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Costa Rica 2009 - Volcano to Beach

Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
1,112
Location
SW Austin
We are back from Costa Rica and the pictures are (finally) uploaded to SmugMug. I will work on a ride report later in the week but until then here's a few random photos to get this thing started....

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Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
1,112
Location
SW Austin
This trip started here almost 6 months ago. Actually, the trip started a year before that when a previous trip got derailed by, well, let's just say a certain unexpected medical procedure I had that was a, uh, er, pain in the butt :moon: if you know what I mean...

Anyhow, I booked the airfare last year and after an interminable wait that suddenly turned into no...time....to.....plan. we were in El Salvador in transit to Costa Rica. Bienvenidos!

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Our first stop was a very comfortable night in the wonderful Hotel Grano de Oro (thanks, Mike) that made us feel like richer, younger, better looking characters in an exotic novel. We liked it so much we also eventually spent our final night in Costa Rica here (mostly in the bar) but more on that much, much later....



We showed up at the hotel just before 10pm and slid into the restaurant before closing. We sat down, ordered cocktails, opened the menu and realized....we had no idea what the Colon to USD exchange rate was. :doh: There were many zeros (and commas) on the prices. Since it was vacation money - and not REAL money - we ignored the huge 5 figure prices and ordered away. We ended up having a great meal of scallops on leek risotto and macadamia-crusted sea bass. Dinner with dessert and drinks came out to a relief-inspiring $50. Whew.

We woke early the next morning and headed down to the moto rental company where we found the office closed. A quick self-tutorial on dialing phone numbers in Costa Rica and I had awakened a groggy but accommodating Thorsten after a 3am night out celebrating a friend's birthday. Thorsten rushed down to meet and us and his partner Tomas rolled out our DR650 he had freshened up after just completing a two week trip to Panama with it.

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Shameless plug for Thorsten, Tomas and Morten's Wild Rider Moto Rentals. These guys were friendly, helpful and very easy to work with. They reserved the bike for me 6 months ahead and never asked for a deposit or anything. They had the bike ready and in super shape and even offered enthusiastic travel advice. I recommend them and plan to rent from them again.
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I prepped the bike and ended up chatting with Stefan who had just bought a Honda Falcon from the rental fleet and planned to ride it to Argentina. He seemed like a nice guy on the cusp of an historic adventure so I gave him my card and asked him to include me in any updates of his journey.

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We checked out of the hotel, geared up, loaded up the bike and were ready to go by the break of noon. Oh, I did have a partner in this trip (and the last 25+ years of my life)... AusWife. I could never want a better partner. In anything.

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Everything you see on the bike was our entire kit for 7 days and 7 nights of riding for the two of us. I actually, like always, brought more clothes and gear than I ever used. The Wolfman Enduro tank bag is now one of my favorite pieces of kit. It is apparentlly the Sleestack Cave of tank bags. It looks tiny on the outside but I kept shoving more and more stuff into it. I never tried to fit something into it that wouldn't go. I am VERY glad I bought it and recommend it highly.

We mounted up and ventured, cautiously, into the chaos that is San Jose traffic. Our first stop would be Zarcero.

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Well, gotta get ready for 4am work so I will pick up on the morning of Day 2 as soon as I can and take y'all through Zarcero and environs to the hot springs....
 
M

Mike in Clear Lake

So far so good! :clap:

Glad you enjoyed Grano de Oro. I would say it is the crown jewel of B&B type hotels in San Jose.

Mike
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
1,112
Location
SW Austin
We rode out of San Jose which was, thankfully, logistically simple. Just ride down Paseo Colon to the park, turn right and keep riding until you see the turn off for Naranjo. Ticos (Costa Ricans) are a friendly, tranquilo lot but you'd never guess it by the way they drive. There is rarely enough room between the bumpers of two cars to slide a sheet of paper. People pass you on the right, on the left, on the shoulder, on both sides at once....but they do give you a friendly little 'beep beep' with the horn as they rocket upon and past you.... It took about 30 minutes to get used to but then I settled into a routine of scanning left mirror, straight ahead, right mirror, shoulder check, repeat. It was much like an instrument scan routine when piloting an aircraft. Combined with staying in the center or center-right line, driving within about 5mph of traffic and dominating my lane it eventually felt comfortable and, dare I say, relatively safe. Traffic remained heavy but the scenery began to improve as we climbed into the hills.....

