Around the world by bike
(745km - 22days)
31 May - Paso Canoas – Palmar - 95km
It was our first day on the road in Costa Rica and what a stunning cycling day it was. Although hot and humid it was scenic and not as hilly as expected. In fact it is so wet, hot and humid that they even grow rice in this part of the world. The forest along the road was thick and dense and utterly enjoyable. We took our time and cycled on to Palmar.
The tiny river town of Palmar Sur is the home of the mysterious granite stone spheres that date back to Costa Rica’s pre-Columbian period. According to researchers, these spherical granite stones date back thousands of years. While the largest stones can weigh as much as 13,000 kg, some stones are as small as bowling balls. The mysteriousness of these stones is mainly because scientists are baffled as to how perfectly spherical they are. I still have no clue what they were used for.
1 June - Palmar – Uvita - 45km
We followed the coastal road, and although it did not run next to the coast it was a beautiful ride with plenty of ceviche roadside stalls. When we reached Uvita we turned into this small village and found a rather interesting hostel. The dormitories consisted of mosquito-netted beds in tree-houses under huge mango trees. It had a pleasant kitchen area where everyone gathered and devoured the many mangoes which fell off the trees. We pitched our tents under a cover of sorts which prevented mangoes falling on our tents. The beach was just down the road and was a flat sandy beach which stretched for miles down the coast. It was so nice that we stayed 3 full days. A slack-rope in the garden provided hours of fun but no one seemed to quite master the art.
5 June - Uvita – Dominical - 23km
Costa Rica is unique in that it does not have a military. It must be one of only a handful of countries in the world that does not have an army (very clever if you ask me). I hope that it is a sign of a peaceful nation. Costa Ricans are known as "Ticos" and the Costa Rican currency is the colón (plural colones, approx. 500 = 1$), named after Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus????).
6 June - Dominical – Quepos - 47km
We cycled past huge Oil-Palm plantations. Although it has always been a common cooking ingredient in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, and Brazil, it now seems to be planted just about wherever it will grow. The demand for palm oil has increased tremendously due to its lower cost. Many processed foods contain palm oil as an ingredient, as it is a cheap substitute for butter and other vegetable oils, especially in the making of pastry dough and baked goods.
Palm oil also has the environmental activist groups going. The removal of forests in order to make space for oil-palm plantations has resulted in huge losses of natural forests. I, however, dislike them for a totally different reason. They always seem to be planted where it is very, very hilly!!!
7 June - Quepos – Jaco - 66km
It was another scenic day on the road. The road was flat and again ran next to the coast. In Jaco we found a rather dilapidated campsite but at least it was close to the beach. The coast is a real surfers’ paradise as the waves are good and the water warm. We ate from the soda stand outside the campsite, the most economical eateries in Costa Rica. You pay per plate and can choose from a variety of dishes; amongst them there is always the ever present rice and beans.
It was incredibly hot and virtually impossible to lie in the tent. We sat outside until it started to rain and were forced into our own private sauna. While lying there, with sweat dripping from me, I could think of many more comfortable places to be. Eventually I crawled out to see if there was not maybe a breeze outside. There was, however, none and the mosquitos were so fierce that I had no option than to crawl back into my tent. I could not wait for morning so we could pack up and get back on the road.
8 June - Jaco – Puntarenas - 76km
Looking at the map I thought that it would be a nice ride along the coast. Boy, was I wrong!! It was a very scenic ride but it came with a fair share of hills. Again the heat was intense and I swear to God I did not know my body contained that much fluid. The sweat even ran out of my clothes to such an extent that one could easily think I just had a swim.
We eventually arrived in Puntarenas, a strange town situated on a narrow and flat peninsula. We found a room in a rickety wooden building right on the water’s edge. Across the road was the pier where the fancy passenger liners docked. There are obviously people travelling in more style than us.
9 June - Puntarenas – Tambor - 29km
First thing in the morning we cycled off to the small harbour where we waited for the ferry across the Golf de Nicoya to Paquera, situated on the Peninsula de Nicoya. The peninsula is known for its beautiful beaches and tropical rain forests and we wanted to explore!
A quick ferry ride brought us to Paquera and it was immediately evident that it was not going to be an easy ride. Not only was it humid and hot but the narrow winding road lead straight up the mountain!! It´s not that it was that high, just that the gradient was impossibly steep. I pushed my bike up the steepest bits and arrived in Tambor dripping with sweat. We decided to stay put for the night.
