Pura Vida, Costa Rica!

Please continue to be patient with this blog, it may not be well written and there will be no pictures for a while, my laptop is being repaired.

6th Dec- Rivas to 10k short of Liberia
We ate breakfast just before the border, the food has changed subtly over the past few countries but one of the things I’d enjoyed about nicaragua is the fried cheese, never did I think I’d find something close to halloumi in central America, and get to eat it for breakfast.

It was pretty uneventful to stamp out of Nicaragua, although had to pay $2 to leave, Costa Rica was easy apart from the long queue! And that was that, country number 7! The surroundings seemed instantly different, more jungle and more orderly farm land, definitely less rubbish and dead animals on the side of the road. It was so hot that progress in the mid day sun is slow, then late afternoon it gets cooler and suddenly I feel as though I’m flying. The rule is start looking for a place to sleep around 4pm to allow enough time to sort something before dark, we found a little wooden church and the lady who lived next door said it was fine to put our tents in the garden, she was decorating her Christmas tree outside and I told her it made me feel homesick, which led to a conversation about home. she showed us to where we could find lights and running water in the church before we cooked some pasta and fell asleep. It was probably about 7pm, I was shattered and these days of intense heat I am governed by the sun, it tells me when to rise and when to sleep.

7th Dec – camp to camp
I was thrilled to be back on the bike and was keen to cycle well in these first few days in Costa Rica so that I could be sure to get the boat in time.  As I said in the previous post id booked a boat to from panama to Colombia which was leaving on 21st December, that was 1000km away, it was perfectly doable but put me on a tight schedule and days and days if being disciplined.  10km Phil and I stopped to buy breakfast in a supermarket and spent a  while chatting. Costa Rica is notoriously expensive, food about the same as UK prices. Fruit however is cheap, so we ate a mountain of papaya and pineapple til we could eat no more. the road that day was pretty mundane, lots of trucks and road works but I found it easy to cycle. Phil had said that he wanted me to enjoy the riding and find my own pace but a little bit after breakfast he was struggling in the heat and said he needed a rest day. We made a plan that I’d cycle ahead and he’d meet me at a certain point on the road. I waited for him at several points along that road but I didn’t ever see him. That night I found a little family restaurant who let me camp in exchange for dinner. I was a bit sad and worried that I didn’t see Phil but wasn’t sure what else to do. I was so tired that I slept amazingly.

8th Dec – camp to Jaco
The next day I cycled on for a while until I found a shop to buy some bread and refried beans, trying so hard to keep things cheap. The road had become more pleasant now and I was really just enjoying the ride. I  found some Internet and spoke to Phil on Facebook, he’d said he’d stopped quite far back and had needed a rest day, he didn’t think that we’d be suited to going on together. I wasn’t going to disagree with that, I was just disappointed we didn’t say goodbye and that I’d made a big mistake of giving hi m a book of mine and my treasured peanut butter to carry. I kept thinking about that peanut butter for days. Never mess with a cyclists treasured peanut butter stash, still I learnt a lesson, always carry your own stuff.  Also annoying Phil and I had gone to a supermarket in Nicaragua to stock up on food so we could keep Costa Rica cheap, he was carrying most of that stuff, which meant having to buy everything again. Still, in the end I spent 6 days in Costa Rica and spent a total of $70, I was pretty pleased with that.

I was incredibly happy cycling along, people were friendly, offering me to come sit in the shade of their house, plenty of smiles. the end of the day I began to enter the rain forest, and it did what It says on the tin, it rained, there was some pretty tough up hill and it was grey miserable and lots of trucks, I wasn’t too happy, but then the down hill came and I caught a glimpse of the clouds in the hills on one side, and then the beach behind me, and that’s how quickly things can change.  I made it down to the town of Jaco, This place seemed pretty touristy and for miles before reaching the place there were loads of real estate advertising and placards for restaurants and shops in this town.  A campsite symbol was marked on my map but I kept cycling and couldnt see one.  At this point I felt a little vulnerable, I have to be honest that cycling on my own is fine during the day but when it comes to the time of day of looking for somewhere to sleep Im not happy, it really emphases how alone I am.  I decided to knock on the door of a closed surf shop to ask about the camp site. The place was closed but the owner saw me, he didn’t know a campsite but he said of course I should camp in the repair yard of the surf shop. Piko and a few friends were watching the surf championships on tv, drinking a few beers and passing round a bong. Everyone was so excited that I was there and asked so many questions about the trip. I was introduced to Niño, who lived in the surf repair yard and was paid as the overnight security, he was very sweet to me and cooked me up some fish chicaron (crispy fried fish skin) which was meant to be special, I had to crunch away on a tiny piece before passing it along.