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Mike and others had recommended staying in the Zarcero area and it was indeed a beautiful area but we wanted to drive a bit more so we rode about another hour to a spot towards Ciudad Quesada and Aguas Zarcas.
Our destination was a hot springs resort - a place recommended by Thorsten at Wild-Rider:
Termales del Bosque
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The hot springs were cozy and relaxing. We spent most of the afternoon in the springs - which varied from coolish-warm to freakishly hot. After watching the sun set we had dinner in the lodge restaurant and hit the rack early to get ready to head towards Fortuna, Arenal and El Castillo where we planned to stay at Hotel Linda Vista on the shores of Lago Arenal and in the shadow of the similarly named volcano....



This place was quite the pleasant surprise...especially when we found out only one room was available -the master suite.

More later....
 
M

Mike in Clear Lake

Great pics! Good-looking AUSWife there too.
We rode out of San Jose which was, thankfully, logistically simple. Just ride down Paseo Colon to the park, turn right and keep riding until you see the turn off for Naranjo.
Then you must have taken the main highway as opposed to the twisty road out of Alajuela which would have taken you through Grecia and Sarchi. Probably wise being two-up, and the road is sometimes in bad condition. How was the fog up there?

That hotel looks great! I haven’t heard of it before. I will have to try it out with my wife on my next visit.

Cheers,

Mike
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
1,112
Location
SW Austin
So far so good! :clap:

Glad you enjoyed Grano de Oro. I would say it is the crown jewel of B&B type hotels in San Jose.

Mike
We very much enjoyed it. I would say I enjoyed that hotel as much as I have any 'urban' hotel I can recall. We really did feel like we were in a different age or a book or movie or something.


Great pics! Good-looking AUSWife there too.

Then you must have taken the main highway as opposed to the twisty road out of Alajuela which would have taken you through Grecia and Sarchi. Probably wise being two-up, and the road is sometimes in bad condition. How was the fog up there?

That hotel looks great! I haven’t heard of it before. I will have to try it out with my wife on my next visit.

Cheers,

Mike
We did take the main highway and skipped Grecia and Sarchi. Thorsten said the road would be clogged with traffic on a Sunday afternoon with folks from the city going that way for the afternoon. We planned to visit them on the way back but 6 hours on the stock DR seat and we were in no mood for detours. It gives me an excuse for next trip.

The hot springs hotel was very nice but ask for one of the cabinas. They're not really nicer but they are stand alone units with much better views than the room we had. The hot springs were pretty cool - so to speak.

As for AusWife (the rest of the world calls her Paige...except when we are in Spanish-speaking countries when she becomes "Isabella" - long story) maybe I'll post her 'movie star' picture from the Linda Vista pool....
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
1,112
Location
SW Austin
On day three we rode from Aguas Zarcas to the Arenal area through Fortuna and on to El Castillo which is a pueblito on the southeast shore of Lago Arenal kind of up in the hills....

FORTUNA
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ROUTE to EL CASTILLO including gratuitous self-photo
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VIEW from ABOVE EL CASTILLO
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Well, the afternoon of the third day in CR found us riding up to the Hotel Linda Vista. We knew as soon as we rode up and looked out over the pool at the lake with the Volcano off to the side that we would stay here.

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We walked up to reception to inquire about a room.


The manager smiled nervously and flipped through the reservation book. He furrowed his brow, glanced up at us and flipped some more. I could see writing on the entire page of the date book. Not good. I am sorry, he said, but....we only have the master suite. Well, darn, we'll have to take it.

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I think she approves of the room.....
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This isn't our room but the view was identical....


When I get back, AusWife lounges, movie star-like, at the pool while I go riding in the hills....
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Joined
Jul 30, 2008
Messages
45
Location
Brownsville, Texas
Great report AusFletch. You guys really know how to live. Whats the food like down there? I travel alot in Mexico and and would like a comparison of the foods. The beer looks like my kind of dark beer, so that's OK.
Pinklloyd
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
1,112
Location
SW Austin
Great report AusFletch. You guys really know how to live. Whats the food like down there? I travel alot in Mexico and and would like a comparison of the foods. The beer looks like my kind of dark beer, so that's OK.
Pinklloyd
Food, actually, kinda sucked. You aren't going to see any Costa Rican restaurants springing up in your 'hood anytime soon. There is no comparison to Mexican cuisine but that's hardly fair since Mexico is home to some of the best and most complex foods in the world. We actually, despite the copious drinking, lost weight on the trip. There was a surprising amount of beef but mostly the food was bland and consisted of a protein, pinto gallo (rice cooked in broth and mixed with black beans) and a salad without dressing. Nothing was really seasoned and salt, pepper and hot sauce had to be requested most of the time. We had two good meals - one in Hotel Grano de Oro (scallops and sea bass) and the other (HUGE steaks) at Hotel Linda Vista in El Castillo. We also had some decent, if bland, ceviche in Playa Samara. Other than that, food was just fuel.....

