Saturday, 18 February 2017

Motorcycle Costa Rica, Day 4 and 5

December 31.

After an excellent breakfast, I spent some time in the garden watching some Humming Birds in the trees nearby. These beautiful birds are difficult to photograph because of their quick movements, constantly change of directions and their hiding inside the branches. It was still raining, foggy (cloudy?) and a visibility next to nothing. I had no idea where the Poas Volcano was because I couldn’t see anything of the surroundings, and I reckoned the visibility up there was at least as bad as down at the lodge. I headed for my next stop: Arenal Volcano. There are a lot of volcanos in this country and I am apparently visiting them all. If you want to check out what I missed, you can find some information about Poas here (Wikipedia).
I followed Lorena’s first part of paper routing that was:

From Poas Volcano Lodge drive back to the center of Alajuela. There follow the signs to the international airport.

I had no idea where Alajuela was, but I started to descend back where I came from yesterday. After about 15 minutes drive, I came to so many crossroads that I got confused and turned on the Waze App. It told me to head back to Poas Volcano Lodge, pass it and continue in the opposite direction. I trusted the app more than I trusted Lorena, so I did. It also spared me one whole page of directions, containing 10-15 names to look out for and where to turn. It was the most detailed routing until now for the shortest leg. 
I went down the opposite side of the mountain and it was a nice drive if it hadn’t been for the weather. Nice winding roads and both the view and temperature improved when I came down below the clouds, but it continued to rain. I had a stop or two when the rain increased from heavy to insane.  

Heavy rain. 

I also had a stop in a village to look for my long lost friend – the USB charging cable for the GoPro camera. They didn’t have any, but the guy offered to take another cable and solder on my old plugs to it. When I came back 15 minutes later, he gave me it for free for he reckoned that it wouldn’t work. He was right. 
I arrived at Arenal Volcano Inn Hotel around 3 pm and listened to, what I assumed was the thousand time, the stiff smiling receptionist telling me what NOT to do in Costa Rica. I didn’t like her. 

I had some lunch, sat down on my terrace and smoked my lungs out just to see if anybody reacted, told me to stop or gave me a huge fee as promised. Nothing happened except for the pile of cigarette buds in the garden grew because of the ashtray band in this country. The security guy passed me a couple of times, staring into the stern on the other side of the path as to tell me: "I don’t see you!"
In a little tree in front of my terrace, a Humming Bird entertained me with its flying performance. I just love these small birds.

It was New Year’s Eve and I had no plans. I asked if something happened at the resort. No. 
I asked if they had any special arrangement for New Year’s Eve dinner. No. 
Same procedure as usual I suppose. I had a late dinner, then a conversation with myself if or not to go to the nearest town to find a party. The weather decided for me. I stayed at the hotel, had an incredible bad mojito and some tasteless craft beers, looked at some firework in the distance about 10:30 pm and went to bed. The year changed when I was sleeping.


January 1.

No rain! It was not sunny either, but at least the roads were dry. The famous silhouette of the Arenal Volcano was hidden in the clouds somewhere around me so I decided to leave without even knowing the direction of it. I was heading for Monteverde, some place that I had heard about constantly since I arrived. 2016 was history and I had some high hopes for 2017. It started miraculously! The clouds burst after 10-15 minutes ride and I could see the foot of the volcano. The top was still inside the clouds, but it was a promising start. The iPhone’s charging cable had also, in some miraculously way started to work again and I could charge when driving! Maybe George Michael, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen will come back this year!

Arenal Volcano 
I followed the Arenal Lake (link to Wikipedia) for the first half of the leg. This lake is artificial and was more then tripled in size in 1979 when they built the hydro power station. It is the largest lake in Costa Rica. The road was dry and except for all the potholes in the road, I had nothing to worry about. Some nice weather riding on the video below, and a little view over the lake at the end.

Riding along Arenal Lake.. 