9th Dec Jaco to Quepos
I woke at 6am, a bit later than normal . I’d got into the habit of leaving really early but I was so happy to be around good people that I made lots of coffee with Niño and chatted, he was so sweet, I could sort of see he had hearts in his eyes, he cleaned my shoes, platted my hair for me and asked me to stay. We took a cycle into the town to buy fruits for breakfast. Piko the owner of the shop said I should stay for longer, he’d teach me to surf and make ceviche and they’d give me a tour of the rain forest. I cycled off filled with warmth but then actually desperately sad, saying goodbye to people isn’t easy,  this was the first time I was having to cycle to a schedule, leaving no room for changing plans or staying in places I liked, and it was even harder than normal as I leaving to be on my own. I let myself drift into a Holden Caulfied style layered daydream, this way of thinking wasnt good, it made me pedal so slowly. Then as tends to happen on this bike tour my mood did a 180degree turn. I stopped buy some fruit on the side of the road when k heard “hey girl, over here, you got maps” it was a guy called Kim from Korea riding his bike with his 2 5 year old twins on the back. They’d been on the road for 2 years, having started in Korea. Kim wanted maps for heading north and he had maps of Colombia and panama, so we did an exchange, I ever cut the costa rica map in 2, he took the part Id just done. We gave each other camping spot tips and shared stories, and then some more cyclists turned up, a Dutch couple who’d cycled from Ushuaia, it was beginning to get silly how many cyclists there where! Everyone was waxing lyrical about how friendly Colombia was, I was almost jumping down with excitement by the time I left them. I cycled along with the rainforest on one side and the coast on the other, I could not get over Costa Ricas beauty. Nature was king, signs to brake for nature, there were so many animals I dont even recognise! Cycling along Id see amazing scenes, a snake with a frog in it’s mouth, the frog was making such a racket I didn’t know what was going on at first, when I cycled over it disturbed the snake and the frog got free. Later down the road I saw a tortoise trying to cross the road.

That day I had a message from an old uni friend I hadn’t seen or spoken to for years, telling me she loved my log and was proud, these messages seem to come with such apt timing, and I was was truly touched, it really does power the pedals.

That evening I stopped at a fancy looking Eco resort hotel, I saw there was lots of space to camp so thought I’d try my luck. Amazingly for me the hotel was for sale and there was no customers. The owner said I could pitch my tent in the bar and was free to use the swimming pool, walk in the rain forest, and use the wifi. There were still people working in the hotel and the bar man gave me juice, quesidillas and a banana.

I skyped my parents that night and told them I was on my own again. I could hear the worry in my dads voice and I couldnt keep speaking to them as it made me too upset. I felt like such a bitch, having people worry about me. I spent that night chatting to people online and feeling pretty reflective.

10th Dec Quepos to near Cortes
I got up early and the staff in the hotel were really chatty, we drank coffee together before I headed on my way, stopping for the usual rice, beans and eggs up the road. I cycled in land through palm plantations before hitting the coast again. Such stunning beaches, I had to stop and jump into the ocean fully clothed. I cycled along the coast all day before finally heading inland. That evening I was looking for somewhere to camp and an old lady waved at me from her porch as I cycled by. I decided to do a u turn and ask if I could camp in her garden. She was a bit unsure but said yes. This is the usual reaction, but then by the end of the evening we were chatting away, she gave me dinner and invited me to sleep indoors (I preferred to camp outdoors). She gave me an interesting desert of pumpkin soaked in syrup and served with milk, great cycling energy.

11th Dec Cortes to Paso Canoas
That night I’d been afraid of the dark and was kept awake by the dogs barking. The grandma, Isobel invited me in for breakfast, joined by some of her children and grand children. She make me the biggest plate of food, she knew I needed energy for the road. She also insisted on putting a tablespoon of sugar in my coffee!  Such nice people.

I cycled down the road before stopping at a petrol station to buy some horrible energy caffeine shot, I was so tired. This turned this round for me and I powered on, I would make it to the panama border that evening. Stopping at a shop later that morning I bumped in to Naoto, a guy from Japan who had lived in L.A for 30 years. He was a Machine and cycled long distances each day. We agreed to cycled together, and off we went!

That evening we camped behind the back of a petrol station just before the panama border, we made pasta on my stove and I slept so well.

In search of the pura vida
Pura Vida literally means pure life but its written on road signs, cafes, said as a greeting between people, for example I was stopped by a police man who said “buenos Dias, pura vida”. I’ve been asking people what does it mean. The surfers say it means enjoy and keep things simple. Enjoy nature, eat well and don’t worry.” other people say its just a positive greeting like “right on”. Costa Rica is special, one  of a handful of countries in the world with no military, a place with such intense beauty and then pura vida is the national psyche, I loved being surrounded by this and riding my bike here.

Pura Vida!

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