The beer was drinkable. We found a dark beer called Bavaria Negra. Bavaria also makes a light and a "Special" beer. I would compare the Bavaria Dark it to Indio from Mexico. Drinkable but nothing special. There were also two lagers - Imperial and Pilsen. I preferred Imperial to Pilsen. They occasionally had Tona from Hounduras. Again, nothing you are going to try to sneak back in the luggage but it was pleasant enough...
 

CeeBee

Inactive Member
Joined
Jul 24, 2006
Messages
308
Location
Magnolia, TX
VERY nice, AusFletch :clap: Sounds like you two had a great time so far. :sun: Did you try out the zip line through the forest canopy in the arenal volcano area? So much to do and so little time! WOW- The master suite - Get down with your bad self!! :trust: Great pictures by the way. :clap: looking forward to more.
I stayed the in a regular room listening to the holler monkeys in Feb. 07 I think. Not quite the photographer you are but ---
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M

Mike in Clear Lake

Food, actually, kinda sucked. You aren't going to see any Costa Rican restaurants springing up in your 'hood anytime soon. There is no comparison to Mexican cuisine but that's hardly fair since Mexico is home to some of the best and most complex foods in the world. We actually, despite the copious drinking, lost weight on the trip. There was a surprising amount of beef but mostly the food was bland and consisted of a protein, pinto gallo (rice cooked in broth and mixed with black beans) and a salad without dressing. Nothing was really seasoned and salt, pepper and hot sauce had to be requested most of the time. We had two good meals - one in Hotel Grano de Oro (scallops and sea bass) and the other (HUGE steaks) at Hotel Linda Vista in El Castillo. We also had some decent, if bland, ceviche in Playa Samara. Other than that, food was just fuel...
This is so true! There is no national cuisine of Costa Rica. Even Nicaragua has a national cuisine. The only thing really Costa Rican is "Gallo Pinto" which is just black beans mixed with rice :rofl: My dad used to joke about this a lot. When a really good restaurant opens in Costa Rica it become the rage. Grano de Oro does have a good restaurant. The best in San Jose used to be Le Mirage. I don't know if it is still there. Coat & tie required. Las Cascadas in Escazu continues to be popular and is non-dressy, but it is not anything real special. In my opinion there is nothing quite like Mexican cuisine in Latin America, especially since Mexico actually has several regional cuisines. The Argentina stuff tends to be Italian, but they really do make good empanadas down there.

Mike
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
1,112
Location
SW Austin
VERY nice, AusFletch :clap: Sounds like you two had a great time so far. :sun: Did you try out the zip line through the forest canopy in the arenal volcano area? So much to do and so little time! WOW- The master suite - Get down with your bad self!! :trust: Great pictures by the way. :clap: looking forward to more.
I stayed the in a regular room listening to the holler monkeys in Feb. 07 I think. Not quite the photographer you are but ---
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I can't take pictures to save my life but I did recently buy a Macintosh. I just load the pictures into IPhoto, increase the sharpness, decrease the shadows, fiddle with exposure and contrast then bump up the saturation a bit. It seems to look more like what I remember seeing with my eyeballs that way.

We didn't do any 'activities'. We spent all our time riding, relaxing and meeting folks. Come to think of it....that's how I spend most of my trips )and most of my days at home!) when I can work it...

Did someone say monkeys????

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Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
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Location
SW Austin
Okay,where were we? End of day three with AusWife at the pool and me on the bike....

She is thrilled to be at the pool...
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I'm thrilled to be out riding...
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Okay, this was interesting a guy with a red backpack (you'll see him again in a bit) and the small boy below rode up on a small motorcycle. The boy hopped off and the guy with the backpack pushed the motorcycle into the bushes on the edge of the jungle to hide it. Meanwhile, the little boy was hauled up onto the horse and he and the gentleman rode across the stream and disappeared into the jungle on the far side...

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Shortly afterwards. Red Backpack guy rushed into the stream and promptly fell down. I thought he was going to get swept away. Shortly after the picture of him on his hands and knees I actually dropped the camera and started running down stream to help him. He recovered quickly, though, crossed the stream and quite literally sprinted into the jungle on the other side. I almost hopped on and rode after them to see where they were going then thought about him almost getting swept away...
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After a few hours of riding storm clouds started moving in over the lake so I returned to the hotel and my movie star bride
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I don't know if you can tell but we were having a pretty good time....
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On day 4 we complete the loop around the lake and head to the Nicoya Peninsula and the second part of the "Volcano to Beach" title....

