Costa Rica

Day 1732 Monday 13th July

Riding again was an absolute pleasure through the tropical scenery varying from coconut and banana plantations through to open farm land complete with cows but no sheep or goat.

This utopia was somewhat being slightly shattered by having to stop and put on water proofs then big time shattered by having to ask a rice farmer if we could use his barn to strip down the KTM to hunt for an extreme overheating problem. Soon after donning our covers the temperature went steadily up and soon hit red. So unable to go on, this kind man who was unsure of our motives, put us up under his magnificent open barn and chained the dogs at night so they would not eat us in our beds. He was somewhat surprised when I asked to camp for the night, however when he returned a few hours later to mill some rice he was obviously surprised to see the amount of parts neatly stacked against the wall and a now a very skinny looking bike being violated.

I tested the thermostat, and checked the water pumper impeller had not shattered. Once re-assembled I fired her up to check all was good, the water pump housing leaked and the bottom hose soon joined in as well, so well after dark I stopped, ate my supper and hit the tent well and truly tired.

Day 1733 Tuesday 14th July

Diane rode to the nearby town to buy some silicon paste to seal the parts I had removed and returned with cheese empanadas and an excellent RTV high temp repair paste. With the covers resealed another short run up all looked very good, fan cut in and out temperature went up, come down and all looked great! However I had a niggle in my head that I had not found the problem.

We rode out at mid-day to our beach camp eighty clicks distant, all looked good on the temperature front, however the bike felt a little reluctant, none to responsive so I rode like a nervous person, not sure what to think.

Aiming to camp on the beach with a fresh water shower and cheap rent we were saddened by the camp being under water due to recent rain. So we took a backpacker for twice as much, still with cold shower, not so acceptable as it now was not that warm.

The small community looked and felt ‘very hippy’, with lots of young surfer dudes wandering around looking cool. Some very sunburnt, some bronzed, in boardies and bare chests, well the guys anyway. The girls in bikini tops and long flowing skirts, not that I noticed that much….

In the arvo I checked the bike again and filled another litre of water, not good when it holds just over two….

Day 1734 Wednesday 15th July

Spent the day walking the beach and looking at the multitude of individual stalls selling, once again mostly the same kind of souvenirs as their neighbour, nice wooden boxes, unsure of their origin but hopefully local.

Walking back to our camp on a dirt road we saw a long line of leaf cutter ants marching across the track. Half with green, half without, the latter heading back to the tree to gain more bright green from the high branches. Diane plucked a piece of leaf from an ant and we watched for the outcome. It strode back and forth looking for its leaf, often looking to steal from a down coming cousin, with no success it headed up again to gain another piece of green. Feeling sorry for the hapless beast she gave it back, and it turned and headed home.

Day 1735 Thursday 16th July

We were packed and on the road with high hopes of a happy bike at ten, alas five clicks up the road saw a huge miss-fire trying to climb the steep mountain side, not helped by guys resurfacing the road, they had closed one lane. Although they did make a wonderful job of it, smooth and perfect. Complete with a failing battery I could not re-start a stalled bike at a road work stop board, so I free wheeled back down the hill to bump start it. Once done I slowly rode back to meet the now moving traffic queue. Riding slow saw the vehicles spread out so I could keep moving. The cooler climes of the mountains made the bike run much better and we enjoyed a nice day riding. The temperature staying down and no problem from running rough. Even the once pink oil from possible water contamination now looked normal again. Odd or what?

Making our way to Guayabo National Monument was an enjoyable ride, through slight cloud and temperatures down from twenty eight to twelve gave me cold fingers as my thirty year old gloves have gone mouldy and literary fallen to pieces, complete with mould!!

In the nearby town of Turrialba we took the signed road to the monument only to find a huge heap of rocks dumped at the entrance to the bridge. We were told the bridge is failing and may collapse at any time. Watching the local bike riders weave through we followed suite, Diane scratching her paint off the panniers and me taking a scratch through the Africa map on my left hand box, ah well, more souvenirs. An American living here watched me through, when I got stuck he advised me to be quick as the policia don’t like folks riding through the barricade. Eight clicks further on the gravel road we arrived at another closed bridge. This time with a group of guys off loading a semi of steel plates to construct a new bridge deck. We waited a short while for them to let us through, once again passing by the huge rock barricade.

Arriving at the monument late afternoon, in the rain, we were told that the camp ground has no vehicle access so we back tracked to the ‘hotel’ to find it un-manned. However the house next door had a ‘for sale’ sign and an inviting stoep wide enough and long enough to accommodate two bikes and a tent. So we navigated the wet grass and mud to achieve our goal. Soon with tent strung between the bikes, water still flowing from the outside tap we found our unauthorized camp for the night. The stoep floor was tiled, clean and perfect, so we kept our heads down, cooked and went to hide at night fall from the returning neighbours returning home. Should they feel inclined to ask us to move on.

Being a sleep by seven pm for three hours, I woke for the first relief of nature. Noticing the cloud covered street lamps, like a November night in the U.K. Waking in the wee small hours to relive nature, again, I noticed the clear skies, full of stars. Hoping for a dry day I slunk back into our tent.

Day 1736 Friday 17th July

At first light we packed, made brekkie, tea and walked in light rain wearing our foul weather gear to the monument. While it was interesting to visit the three thousand year old stone relic, it might not be something I would recommend to take a one hundred km diversion for. But one does have to look at a must do attraction in a country.

By ten thirty we had negotiated the swamp back to the road, bump started my bike down the hill and was heading out to the highway. The two hour ride to the capital took close to three, with a fuel stop. The clouds lifted as we achieved lower altitude and the sun dried our soggy riding gear.

At the outskirts of San Jose I clocked the time and remarked how long it would take to reach our intended camp on the western outskirts of the capital.

