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A week two up in Costa Rica - picture intensive

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by PunkinHead, Nov 9, 2009.

  1. PunkinHead

    PunkinHead Moobless Adventurer Supporter

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    My wife and I just got back from a week in Costa Rica on a rented DR650. To be honest, Colombia was our first choice since flights were cheap and I've already ridden in Costa Rica, but we couldn't find a bike available there last week so we went with Costa Rica since my wife hasn't been there. Costa Rica is great because it's beautiful, the people are extremely friendly, and the flights were cheap. In fact, I don't think we could have flown to anywhere warm in the US for less than the flights to Costa Rica.

    We arrived Saturday evening and stayed at a bed & breakfast in Alajuela that ended up being our headquarters for the week. We decided to stay in one place and do mostly day trips because my wife doesn't quite grasp the concept of traveling light, so there's no way we could have fit a week's worth of her "necessities" on the bike. The B&B ended up being perfect - it's run by a Colombian family that are really friendly, there's off street parking, and a steady supply of beer.

    Alajuela is just northwest of San Jose and is only minutes from the airport.

    Next... Day 1
    #1
  2. PunkinHead

    PunkinHead Moobless Adventurer Supporter

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    Sunday morning we caught a cab into San Jose to Wild Rider where we rented the bike. Local Costa Rican Advrider "Tico" had spotted my questions here about Costa Rica and me us there and waited patiently for over an hour while Thorsten of Wild Rider highlighted a map with route suggestions and road closures.

    After getting the bike squared away, Tico (Oscar) led us on a nice ride to Volcano Irazú. More importantly, he helped us navigate the city streets and San Jose traffic to get us out of town. It was interesting watching the reactions of people when they saw Oscar's 1200 GS, which is huge and rare by local standards.

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    Irazú is just east of San Jose and once you're out of the city it's a nice ride up to the top of the volcano. The road leading up is nice and windy with a great view of the valley below.

    My wife and I at the Irazú crater:

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    The Irazú crater:
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    A couple on a cruiser with plenty of fringe and chrome couldn't help but continuously blip the throttle as they came into the parking lot. I guess the US isn't the only country with pirates:

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    Following Oscar back down the mountain:

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    The beautiful church in Cartago:

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    After leaving Cartago, Oscar led us back to the Panamerican Highway and pointed us back towards Alajuela. My wife commented several times during the week about what a pleasure it was meeting Oscar and getting to ride with him. Thanks Oscar.

    That night we ate at a Peruvian restaurant where we had ceviche and huge bowls of seafood soup. I asked the waiter for bread, which seemed to catch him off guard. He must have run across the street for a loaf of Wonder Bread, because that's what he brought us. You can see it between the soup bowls:
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    It was a great, but overpriced meal. After we re-mounted the bike in the dark my wife realized that the tail light was burned out. No big deal - we'd just ride back to the B&B fast enough that nobody would come up on us from behind.

    As an aside, this was the only time we rode after dark while there. I highly recommend not riding after dark there because the roads tend to be potholed, the rain can be blinding at night, and stock DR650 headlights suck.
    #2
  3. PunkinHead

    PunkinHead Moobless Adventurer Supporter

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    If you look up "Volcano" in an encyclopedia and there's a good chance you'll see a picture of Arenal. It's perfectly shaped and absolutely stunning. It's also active, so during the day you can see lava and rocks rolling down the sides if you've got a telescope and at night you can see the red glow of lava if you're fortunate enough that it's not shrouded in clouds. The Arenal Volcano and the nearby lake are northwest of San Jose near the town of La Fortuna. There are two main routes to get there from San Jose. Both start out on the Panamerican Highway, then you get a choice of turning north at Naranjo or San Ramon. They're about equal in time and both are very scenic, although I personally prefer the San Ramon route for scenery.

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    Lunch at a little roadside restaurant. We had the typical rice & beans that you'll see everywhere:
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    Beautiful scenery along the way with waterfalls right beside the road:
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    Every wonder what's at the end of the rainbow?
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    A typical view from the road to La Fortuna:
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    My onboard photographer:
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    Here she is mugging for the camera in the back of my helmet:
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    A pitstop for gas and to have the tail light bulb changed:
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    About 15 km or so after you leave La Fortuna heading west you'll see a gravel road on your left with a sign for the Observatory. Head down that road for some nice views of the volcano. We didn't pay the fee to enter the park - instead we rode past it and found places to pull off:

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    After back tracking to pavement, we headed up around the north side of the lake. Like all of Costa Rica, the scenery is stunning:
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    The road is narrow, windy, and potholed with occasional mud slides covering a lane.


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    We only went part way around the lake, then returned to La Fortuna. There's a really cool shop there where a local carver displays his art.

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    After visiting this shop we had lunch with a view of the volcano. Some excellent ensalada caprese:
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    Heading back to the B&B in Alajuela:

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    We stopped at one of the many roadside stands and bought a hunk of cheese and some bread for dinner:
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    We rode a little over 200 miles this day and that's too much two-up on a DR650. We can comfortably do more than double that back home on a larger bike and smoother roads and I can do 250-300 mile days on a narrow seat like this if I'm solo, but when you're two-up on such a small seat there's no room to move around and give various parts of your butt a break. I suggest anyone doing a similar trip on a bike like this should bring along some type of seat pad.

