Back to the Caribbean

Costa RicaPosted by Malin Thu, May 05, 2011 05:06:47

After one final swim in the Pacific Ocean we were on our way to Turrialba again. Andrea and Georg decided to join us on the road for a few days.

The Patrol and the Toyota slowly climbed the hills from sea level and up to 3300 meters. It was a great drive and the views must be amazing on clear days, if there ever are any clear days up here.

WE MADE IT TO TURRIALBA! At Hotel Interamericana we meet up with Stevie and Tree from Sprinterlife.com. It was really nice to see them again as we hadn’t been able to hook up since Antigua in Guatemala.

The parking lot in front of the Hotel turned out to be an overland campground for a night. Beside the crowd with drunk people, one police man on foot, two on motorbikes, and two that arrived in a police car, that all came to tell these drunks to get moving at around midnight, it was a peaceful night. We left Sprinterlife the next morning and headed for the Caribbean Coast. Steve and Tree were on their way back to the capital San Jose to catch a flight to Mexico to meet up with family. That sounded kind of familiar… Anyway.

The closer we got to the coast and Puerto Limon the more banana plantations and containers we saw along the road.

In Punta Uva we found the perfect beach, and at Restaurant El Arrecife we could camp directly on the beach. Our planned stay of one night turned into three nights. Here are a few photos to show why it is sometimes ‘difficult to get back on the road on an overland journey. It would be great to just stay on forever, but then it was the dream of driving from Alaska to Argentina…

Next stop Panama.


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Easter on Nicoya Peninsula

Costa RicaPosted by Malin Mon, May 02, 2011 20:32:03

Even if it was just a few days since we left the beach in Nicaragua we felt it was just fine with some more beach hopping on the Nicoya Peninsula. After a long day driving back roads again, this time from Arenal to Nicoya, we did find our way to Sámara Beach and Camping Los Cocos. Our home these days was as good as it gets, with this as the view from our penthouse bedroom window, and all for 12 USD a night J

We had some relaxing days on the beach watching the beach life with tourists, kayaks, surfers,

icecream sellers, horses, dogs, and the tide coming and going. While we were there it was full moon and the forecast said it would be the highest tide in a long time. The result came one day as the waves washed into the campsite, but that was no problem for us with a roof top tent.

One day, Franc and Isabelle with their friends from Switzerland, came to Sámara so that we could have a birthday celebration.

Espen and Isabelle actually have birthdays on the same day, and we thought it would be fun to celebrate the day together. We had a great evening with a great dinner and drinks, and now they are both one year older.

Our idyllic camp on the beach had kind of a decline as we got closer and closer to Semana Santa (Easter Holiday), which we had heard is the biggest Holiday in Costa Rica and actually in all over Central America. For Semana Santa everyone is going to the beach and many are camping. In the other Central American countries we have travelled through we have hardly seen any local’s camp. We have seen a few local campers and people sleeping right on the beach, but no one in tents. In Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua it was hard to find campgrounds, but as soon as we crossed into Costa Rica we found campgrounds again and even signs for them. On our first night in Sámara it was only us and one other tent, but as Easter Thursday drew closer it got more and more crowded.

One evening the sky suddenly opened up and it was pouring down with rain. We were sitting in La Manga restaurant eating the best Italian pizza we’ve had on this trip since it started. After waiting one hour for the rain to stop, we decided just make a run home. Completely soaked and getting closer to “home” the rain stopped.

Walking into the campground we could see that most parts of it had become flooded from the rain. One of the few areas that were not under water was where we were parked with our roof top tent popped up, and ,technically, we would be the only ones that did not need to be in a none flooded spot. Ironic. After the rain stopped it took only about half an hour for the water to drain into the ground, but many of the tents remained full off water. A few people left, but most people dried out their tents as good as possible and spent the night before they left the next day.

The next morning (Wednesday) we were woken up at 5 o’clock by a lot of noise and loud talking. When we looked out we got the feeling that we were in a refugee camp, except people were happy and energetic. People came down the driveway to the campground carrying, madrasses, cooking equipment, and “all” that they owned. Even big electric fans to put up inside the tents!! A bus must have arrived from San Jose with the Easter tourists we had heard so much about. It was incredible to watch 40-50 people in all ages put up camp at 5 o’clock in the morning. It got a little bit too crowded for our taste, and we decided to move on even if the owner said it would be hard for us to get out this day. But by moving only a couple of tents and some tables and chairs were we able to drive the Patrol out of the campground.

Next beach on our beach hopping tour was Islita, located in a nice bay, where we stopped for lunch and a swim in the sea. A little further south, at Playa Bejuco, we just stopped to have a look, and as we walked away from the car some people used the opportunity to pose for photos in front of the car while they thought we did not see them.

They are not the first ones to do it, and we guess we have to take it as a compliment. Our camp for the night was at Playa Coyote where a monkey peed on our car right after we stopped, but everyone else here were very friendly.