10 - 13 June - Tambor – Montezuma - 21km
We saddled up, and again the road was narrow and steep in places. About 12km down the road we spotted a sign for Montezuma beach. We turned down, to see what was at the end of this potholed dirt road. After about 7km we reached the tiny beach village of Montezuma. Hidden away amongst dense forests it is a true paradise and home to surfers and hippies alike. In fact it is so laidback that it has become known as Montefumar (fumar - Spanish for smoke). I think I´ll follow suit and hang in a hammock for a few days.
We did as little as possible, read books that were available at the hostel, swam in the ocean and even took a walk to the nearby waterfall.
14 June - Montezuma –Puerto Coyote - 40km
We finally headed up the hill back to the “main road”. The road out of Montezuma was incredibly steep and I had to push my bike along the steep and winding road. Eventually we reached the main road which was paved but that did not last very long. The road soon became a dirt road which was fine; it is just that it deteriorated to such an extent that soon we found ourselves on a muddy jeep track.
We encountered three rivers where we had to push the bikes across, and although the river was flowing fairly strong, it was not so deep that we could not get through. Thank goodness my bags are waterproof. The road became fairly steep, mudded and rutted to such an extent that we had to help each other push our bikes up the steep hills. We hardly encountered anyone along the way, the only person we saw was a guy asking us for directions!!
After what felt like hours and hours, we reached the most idyllic beach one can picture. We set up camp on the beach amongst the palm trees, went for a swim and watched the sun set over the ocean.
15 June - Puerto Coyote – Playa Carrillo - 46km
Little did we know what was in store for us. The road continued to be hilly and got worse as the day progressed. We pushed our bikes up muddy and rutted roads (two to a bike) and could not believe that there was no end in sight. The hills were so incredibly steep that we slid downhill as we struggled to push the bikes up the gravelly road. Not much one can do but push on.
It felt like we were getting nowhere and the kilometres on the sign boards seemed to increase instead of decrease. I´m quite convinced that we were on the wrong road. Eventually we reached a tiny settlement and asked for directions. In true Costa Rican style we were told to go back down the road and turn left where the sign indicate right! Fortunately it was not far, again we pushed our bikes across a river and low and behold; we found a paved road on the other side! We were so happy that we took a room at the first opportunity!
16 June - Carrillo – Ostional - 51km
A paved road led us past Samara, a rather touristy beach. Again the road sign indicated that we should turn left but this time we were clever and asked one of the locals. As we expected, we were told to turn right! Not long after leaving Samara the paved road came to an end and we were back on a dirt road. The day turned out to be much easier and although the road was bumpy it was at least without the steep uphills of the previous day.
We passed numerous beaches along the way, one more idyllic than the other. On reaching the tiny settlement of Ostional we called it a day and found ourselves a nice room for the night. It rained all night and I feared that the road would turn into a mud bath!
17 - 18 June - Ostional – Playa Tamarindo - 67km
On waking up we found that most of Ernest´s stuff he left on the bike was stolen; helmet, gloves, sleeping bag, etc.!! Not life essential stuff, fortunately, and if they knew what they were doing they would have taken the tents which, to me, is much more important. In this part of the world we do not even use our sleeping bags. Ernest´s sleeping mat had old holes in it and was actually of no use anymore. Fortunately the bikes were locked!!
The road kind of leveled out and although not pan flat it was a much easier day than the previous ones. From time to time the road ran next to the coast and we cycled past some wonderful surfing beaches. Then it would head inland over the hills and through thick and dense natural vegetation.
On arriving at Playa Tamarindo we were surprised to find a rather touristy village. The surf movie Endless Summer 2 was shot in the area and it firmly put Tamarindo on the map. Development took off at an alarming rate, to such an extent that Tamarindo lost its Blue Flag status. The sea turtles are long gone but at least development seems to have slowed down, partly due to the recession and partly due to more control over new developments. That all said and done, it’s a beautiful place and it offers a convenient tourist infrastructure. I enjoyed staying in a hostel with Wi-Fi, fast-food and all the other things that go with it.
19 June - Playa Tamarindo – Liberia - 79km
We saddled up our iron horses and headed over the hills to Liberia. The road turned away from the coast and headed slightly inland. We were happy to be on a paved road and the day was without the usual steep hills. We reached Liberia in good time, found a room and relaxed for the rest of the day. We found some typical food at the nearby restaurant consisting of rice beans, meat and a small bit of salad.
20 June - Liberia – La Cruz - 60km
We were back on the Pan-American highway (not that it is much of a highway) and headed North in the direction of Nicaragua. The road ran through the Parque Nacional Guanacaste, which meant it was hilly but the abundance of trees gave some protection from the heat. We arrived at La Cruz around midday and decided to stay and cross the border the following day.