    Tomorrow evening I'll post pictures of the ride to Puntarenas and Montezuma.
    #3
  4. dirty adventurer

    dirty adventurer Been here awhile

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    Nice Pictures and RR! Costa Rica is an amazing country.
    #4
  5. pdedse

    pdedse paraelamigosincero

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    Lots of pretty riding around the volcán arenal area. My inlaws live up in the mountains at about 6000 ft, just outside ciudad quesada (san carlos). It's far away but from up there you look down at arenal and they have some spectacular views. Sounds like a very fun trip.
    #5
  6. Saeed

    Saeed Life-long learner

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    :clap Beautiful scenery for the PICs
    #6
  7. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Beautiful trip! thanks for the report and pics... say, did you tell the local wood carver he could make a mint making small ADV salute carvings and posting them in Vendors? :lol3

    :lurk
    #7
  8. Thorne

    Thorne Sherpa-ing around

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    Great pictures and RR>.........
    #8
  9. stephenaki

    stephenaki Old Rider

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    Very nice; looks like you had decent weather as well. I miss the ceviche I used to get when I was stationed in Panama many years ago.

    How much to rent the bike?
    #9
  10. PunkinHead

    PunkinHead Moobless Adventurer Supporter

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    We got rained on several times every day. No big deal really - we were expecting it and had the right gear. The temperature was warm and the sun always came back out.

    No question that you want waterproof gear and avoid cotton since it takes forever to dry out. My wife is now a believer and we'll be buying her a lot of non-cotton clothing before our bike trip to Colombia this Spring.

    $70/day. The rate changes based on the number of days you rent.

    Lots more pictures coming tonight.
    #10
  11. BeachGuy

    BeachGuy Lost in paradise!

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    Sounds like you and your wife had an excellent ride. Great time of year for it. Everything is green. Be sure and tell everyone (who's not on this forum) what a great trip it was to Costa Rica.

    BeachGuy
    #11
  12. PunkinHead

    PunkinHead Moobless Adventurer Supporter

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    On the third day we decided to do an overnight trip to Montezuma on the peninsula across from Puntarenas. This time of year it gets light at about 5:30 am and pitch black at 5:30 pm, so it pays to get an early start. My wife and I are early risers so it was no problem being on the road at 5:30.

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    We went straight across on the Panamerican Highway from Alajuela to Puntarenas. The highway is 4 lane near the cities, but once you get a bit west they become 2 lane and the scenery is nice.

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    We eventually came up on a traffic jam. There was no traffic coming the other way, so it was obvious there'd been an accident that was still blocking the road. My wife didn't want me to go around, but there was no way I was going to sit there wasting the morning. I passed about 1/2 mile of cars in the left lane then found the source of the problem:
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    Costa Rican's love to pass on blind corners, so this kind of thing is inevitable. In fact, a few miles later we saw this:
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    We stopped for gas in Puntarenas and were thinking about getting breakfast when a lady pulled into the station honking her horn. The gas station attendants took turns visiting the trunk of her Hyundai where she was serving breakfast and coffee, so we decided to join them.
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    After breakfast we rode to the ferry terminal and got our ticket for the crossing to Paquera. The price for myself, my wife, and the bike totaled about $8.
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    There was already a pretty long line of cars waiting, but the guy directing traffic told us to park at the front and get on first. Good deal.
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    A few pelicans flying overhead as we were waiting to get underway:
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    Various pictures of the ride to Paquera:
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    The landing at Paquera looks like something out of Jurrassic Park:
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    Vendors lined up to sell you food or trinkets as you debark the ferry:

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    A view of the bay after getting off the ferry:

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    Getting ready to ride again:

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    #12
  13. PunkinHead

    PunkinHead Moobless Adventurer Supporter

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    We wanted to spend the night in Montezuma because we'd read that it has a really laid back atmosphere and great beaches. Like everywhere in Costa Rica, the ride there has spectacular scenery.

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    The Tambor airport in case you wanted to fly in:

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    Arriving in Montezuma:

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    Saying that Montezuma is laid back is a monumental understatement. It's been a hippy destination for quite awhile and it just begs you to lay in a hammock and do absolutely nothing. It's also not really fair to call it a town - it's just a small collection of a dozen or so buildings. Tour buses meet the ferry in Paquera and bring passengers to Montezuma so maybe it's a little more bustling in the high season, but it was pretty well deserted when we were there.

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    No.

    Seriously. No.

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    Lunch at a little restaurant that was overly fond of the work "organic". The food was actually very good, although way overpriced.

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    One thing you must do if you visit Montezuma is hike to the falls. It takes about 1/2 hour and it's a bit strenous, but it's worth the effort.

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    The little white dog at the top of the rocks came with us from the beach. I've never seen a dog climb like this.