 
Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
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Location
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Day 4 we planned to get up early and ride a long, leisurely scenic route to the coast. The weather had other plans. It stormed all night and continued well into the morning so we slept late, took a leisurely breakfast, packed slowly and finally shoved off just as the rain slacked off right before noon. This would eventually change our plans a bit....

Headed towards the Dam.
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My action photographer following me down the hill (It's easier than Les Stroud's way).
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The dam and causeway.
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Tour boats above the dam.
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Smoothie, coffee and brownie break at Toad Hall.
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It's really, REALLY windy near the lake.
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The entire route around Laga Arenal is one of the prettiest (certainly top 3) roads I have ever ridden. If the east side had fewer tourists and less traffic I would not hesitate to call this my favorite route I've ridden.


The town of Tilaran on the west side of Lago Arenal.
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Yet another Gratuitous Self Portrait. This one in Tilaran. I thought about posting this in the "Reflections" thread...
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This corner building reminded me of ever corner building in every South Louisiana town I have ever been through. It seemed kind of out of place in Latin America.
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During our break in Tilaran we started to think the ride to the coast would get us there later in the day than we wanted so we decided to shoot for a little town called Las Juntas just off the route to Monteverde. The guide book described it as a town with no reason to visit. Good enough for us. The route from Tilaran to Las Juntas is a fantastic unpaved road up and over the mountains for about 30 miles. We saw only about 3 other vehicles and felt - finally - very remote. This stretch was my favorite riding of the whole trip. When we reached the high point on the route we stopped at a cool little storefront attached to someone's house for a drink. You could see for miles.

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We rolled into Las Juntas and realized. The guide book was right. For as pleasant, friendly and prosperous as Costa Rica had seemed this town was quite the opposite. It was drab, dirty and felt very odd. It seemed like a town out of a western movie. Paige pointed out there were mostly men out and about. There were at least 3 cantinas. Everyone stared at us and not in a friendly-get-to-know-you sort of way.
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I thought about jetting right on through but the options were another 30 bouncy, dusty unpaved roads to Monteverde or 3 hours of riding to the coast. AusWife was pretty much done with bouncing around and my butt was pretty well done with the stock DR seat. The guide book had mentioned a lodge in Las Juntas with favorable remarks and we had passed the sign on the way so we bounced down a few miles of REALLY unpaved roads to check it out. Let's just say it was a good choice. Really good.

The lodge was called Pueblo Antiguo
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The manager of the lodge would later tell us Las Juntas was a former mining town but all the mines were abandoned. Some 300 families live here but quite a few prospectors still show up to work the abandoned mines. He said you could tell when they find a few scraps of gold because they get really drunk and cause trouble. He said the town was very poor by Costa Rican standards. This seemed to affirm my "Old West" vibe of the town.

The Lodge, however, was a wonderful discovery and respite....We would turn out to be the only guests for the night so we would have the cook, bartender and manager to ourselves as well as the pool, deck and natural hot springs.
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Gallo Pinto. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Mmmmm.. The cook, Victor Hugo (I'm not kidding) was VERY excited to cook for us, though...
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AusWife does NOT like mornings and REALLY DOES NOT LIKE having her picture taken in the morning.
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The Lodge was quite a find and we felt like big-time finca owners having the run of the place to ourselves all for $60 for the night (dinner and breakfast included!).

The next morning will find us actually making it to the coast....
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Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
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Location
SW Austin
Well, yet another Saturday finds me on call like most Saturdays for the last year (heavy sigh) so I guess I will have to recollect riding instead of actually riding.

Day 5 of Fletchers in Costa Rica found us heading towards the coast. The road from Las Juntas across the Nicoya Peninsula was the least interesting of the whole trip. It was straight, pretty hot and quite dry and dusty. About halfway there I found it interesting when I realized the road was not asphalt but concrete the entire way. I guess since there are no interstate-equivalents and all traffic from big trucks to scooters use the same road it has to be pretty durable and this is the main (only, really) road to Nicoya and the Pacific coast.

Another oddity was the huge number of traffic cops out. In 60 miles we spotted probably a dozen cops and at least 5-6 occasions they were actually shooting radar. Anyhow, enough verbosity and on to the pictures.....