The drive continued down along the coast. As we were closing in on Manzanillo the GPS told us about a road going down to the beach and it was labeled “4x4 only”. We gave it a try, but didn’t know if we would be able to continue from there. Around a curve we saw this group of people with 4x4 cars and figured they must be the perfect people to ask for directions.

They were just as interested in us and the Patrol as we were about their vehicles, and we had a good chat. They had just pulled a Jeep out of the river a bit further down. The day before the Jeep had taken a few wrong turns and ended up in the wrong, muddy spot in the river and got stuck. Later on the tide came in and the level of the river raised, and you can see on the windshield the marks of the water level. Obviously the car would not drive anymore, and as we were there a truck came and picked it up. After a confirmation about being on the right road, and that it was just to cross the river at the right spot, we continued. The road led to the beach, and on low tide (as it was now) it was possible to drive 4-5 km on the beach down to Playa Manzanillo.

It was a beautiful drive.

In Malpais we found our perfect camping spot at Camping Mar Azul. For Semana Santa it was not very crowded, and we had power and internet in our site on the beach.

We stayed here for three nights, but we should have stayed one or two more... For some reason we decided to get the last bit of the Costa Rican Easter feeling, the rush to get back to San Juan the last day of the holiday. Right now we cannot tell what made us come to the conclusion that this would be a good day for a 380 km drive to Turrialba east of San Jose, but we gave it a try. A 7.15 start in the morning got us to Paquera just in time to catch the 9 o’clock ferry to Puntarenas (on a normal day). By taking the ferry across the Golfo de Nicoya we would save 180 km of driving. Well, as it was the end of Semana Santa the 9 o’clock ferry was full and left without us. We were not the only ones left on the pier for the next ferry at 11 o’clock. The ferry crew counted up and gave the 150 cars that would fit on the ferry passes, but we were not among the 150 cars. It was room for us on the 1 o’clock ferry though… The decision was made to do the 180 km drive around the bay. For the first 100 km there was not much traffic, but as we got close to the Pan-Am Highway it was full stop 4,5 km away from the intersection.

Finally on the Pan-Am the traffic was good for a few kilometers, and then it stopped. …and moved a little bit. …and stopped… At one point it got really slow and we hardly moved for another 4-5 km. The cause for it this time was not an intersection, but actually a Red Cross person at a first aid station handing out flyers?!!? It was probably for a good cause, but to hold up Easter traffic for 45 minutes is pretty incredible. After this we decided that this was not the day to drive past San Jose to get to Turrialba, and that it would be better to drive towards the Easter traffic. We took off from the Pan-Am and set our course to Uvita and Flytterby House further south on the Pacific coast. We had some friends, Georg and Andrea (www.toyotours.com) that had been there the last 14 days so we knew it must be a good place to stay.

Arriving at Flutterby after 11 hours in the car and 420 km was great and it was good to see friends again. Flutterby was a really cozy hostel and great place to relax.

Sofas to lie in and a nice kitchen for self-cooking, it was great.

Good to be cooking in a kitchen again and not just on a two burner stow outside the car.

After two nights here Turrialba is again our destination. This time we will get there!


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Northern Costa Rica

Costa RicaPosted by Malin Mon, April 25, 2011 19:24:15

We had read and heard that the roads in Costa Rica should be rougher and good for 4x4 driving. Not long after the border on our way to the Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja area the GPS told us to take a shortcut that was not in our map. We decided to give it a try. The road got more and more narrow, but it was a beautiful drive on small farm roads.

When the road took us past some mango trees with loads of ripe mangoes we just had to stop to pick some.

Next morning we had pancakes with mangos and honey for breakfast, and I do not know if we can have a better start on the day than this.

After breakfast we headed up to the Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja and

hiled a trail in the park to have a closer look at

mud pools, boiling hot springs,

(this is the steam from the boiling hot springs in the trees)

and strangler figs.

From this National Park area we wanted to try some back roads to Arenal instead of driving back to the Highway. A couple of the roads we took was privately owned, and we had to pay 1, 50 USD per person to drive on these roads. Some of the roads turned out a lot better than we had expected, but that was because a windmill park had been put up in the area.

Still, we had a nice drive to Arenal even if we missed on one turn so that Espen had to drive the last bit on tarmac.

In Nuevo Arenal is Tom’s German bakery that we had heard rumors about up in Nicaragua. So when we were in the area, we made sure to stop. It was the best bread we’d had in a long, long time. We can actually not remember the last time we had so good bread, but it must have been in a special bakery in North America somewhere.

From what we read in the Lonely Planet, advertisement and signs along the road, we get the impression that we can zip line our way through all of Costa Rica. Since our budget does not include those amounts of money, we will continue to drive the Nissan Patrol across Costa Rica. Someone said the magic words “Not possible to drive” to Espen regarding the road on south side of Lago de Arenal, so we had to give it a try.

Coming from the East we had the biggest river crossing in the beginning of the drive, but it was no problem at all now in the dry season. We can imagine the crossing will be a little harder in the rainy season, but it is definitely a drivable road.

The rest of the drive was nice and smooth, and we had some great views of Vulcán Arenal.

From the volcano area we headed to the beaches on Nicoya Peninsula.


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