Pura Vida

Nice but expensive, terrible Panamericana road and beautiful surrounding of the lake Arenal

At the border is a long line of people but no place for bicycles. After 10 minutes of chaos one guard says that we can leave them next to him. Waiting, stamp in the passport, scan of our small bags and finaly we can enter with all the guns and drugs in our big panniers to Costa Rica :D (OK, we didn’t have anything like this, but we could)

We are amazed by the 4-lane Panamericana road with big shoulder … unfortunately only the first 5km – then only 2 lanes and no place for bicycles.

The road continues up-and-down and we can enjoy the unbelievable green nature and then unexpectedly a car stops in front of us, two men get out and wave at us. I look at Jan if he was hitchhiking but not. And now we are … this will be a robbery how everybody warned us last 1000km! Our options: speed up and pass them on the left or ??? They open the back door of the car and … and then they point out gun on us and they will take all our things! … the reality: they take out 6-pack of big water bottles, because we have to be thirsty when we bicycle so much.

This is absurd! I travel because I believe that people are good and my first thought in this situation is that they are going to do something bad to us … sick and sad! :(

We refuse this rich 9kg offer and we take just one bottle each. We talk for a while, they welcome us in their country, wish a safe and nice journey and add “Pura Vida” – greeting and motto of Costa Rica.

After 6 hours, repairing a puncture and rain, we are totally exhausted and stop one car finally, which take us to the nearest city. The driver explains that it is prohibited to take people in the back of the pick up truck. It’s clear now: just a few pick-up trucks on the roads and this law means that we’ll have to pedal a lot in this country.

The firemen station is a modern building with new cars but because of some alarm we cannot sleep here… yes, the traveling cannot be always cheap. It’s dark when we finally find some affordable hotel. We are disappointed how expensive everything here is but it only confirms the warning of other travelers – beautiful but expensive.

The next day is only on Panamericana and I’m thankful for the dirt roads that most of the time run parallel to the road because otherwise I would collapse from that much stress! No shoulder, right next on the side of the road are rocks, gravel or just hole and the big trucks without any respect to the silly cyclists. They don’t care about our lives, important is that they will be 1 minute faster?! Maybe 10 times I end out of the paved road when I cannot manage how close to me the big wheels go pushing a lot of air and dust with them. A strong rain starts and we hide under a roof of a closed restaurant where we have one hour time to think. This is too much and if it continues like this the next days we’ll take bus!

In Canas we try to ask again at the firemen station – this time successfully. This is like a 5-star hotel… bed in a air conditioned room, own bathroom, gym, ping-pong and pool table, big kitchen, wifi, beautiful shiny copper sliding pole, two brand new firemen trucks and everybody is so nice to us :). With all this we don’t think more about the today’s experience.

Next day we go off the highway and we appear in Switzerland mountains – the road to the lake … steep uphill, neat hills, grass fields and the villages look more like in Alps than in Central America. Lake Arenal is surrounded with millionaire villas of people from USA or Germany. We follow the sign “gallery, coffee, mirador (viewpoint)” and we climb up a steep narrow path to a house – atelier of a German painter (we don’t know her name). We stay there 2 hours. She tells us how the weather changed in last 12years since she moved here with her family. There is not much rain in the last years and the water surface is couple meters lower, in the middle are appearing shallow areas and it’s visible on the banks that the water was much higher before.

We continue around the lake and it’s unbelievable how often the road goes uphill and down. It starts to rain and we hide on a terrace of a restaurant and the owner allows us to stay there for night in our tent. Jan is sad because he lost his underwear which was attached on the top of his bags to dry – this gives another chance to other one which was already chosen to be thrown away :) We repair broken spokes which didn’t survive our light asses and panniers (using of the front bags to divide the weight makes sense maybe) and after a beer we get into our little house.

We wash, pack and move again in the morning. Jan finds his lost underpants on the road and the day starts with a big smile. Day full of hills, empty roads, beautiful nature, monkeys, views to the volcano, flat tire, bathing in a hot river next to Tabacon, visit of a workshop of a local artist who creates gigantic wooden sculptures and at the end arrival to a touristic town La Fortuna. We are refused by the firemen again but find a perfect hostel Gringo Pete’s 2 – good price, great view, big kitchen, wifi and perfect neighbors. Jan finished his antibiotics and we celebrate it with Flor de Cana from Nicaragua.

We skype whole morning and then go to the town for walk. At the church a man – unofficial son of Che Guevara who was a green beret soldier in US – starts to talk with us about how Costa Rica “doesn’t” have army, how bad is the education here and other not happy things. We don’t know what from all that was true but it actually doesn’t matter.

We buy perfect cakes (also for later) and eat them all :D. Among many tourist shops with “art” we find one really good gallery but for the price of one painting we can travel a month … it looks like we’ll need to paint something by ourselves.


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