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    Back to the beach after swimming below the falls for awhile:

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    Dinner that night was a loaf of bread, some jelly, and juice bought at the local market.

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    Back at the hotel where they had hammocks in the common area:

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    #13
  14. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    :clap

    Added to the Latin America Ride Report Link Thread.
    #14
  15. bikepolanski

    bikepolanski FTTW

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    Sweet. Thanks for sharing and Pura Vida bro!
    #15
  16. PunkinHead

    PunkinHead Moobless Adventurer Supporter

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    It dumped rain all night and I was very concerned about getting out in the morning. The last few 100 yards into Montezuma is a steep, twisty dirt road and I was afraid the rain would turn it into mud. We mounted up and found that the rain really hadn't effected the road - we got to the top with no problems. We were heartened enough by this that we decided to turn around and try to cross the peninsula to Mal Pais. It started out pretty good, with water filled potholes but basically good traction.

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    This turn off is where things got bad. The road got narrower, steeper, and muddy.

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    Pictures never do justice.

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    We finally gave up. The road actually wouldn't have been bad for a solo rider, but it was just too much work 2-up. My wife has never ridden off road and wasn't comfortable when the bike started getting loose in the mud. We turned back for Montezuma and went back to Paquera the way we'd come.

    Waiting for the ferry in Paquera:

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    Lunch of rice & beans at the ferry terminal.

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    As we waited I watched some guys launch a boat and bury their ATV up to the axles in the process:

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    Then the ferry arrives:

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    Heading back to Puntarenas:

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    Unloading at Puntarenas:

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    We took the Panamerican back to Alajuela with the weather getting progressively worse. We were probably at the highest altitude when the rain really hit hard. I've been in some heavy rains before, but this was serious. We pulled into a restaurant to wait it out.

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    The rain finally dropped off to a drizel, so we rode back to the Bed & Breakfast and hung our gear to dry.

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    #16
  17. GallopinTICO

    GallopinTICO Been here awhile

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    After reading your RR which is very good made me realize how much i missed my beautifull country can't wait to january:evil :evil :freaky :deal glad to see you and your wife have a lot of fun.
    #17
  18. PunkinHead

    PunkinHead Moobless Adventurer Supporter

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    OK, first let me say that I HATE touristy stuff. When I took my kids to Disney I wanted to slit my wrists. I especially hate crowds. Maybe I have a bit of a phobia, but I can't stand to be surrounded by people. That's why I hate airports, shopping malls, and cities in general. Another thing I hate is buffet meals. The food is always mediocre, soggy, and cold.

    Imagine my surprise at actually enjoying a day at a tourist trap and particularly enjoying the buffet lunch.

    When we got up in the morning we could see that it was going to rain most of the day. That, combined with our sore butts from the DR650, meant that we didn't want to do a lot of miles that day. The La Paz Waterfall Gardens are about 25 miles north of Alajuela, a little past Poás Volcano. Even though we'd be going right past it, we decided not to visit Poás because we knew the rain and fog would hide the crater so there wouldn't be anything to see.

    Up until now I haven't mentioned Bruno, the motorcycle hating guard dog at the Bed & Breakfast. Thorsten at Wild Rider had warned us but we'd dismissed it because we'd already met Bruno and knew him to be a very pleasant dog. We were wrong. This dog has a thing for motorcycles. In fact, our hosts told us that the local motorcycle pizza deliverymen won't come inside the gate. One morning Bruno actually got ahold of my pant leg and tried to pull me off the bike! After that we always made sure he was on a short leash before we'd pass his spot near the front gate. You can see in the video that he's wagging his tail, so he's not truly trying to kill motorcyclists.

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    Breakfast was the same every morning: fresh fruit, juice, bread, jelly, and good coffee:

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    Most mornings we were also greated by Sebastion, our hosts' 18 month old son:

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    Here's a typical shot of the road to La Paz. They're doing a lot of work because sections of it were lost to an earthquake. It's actually mostly good pavement with only a short section under construction before you get to La Paz. There's more serious construction once you pass La Paz because we're told a good bit of the road slid off the mountainside.

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    La Paz has a lot of cool displays, including a bird sanctuary, a frog exhibit, snakes, monkeys, a butterfly garden, and, of course, their namesake waterfalls. Their brochure also advertised a cat exhibit, but we couldn't find it. Maybe it's something that's in the works.

    Here's a shot of the bird sanctuary:

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    What's cool about their exhibits is that the birds, butterflies, and frogs are not behind fences. Visitors can get right up to them.

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    Then the dreaded buffet lunch:

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    Despite my low expectations, it was an excellent day. We enjoyed the displays a lot. I think it was mostly because we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Being the off season, and the fact that it rained most of the day, there were only a handful of other people there. And the buffet was excellent.

    Back to the B&B where there was a rocking chair, cold beer, and wireless internet:

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    #18
  19. mad4bikes

    mad4bikes Adventurer

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    Great report...
    #19
  20. whizzerwheel

    whizzerwheel Unimaginative Lab Rat Supporter

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    Real nice....keep it coming
    #20