Although only home to just over one million folks it was a myriad of back streets and alley ways. With a couple of refills of coolant for the bike we made it through in one hour and ten, pretty good for getting lost twice, we thought.

Alas the R.V. park had been bought by Wal-mart and converted into a mall. So denied of our camp we headed wearily to the small town of Alajuela where the lying planet described it as ‘a not to be stayed in place as its too quite and small’. There we found a pleasant town with all the bike tools and a few spares I thought I needed to resurrect my ailing bike.

Day 1737 Saturday 18th July

Needing to move a few muscles we walked the three km to town to pick up food, get our gear laundered, purchase tools to hopefully complete the KTM resurrection, and of course take in the sights.

While waiting many long minutes for Diane to complete her purchases of short pants I went in search of American dollars at the ATM, while waiting outside the office I saw a guy riding a bicycle with a bright green parrot sat on the handle bars of the bike. The bird was very tranquil and said ‘hola’ to passers by, when offered a finger it gently rubbed its top beak along the offered digit.

Later walking back we stopped off at a small mall to buy groceries. While waiting for a cab due to the usual afternoon cloud burst of a very tropical down pour our host’s from the hostel arrived and offered a ride back.

As we waited I watched the guys from the supermarket with umbrellas escorting shoppers to their vehicles taking out their groceries and packing them away for both male and female shoppers. Costa Rica definitely has had a very relaxing feel to it, the people, both local and blow-ins are very friendly and accommodating. We noticed it at the boarder with the officers who processed our paper work, very calm and easy going. They have a saying, bit like a ‘catch phrase’, “Perta Vida”, meaning keep or stay peaceful or calm, they took it to heart I reckon!

Day 1738 Sunday 19th July

Rising early to get on with stripping the engine side casing off to gain access to the water pump seal. It’s not a huge job, probably three hours, four with me messing around, cleaning other parts as I work. It was crucial to get the engine back together before the afternoon rains came. Today I was given an extra two hours by the rain gods and managed to do one oil flush and get the next lot of oil in before the heavens opened.

Day 1739 Monday 20th July

Finished engine flush, managed to buy the same oil as last time which was a great boost for my bikes general running. With the promise of a dry arvo we cleaned the bikes of the dirt and grit we had collected at the monument in the cloud forest mountains a few days back.

Day 1740 Tuesday 21st July

Took a ride to Volcan Poas, a short thirty km ride and a huge gain in altitude up to two thousand eight hundred metres. Being raped of thirty bucks entry fee and two for parking!! we walked the enjoyable jungle type greenery the seven hundred metres to the moonscape crater. Never having seen anything like that before, it was amazing to look at the pale blue crater lake smoking sulphur fumes. When the breeze shifted to our direction the smell was close to overpowering, making us feel a little ill. They advised to stay no longer than twenty minutes which make sense to us, the sudden gain in hight and fumes soon saw us heading back down. As a test ride for the bike it was a good one I thought.

Managed to upload a heap of pictures to the blog, getting us up to date and packed what we could for tomorrows departure.

Day 1741 Wednesday 22nd July

Packed and rode out under a hazy blue sky that could mean rain of shine, it was the later, the day got warmer, a high of thirty three. It took close to the usual hour to get out of town on the correct road, the highway was perfectly surfaced and priced accordingly. Yes they charged us for riding on it. The altitude was only fifty to ninety meters on average, the road still managed to rise and dip with broad sweeping curves through rocky mountains alternating with tree lined avenues giving a green hue to the light. Unexpectedly after dropping lower for ten minutes or so the trees gave out to a broad flat river estuary which met the oceans small pale blue rollers. Then we were back into the trees.

Stopping for gas the two attendants were very interested in our trip and one even asked his God to bless us and look over us. Starting my bike I thought it was a reluctant in turning over, but started fine.

Around Liberia the highway was undergoing a major rebuild the traffic was hectic and very slow, my bike temperature got to just under the red but dropped and stayed on five bars, seven being overheat. Checking the coolant level later found it to be perfect, so fingers crossed the water pump seal is a good one.

At a small bridge we stopped to check our route, we stopped the bikes for a ten minuet cool down. We had over shot our turn off, being hot and slightly humid we were keen to get moving again, Diane rode slowly away as I pressed the starter button, nothing, just clicks from an amperage starved solenoid. Diane now was well out of sight and to my surprise did not return!! I got the sump guard off and jumper leads out and flagged down a fourbie. At first he drove passed waving his arms but a hundred meters further on he turned and came back. We got the bike running after a bit of messing around, it was by no means an instant start as it has been in the past, so probably another drama in the making. As I finished packing Diane returned and asked what had happened.

At the first camp ground I sat on my bike daring not to turn it off and began to swelter in the sun with both cooling fans doing a great job of roasting my legs. No camping was offered so we headed on to another as the cabins were well out of our price range. Second camp was affordable and pleasant. Although the final fifty meters to the camping ground involved a steep incline and two ninety degree corners, on a heavy bike it was a little daunting.

Day 1742 Thursday 23rd July

Rode up into the National Park and once again parted with thirty bucks, this time though we got a lot more hours per dollar, nice walk through mangrove forest, literally steaming hot sulphur ponds and bubbling boiling mud holes, burbling like a soup dragon some meters below the surface, the sound being echoed up the pipe. Huge mangrove trees with roots similar to flying buttresses on a cathedral.

Day 1743 Friday 24th July

Woke before dawn, made tea and packed in the greying light. We had packed the night before so we were on the rode before six, one of our earliest starts.

Eight am saw us at the border starting the process of filling in forms and shelling out dollars like we had a printing press. I reckon it was one of the most expensive crossings to date. We still managed to get through in under three hours, in a light drizzle.