The border crossing from Nicaragua into Costa Rica took forever. There were kilometers of trucks on the line on both sides. So we used one of those guys at the border who, for a tip, help you with the paperwork. On the Nicaraguan side the guy really deserved his tip. He helped us skip the line and we finished there quite fast. On the Costarican side, all they did was to show us where to go, but it took about 2.5 hrs to finish all the paperwork, so they didn’t really help us much. Anyway, we managed to get out of there around 1.30 pm, and we passed again by hundreds of trucks that were waiting at the border to exit Costa Rica.
At the border we met again Cory and Kurt, the two Canadian guys we met in San Felipe when I was injured. We met them again at the border between Honduras and Nicaragua, then we met them in San Juan del Sur, and now again. There was another guy with them, Chris, who started the trip in Alaska. Since we are going to take the same boat to cross from Panama to Cartagena on December 27th, we are probably going to ride together until then.
So we all rode together and we stopped at Playa del Coco and checked in at Pure Vibes, a nice hostel with pool and everything.
Kurt was supposed to meet a guy who brought him some parts from Canada for his bike. In the meantime Vasile and Chris decided to do the oil change on the bikes too. So while I was sipping some margarita, the guys were put to work:)
Kurt, happy with his new shock
The next day we all hit the road again heading to Playa Grande. Playa Grande belongs to the National Park Las Baulas (Leatherback Turtles), which protects Costa Rica’s most important nesting site of the leatherback sea turtles. I really wanted to see those turtles .
We took the shortest route, on the coast, a really nice scenic gravel road, very bumpy at times, with some steep up and down sections. We even had a few water crossings.
We got to Playa Grande and we found the Eco Centre, just so we are told that the group for that night’s tour was complete. As these turtles are highly endangered, the beach is closed at night and it’s protected, so they can come and nest in peace. There are organized tours for a limited number of people every night. It looks like we just missed one. In vain I tried to tell the guide that we cannot stay till the next day, since we have a boat to catch from Panama, the answer was still no. As I was so excited about this, the guys agreed to stay one more night in Playa Grande, so I can see the turtles. We just had to come the next day at 8 am to sign up.
The night was a very fun one, drinking rom and playing cards, with lots of jokes and laughter.
Here, if you go to a bar, the barman starts pouring you the drink and he looks at you to tell him when to stop. And this is what happens if you don’t say when:)
The next day Kurt woke up early and went to sign us all up for the turtle tour. The rest of the day we chilled out by the pool and on the beach and playing billiards.
At 6 pm we showed up at the Eco Center, as we were told, just to find out that as the turtles don’t come on a set schedule, they could arrive anywhere between 6 pm and 1 am, so we would just have to wait there. As we were waiting, the guys got hungry and they went to eat at a little bar on the beach. $21 for fish and chips, and apparently the fish was frozen fish fingers. Costa Rica is extremely expensive!
By 8 pm most people were gone. Kurt, Chris and Cory left too, so it was just Vasile and I left. Around 9 pm we were preparing to leave too, since we were going to have a long day the next day, when we were announced that a turtle has been spotted on the beach. We were supposed to see the whole nesting process: the laying of the eggs, the covering of the nest and the turtle returning to the water. Apparently while they are nesting they are in trance, so they do not feel the human presence, that’s why people can go close to watch. But while they are digging the nest they are not in trance, so we had to wait a little further for the turtle to prepare the nest. Unfortunately the turtle sensed us or something, because it decided to turn back into the water. That’s when we were allowed to go close to it and watch it. We were half a meter away from this huge, heavy, 2 m long reptile, the biggest turtle in the world and the 4th largest reptile. It was magnificent! I felt like I was at National Geographic or something. Unfortunately, since leather-back turtles are very sensitive to light, we were not allowed to use cameras, so we do not have any pictures. But I was so happy I got to see it! This is a picture found on the internet, just to give you an idea of what exactly we saw.
The day after, we woke up early and hit the road. As our friends were using the GPS, the GPS took us on the shortest road, which was some gravel again. But not too much, and soon we got onto paved roads again, since we had a long day ahead of us. We had to get somewhere close to the border, so we can cross the border the next day. So that day we rode about 500 km of very busy roads. In Costa Rica the traffic was denser than in all other countries, on all roads. At some point it started raining too, which was a bliss in the beginning, since it was so hot, but after a while I got cold. I guess I acclimatized so well to the heat here, to the point where when the temperature dropped to 24 degrees in the rain, I turned my heated grips on:)
We stopped for lunch at a funky restaurant, Outback Jack, but very expensive though.
Here we are trying our new prescription glasses:)
We decided that we would cross a less busy border, Rio Sereno, so we rode through this beautiful landscape, with green luscious hills and nice winding roads. It was an epic ride! Sometimes when we travel we feel bad that we cannot take enough pictures to share with everyone. But we fill our eyes with all those beauties, and we keep them in our hearts. Pictures don’t do justice anyway. Here are some of the few pictures we did manage to take.
We stopped in San Vito, a gorgeous little town on the hills. We found a nice hotel with decent prices (for Costa Rica, where everything is very expensive). Then we went out for dinner and we had a great time. That led to another set of cards play back at the hotel, with more fun and laughter.
Next morning we cooked breakfast (we decided that we wanted to eat healthier), prepared some sandwiches for the road, and we left to the border. The road to the border was very rough gravel, thank God it wasn’t too much, only 12 km. We got there, and just like most border crossings in Central America, a bit confusing. No signs to inform you of anything. So we put ourselves in a line, just to find out that that’s the Panama immigration office, not the Costa Rica one. And we had to exit Costa Rica first. So we found the Costarican office, we did our paperwork and we headed to the Panama border. There were two different long line-ups: one for the locals, and one for the tourists. In the locals line up there were a lot of indigenous people. I loved the fact that they are still wearing their traditional clothing. We did not take pictures as most of the time they don’t like to be photographed by tourists.
We waited on the line for about two hours, and when we got to the office they asked us if we have the insurance for the bikes. Well, how can we have the insurance for the bikes if we didn’t go through immigration yet, so we don’t have a stamp in the passport yet? Well, we need the insurance first. Can we go and get it right now and come back? Sure, but I have to go on my lunch break for an hour; but I’ll take you in first when I’ll be back.
So we went to get the insurance, but guess what? They are on their lunch break too. But the guy showed up in about 20 min. That’s when we realized that there was an hour difference between Costa Rica and Panama, that’s why the guy was back from his lunch already. It’s funny, you cross the border and there is an hour difference right away.
In the meantime we figured we could have our sandwiches too, in the shadow of a tree:
We finally managed to get the insurance, went to customs, did the temporary import permit, went back to immigration, got the stamp in the passport, back to customs for another stamp, fumigate bikes and off we go! We are in Panama! And it only took us four and a half hours:)