This country loves dogs as much as it loves motorcycles. We passed this little guy lounging in the shade of the bike:
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Ticos love their 750 foot long suspension bridge (La Puente de Amistad) that Taiwan helped them build. Every time we saw it there were locals proudly taking pictures of it so, of course, we joined them....
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The bridge leads from the 'mainlaind' to the peninsula and obviated a previously long land route or a ferry voyage.

I'm scared of monkeys. There. I said it. I guess it's from a bad childhood experience watching the Wizard of Oz. I don't know. I hate monkeys as much as I hate clowns. If I were to see a monkey in a clown suit I'd probably wet myself. Luckily Costa Rican monkeys don't dress as clowns. We were hurtling down the road from Nicoya to Samara when I glanced something overhead. I girded myself and decided it was time to face my fears. I turned around and perched myself beneath this family of monkeys in transit along a telephone line to a tree. Despite the fact they could have readily leaped down and ripped my face off and eaten my liver I courageously stood below them and snapped off some photos for you all....
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There I'm over my monkey fear. Can we move on???

We rolled into Playa Samara after seemingly every local recommended it. We tried a place recommended by the manager of the lodge in Las Juntas and the guide book but it was full. They recommended another place also recommended by the guide books so we ended up at Hotel Belvedere - a pleasant oasis-like inn run by a German/Tico couple just a few hundred feet from the beach. They had a nice pool and friendly dogs so we stayed.


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Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
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We spent the next two days lounging by the Belvedere's pool, riding around the area, strolling the town and visiting the beach....

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On my first pass through town I saw a loaded DP bike coming the opposite direction. I waved then, of course, flipped a U and chased him down. I met Alexander from Holland who was 9 months into a 2-year trip riding his TT600 from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. He was a good guy so I took him out for beers and an interrogation. I learned a great deal from him...mostly about attitude. I gave him my email address and asked him to keep me in the loop. If he does I will pass along his adventure. Sorry, no pictures. I was too engrossed in his story and forgot.


AusWife says I have to show MY 'movie-star' picture...Daniel Craig better look out....:rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl:
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After two nights at Belvedere they did not have a room available for us so we moved to a small hotel/inn/hostel directly on the beach. I'm afraid the name escapes me. It was a great place with very simple bunk-like rooms but wonderful hammocks in the shade right on the beach and a common fridge where we could stow our beer just a few steps away.
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We plopped down in the hammocks and didn't move much for most of the day....
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Three days on the beach absolutely FLEW by and we went to bed by 9am for an early wake up for the long ride back to San Jose...
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
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SW Austin
We got back to San Jose about 1pm after 6 looong hours on that crummy stock DR seat and tons of Costa Rican traffic. We had planned some detours on the way back but were anxious to get off the bike. I mean, does she LOOK like she wants to ride some more????
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Some random city photos...Did I mention there were tons of motorcycles in this country?!?!?!
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Costa Rica had TONS of cool 4x4 vehicles. Most with snorkels. Even the Turismo vans had snorkels!!! We saw this DIESEL Landcruiser for sale at a dealership. Sticker Price? USD$65,000
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There was a cool, if dirty, lake in the middle of town with a HUGE festival going on with boat and jet ski races.
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We landed back at the Hotel Grano de Oro (still can't thank Mike enough) and, shockingly, at the bar. We started with beer and French 75's (they call 'em French Fizz here).
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The 75 was too sweet so we switched to Martinis Sucios and this was the result....Room service for dinner and passed out by 10pm.
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This was a fantastic, accessible and relatively inexpensive trip I would recommend to anyone. In a nutshell I would describe Costa Rica as the love-child of Mexico and Hawaii. It had too many tourists - particularly Americans - for my taste but that was largely our own fault for sticking to the tourist trail. I am sure that if we ventured down some of those great dirt roads I sped past or further north or south off the traditional loop we would've seen more of Costa Rica. I would very much like to return one-up on a bike with a friend or two and ride some of the more remote roads, maybe down into Panama. Thorsten will rent bikes to go into both Nicaragua and Panama. Thanks for coming along.... -FLETCH
 
M

Mike in Clear Lake

Great ride report! I'm glad to see it. Little secret for next time and for others. Go in the rainy season, lots less tourists, prices fall. Guess what? It's not that rainy in the rainy season, but don't tell anyone.

Cheers,

Mike
 
Joined
Apr 29, 2008
Messages
273
Location
Katy, Tx
What a wonderful ride report! You are always so good with words and pictures. I am so jealous!! Maybe one day I will follow in ya'lls tire path. :-) It is also such a treat to see a couple enjoying each other and the love of adventure riding. Keep it up, AusFletch!

Later,
 
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