happened in puerto viejo, so I had to be very careful and drive slow. When the rain would come down hard it felt like I was getting shot in the face. Bad news. 

I found a hostile in David. Didn’t seem like the city had much going on, but the surrounding area seemed incredible. It’s definitely a regret of mine not to have had more time to get to know that part of Panama, and also the Darien side for that matter. 

I left early for Panama City the next day. It was a long boring day on the highway. I made good time, driving over the Panama Canal just shy of the city. The canal didn’t look much different than a big river, but the ships are hug, totally seeming out of place in the relatively narrow waterway. 

Nice hostile, Panama House B&B. Maybe the most mellow and relaxed place I’ve stayed yet. Great for hanging out, which is good because it rains a lot here and I had the intention of organizing my gear.

The first afternoon I went to a mall to get some much needed stuff. I lost a Tshirt and a pair of pants along the way, so I needed to replace them. The mall was the nicest thing I’ve ever seen. I thought it was going to be tough to find exactly what I wanted, but I was so wrong. North Face, Helly Hanson, Colombia, among other brands, all had shops in this place. Everyone was dressed really nice and it made the US look like some third world shithole. A lot of plastic surgery. 

I also met a cool Moto GP guy who offered to take me out for beers in the old city. That was nice. I spent an hour or so at his spot chilling amongst Ducatis and other insanely fast bikes. He was lamenting the new president who has been cracking down on corruption, which I found to be strange. But apparently those corrupt people now in prison were his best customers. Makes sense. If you get rich fast the first thing your gonna do is visit this dude, as his bikes were mint. 

The next day it rained hard in the morning, and when it cleared up I visited the Mariflores Locks on the Canal with a Turkish couple and a German guy. Both are doing the panamerican thing. The locks were cool, although a little small. The renovated locks/chanel’s  for he big boats were off in the distance. If you ever go make sure there is a ship coming through. We got to see two coal ships go through side by side. There were off towards the pacific, so they needed to be lowered. The ships entered the lock, then the water dropped, filling up the other side, so where the ship was going got hugger while the ship got lower.  and the gates on the other side opened and it drove through. Pretty cool stuff. Very easy to get to from the city. I amazed the people I was with by using uber. They thought it was the best thing ever. It only cost $6 when a taxi was $20. 

Today I visited a little mountain that provides a good vista of the city. I parked and walked up. Many runners and bikers, like Central Park, except the bikes were more expensive and the people better dresses. I saw three people on some really sexy road bikes. Lotta people. Sunday morning, makes sense.

I then drove out a causeway to some islands that gave a good view of the skyline. Very pretty. Apparently there are mtn biking trails at the end, and there were hundreds if not thousands of bikers, all with nice equipment. It was very cool. 

I then visited the old city, Casco Viejo. It is said to have a Havana look to it, which I get. It is very bipolar. Some buildings are very posh, while others are crumbling into the ground. It was somewhat contrived, but on the whole very nice. It is not big, and turns to utter squaler pretty quick. I learned a good lesson about looking where I’m going when I stepped on an area of missing bricks that was filled with trash. It was time to go home. All the restaurants were cafeteria style, which was interesting. Also, lots of gambling going on, or some sort of lottery style game where you buy a ticket and put it on some sort of grid, and maybe they choose a coordinate periodically or something. 

Poured this afternoon. Boat to Colombia tomorrow. Yip Yip!!! My time in Central America is coming to a close. It has been really fast, especially the last couple of weeks. 

I think I am going to like South America.  I look forward to getting out of this bottle neck of gringos and being in a big wide open continent again. I will slow it down and really take the time to speak Spanish and explor. 

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