Friday, 6 January 2017

Motorcycle Costa Rica, Day 1

December 28

I was in Puerto Viejo for 10 days and only 2 of them were sunny; Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The remaining days it just poured down.
The 27th the mini van picked me up for the return to San Jose where I will stay one night before I go for my motorcycle adventure (hopefully!). About 60 km from San Jose we stopped for some food and the driver looked at the sky and said: “27th of December and it rains like this? I have never seen anything like it all my life!”. We had been driving for hours in a rain like this:

When we arrived at the hotel, it was clear. San Jose is situated about 1000 meter above sea level and the temperature in winter is below 20 C during night.
After a solid breakfast, it was time to go to the motorcycle shop to pick up my BMW 1200 that I had paid a fortune to rent for 6 days. We stopped outside the store and after all the paperwork was finished the guy started to open up the side boxes and the top box on a BMW 800. I asked him if that was the bike and he nodded his head. I pointed at the voucher that I had given him where it stated 1200 cc. He looked at it for a long time, then he looked at me like he would start to argue, but then he just resigned. And from that moment all service was gone. He went back inside the store and came out with a nearly brand new bike with only 1600 km on the meter. I asked if it was possible to rent one of those mandatory reflective band that every MC driver in Costa Rica have to use, but no. We don’t have any! I looked at the MC and found that there were no USB outlet on the bike that I had specifically asked for. I told the guy that I needed it and that I had a confirmation from the tour operator that the bike would be equipped with one.
- We don’t have, but we will get one on Thursday.
- But I’m not here then!
- I know.

So there I was, with my planned route on the Waze navigation App on my phone, but not able to use it because it just drains battery. Because the bike should have been equipped with an USB I had not topped the battery either. I had the route written on paper from the tour operator, but with no map holder to put on the tank it is actually no use riding alone. My brain don’t work the way that it can memorize Spanish place names and I get confused and mix them. On a motor bike, you have to have the paper in your pocket, zipped up so it don’t blow away. When you need to look at it, you have to stop the bike, put it in neutral or stop the engine and fold down the kickstand. Then it is off with the gloves, open the jacket and the pocket. After reading, it is all reversed. You don’t want to do that very often so you hope you are in the right direction and try first…

BMW 1200 without USB

Here is the standard description from the tour operator for the first leg:
The first stop will be at the active Irazu Volcano National Park. The winding road to the volcano travels through fertile lands and will take you to an altitude of 3432 meters (11260 ft) over the sea level. Following this visit, you can tour around the Orosi Valley, where creation overflows in unparalleled beauty. You will be able to visit one of the few remaining colonial churches and can stop for lunch in one of the local restaurants.
Continue east to Turrialba, a valley dotted with coffee, banana and sugar cane plantations.
Overnight at Villa Florencia Hotel.

Climbing up the hills against the volcano Irazu, the temperature started to drop. I had only a t-shirt on with a mesh jacket over that was specially chosen for the tropical climate so the cold wind started to blow straight through it. I stopped and put my rain jacket on that I had packed the last minute. When I came into the clouds, the temperature dropped even more and wet weather in 8 degrees (C) is not what I will call tropical climate. The gloves were wet, but luckily, BMW makes heated handles even in motorcycles sold in the tropics. Those Germans…
The top point of the volcano is 3432 meters high and it has three calderas; one main caldera that is 300 meters deep and and 1050 meter in diameter, and two smaller of one we can walk on. The volcano is still active, but the last serious eruptions was in the period from 1963 to 1965 were many eruptions even infected the nearby citys Cartago and San Jose. 

The main crater 

The lake in the crater Diego de la Haya

The third crater where you can walk

Irazu (from the navtive word Istaru meaning Thunder and Earthquake Mountain). 

On the way down from the mountain, I had the following rout description on a paper that I was given the same morning during pickup at the hotel. It was as followed:

From the Irazu volcano, continue to Turrialba. Take the same road back to Tierra Blanca and then to Cot. There you will get to the main road to Turrialba. Turn right and drive over Pacayas to Turrialba. 

That's it. 
I looked for a sign for Cot and I found one that pointed to the left in the next crossroad so I turned left as described. I didn’t know how far it was from the crossroad to Cot, but I soon realized that it was right by the main road to San Jose. I had problems finding the road trough Cot to get to the other side and then find the way to Turrialba. I tried them all. I was driving among cows, dirty roads, steep hills, and one time I thought I was on my way back up to Irazu. Nobody in Cot and the area around could speak one word of English.
After two hours I managed to get back to the main road and on a gas station I finally found an English speaking man. He could tell me what I already had figured out by myself; I should not have driven to Cot, but taken the next road to the left and then I would find my way to Turrialba.
Because there was no time or distance indications in the routing, I had no idea for how long I should ride before I should start to look for new signs. It was very confusing and I started to hate Lorena Amador from the tour operator Costa Rican Trails deep and heartfelt.

It had started to rain constantly and the visibility was reduced to the road only. I don’t like to ride in rain because I’m not a very skilled driver and on wet tarmac I feel like driving on ice. I never know where the limit is and I don’t dare to explore it with an expensive rented motorcycle. The route paper was starting to disintegrate in the rain. I needed my GPS and a functional USB charger!!
Don’t get me wrong, I had expected some rain and cold weather so I asked Lorena in an email what to bring of clothes to be prepared for everything. This is what she came back with: 

Costa Rica is an extremely casual, adventure-oriented country.  There will be no need for sports jackets or dressy attire.  You may find one or two pair of long pants to be sufficient as you will most likely spend most of your time in shorts, casual shirts and sandals.  Be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes and a light jacket for cool evenings. You will be visiting rainforest destinations so expect afternoon showers (During the months of May through November only).  Don't forget your bathing suit and sun-screen!

Sunscreen my ass! Afternoon showers from May to November only? It had been raining constantly for 8 of the 11 days so far. Shorts and casual shirt? In 8 degrees? Was she drinking all the time she was writing with me? I sent her an email with the USB problem and she came back with a suggestion that I maybe could find one in the town of Turrialba. She was probably drinking again. 
And here is what she wrote back when I told her about the wrong direction in the route: 
I check the itinerary with driving directions and doesn’t mention you need to go thru Cot. 
Obviously drunk... And I discovered later that IF i had a GPS I could find a way through Cot. 

A travel blog should contain lots of pictures. I am sorry I was not able to provide you with any after Irazu. And it should be worse...
I checked in at the hotel at 17:15, just before sunset. I had not seen the creation that overflows in unparalleled beauty in Orosi Valley, I actually don’t know if I was in Orosi Valley at all. I did not see one of the few remaining colonial churches and I have no idea where it was. I did not have the time to stop for lunch at a local restaurant, and I did not see the valley dotted with coffee, banana and sugarcane plantations.
So thank you very much for that guidance Lorena!

Route Day 1. On the right hand side of the map you can see where Puerto Viejo is, the place I stayed for ten days. 

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