After a while it started to rain again and things went back to normal. I am so glad I came in the dry season, I can't believe how it is in the rainy season...
I headed on in a steady pace and I started to wonder why the Waze App tried to fool me. It told me it was about 35 km to go to Monteverde and it estimated the driving time to be one and a half hour! That is an average speed of about 20 km/hr. Then I suddenly realized why. The tarmac ended. It was replaced by something best described as rocks berried in the road. Fist-sized stones, many of them with sharp edges, was erupting from the dirt-road and it was like riding on a washboard with 5-10 cm grooves. I started to get afraid of my camera and laptop in the box, and the shaking was brutal and never ending. And Waze was right, it took nearly one and a half hour to finish the last 35 km.

Road to Monteverde. 

Suddenly the road changed back to tarmac and five minutes later I rolled into Monteverde. It was like coming home. I got the same feeling as I got 2 years ago, riding through Laos for 12 days on a Honda 250 cc off-road motorbike. After 8 days with rice and noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we finally reached the city Luang Prabang. A beautiful town by the Mekong River built in a French colonial style. They had a German bakery and served fried eggs with bacon for breakfast. We stayed there for one extra day.
I liked Monteverde instantly. I found my hotel, listened to the receptionist’s lesson about what NOT to do in Costa Rica and for a change; he continued to tell me what to do in Monteverde. I bought a night sightseeing in the jungle the same night for USD 25 and an adventure trip in the morning with zip lines through the jungle for USD 50. The longest line is 2000 meters long and you don’t sit as normal, you are hanging flat under two wheels and rocket several hundred meter above the vegetation below. It scared the shit out of me just thinking about it.
I unpacked the side and top boxes on the bike and headed back to the town. I went into a shop that had open Sunday 1st of January and in the glass counter, I could see USB to USB micro cables. Maybe they had to USB mini also? No, they didn’t. I crossed the street, went into the tourist information office, and asked if she had an idea for where to buy a standard USB cable. She pointed across the street to the shop I already had been visiting. I told her that I already had been there and she asked if I had been to the second floor. I told her no, only at the first floor. What do they have in the second floor and why didn’t the people in the first floor tell me to go upstairs? Cables and stuff and I don’t know why they didn’t tell you. I went upstairs and they had the cable. 2017! I love you already!

The pick-up time for my night walk in the jungle was 5 pm. The sunset is half past 5 and at 6 pm it is pitch dark. We got a flashlight each for use to see where to go and the leader had a stronger one to light up the trees. It was ok, but not very exciting. We saw a couple of small frogs and insects close by that I could take a picture of, and some larger animals and birds among the trees that was so far hidden In the dark that I could not take a picture of. A tourist stopped, for some mystical reason, to take a picture of an ant crawling on a tree. Her friend then saw on the other side of the path, hundreds other ants marching in a line. And then somebody shouted “ouch!” and the leader told us to stamp our feet and leave the place immediately. We had stopped in the middle of a colony of marching ants and they swarm up on everybody’s shoos and legs. I brushed off as many as I could and was lucky, but several others were bitten.

An adult mini frog, about the size of a thumb nail.

This was hard to see. It is a cousin of the Walking Stick insect - a Walking Moss. It looks just like a piece of moss and if it hadn't been for the legs and the antenna on the head, you would never be able to spot it. 

A butterfly sleeping on a leaf.

Another sleeping animal - a hawk. 

A lizard on a branch, probably hunting in the dark.

We saw 3 of the 6 different spices of Toucan birds in Costa Rica. They hide their beak under their wing when sleeping so they are not that impressive during night. The different guides was communicating with each other during the trip so if one saw something special, everybody was informed. Our guide told us to hurry so we had a quick climbing walk for about 10 minutes to join up with another group. They had stumbled over a sloth on the ground. To see a sloth on the ground is rare. They only come down from the trees for one thing and only once a week, and that is to poo. They are doing it on the same spot every time and they lose 1/3 of their bodyweight every time. That is one hell of a shit!
At the time we arrived, it was high up in the trees again and we could only see his bottom far away in-between the branches.

It was an ok late evening tour – not for taking pictures, but just to see the jungle in the night. I finished the day with a steak and a glass of red wine at the hotel, looking forward to the adventure the nest day. 
Here is the map showing the route from Poas to Arenal and then to Monteverde: 

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