Costa Rican Trial/Costa Rica Motorcycle Tours
I arrived in CR 17th of December and I wanted to relax some days and get rid of the jet-lag before heading along on a motorcycle tour. Because of the Holiday season I decided to start the trip 27th of December and celebrate Christmas on my first stop. I had to find a place to stay for these 10 days with a nice beach where I could relax, do some snorkeling and scuba diving.
I looked at Google map and found Limon on the Caribbean side and asked Lorena the following question:
"My initial plan is to go to the Caribbean coast first for about 10 days to relax and scuba dive and celebrate Christmas. I think the area around Limon can be good – do you agree?"
She replayed promptly:
"Definitely Limon will be a good option for you to relax, check hotels in Puerto Viejo or Cahuita nicest places to stay."
The beaches in Puerto Viejo was NOT for scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming or anything else you like to do in the sea, except for surfing. I don't surf. The waves were hammering the beaches 24/7 and even wading in the seashore was for strong people only. If anybody had brought small children to the beach they would have lost them forever after 5 seconds. The nearest beach for swimming is nearly one hour away by car. How is it that a local Travel Agency don't know that?
I had two (2!) days with sun during these ten days. The rest of the time it poured down. Not some light drizzle, but serious cloudbursts that made you wet to the skin within 10 seconds. I thought I was just unlucky with the weather until I met an European girl who happened to be half Costa Rican and had been to Costa Rica several times. She told me that the dry season only applies to the Pacific west side - not the Caribbean east side. On the east coast the wet season last for 12 month a year. Could Lorena have mentioned this? Since I asked for her advice? I think so.
This winter it turned out to be more wet than usual all over CR, but normally you will find most of the days to be sunny during Christmas on the Pacific coast. There you also have the possibility to swim, snorkeling and scuba dive. If you bring small children you will also be able to see them again if they approach the sea.
Puerto Viejo is... how shall I describe it... a dump. In an extremely expensive country, Puerto Viejo beats them all. I have never payed more for less anywhere, including in one of the most expensive countries in the world: my home country Norway. The average standard of the hotels, bars and restaurants varied from low minus to terrible. The town consists mainly of sheds with roofs. As in the rest of the country, the service was poor. I think I have mentioned in earlier blog posts that CR is not a particularly friendly country...
You can read my blog-spot about Puerto Viejo here:
In Costa Rica there is, in comparison, USD 2325,- for the same. Searching booking.com and hotels.com for the hotels I used I get a total of USD 929,-. CRT probably have a discount on these prices, but let's keep it. The transport to/from the airport was included and I know the hotel has a pickup charge of USD 70,- both ways so let us say USD 100,- including the ride to the rental shop the first day. So the profit for CRT is USD 1296,- and probably more. That represents a margin close to 100%!
When I asked for the gear rental, Lorena came back and told me that is was mandatory to use a reflective vest in CR. It is of cause a huge fee if you don't use it. In bright daylight... The first week in Puerto Viejo I noticed that nobody used vests, only a reflective band, worn bandolier style like the guy on the picture on the left. I would guesstimate the value of this band to be about 5 dollars. I think it would be a natural thing for CRT to support their motorcycle riding customers with a band like this, especially since this is something riders from other countries don't have. After 3 weeks in CR it is still a mystery to me where these bands can be bought.
Other things? Yes...
Could I rent a GPS? No. In Australia? Yes.
Could I rent a transparent map-holder to attach to the tank for the map and reading instructions? No. In Australia? Yes.
Was the bike equipped with an USB charger? No. In Australia? Yes.
And then we come to the riding instructions. As I wrote in this blog, it led me into trouble. And in good Costa Rican tradition Lorena blamed me for the fault without any self-criticism. Just to recap:
The instruction was in short: "Drive to Cot and than find the way to Turrialba". I didn't know where Cot was and probably neither do 99% of the other tourists in the country. So what I did was to look for a sign with the name Cot on it. The sign told me to take to the left at the next crossroad, so I did. I shouldn't have done that... Cot are situated along the mainroad so Lorena ment I should NOT turn to Cot, but pass it and then found the road to Turrialba at the next crossroad. But I didn't know that Cot was along the road so I turned where the sign told me to go. And when I told her so in an email, I got the following response: "I check the itinerary with driving directions and it doesn’t mention you need to go thru Cot." Charming... Yes, Lorena, it tells me to go to Cot and the only way further is thru the town since I can't fly above it.
In the same email she attached pictures of the two parts I needed to get an USB charger on the motorbike and told me to buy it somewhere. The USB charger that she already had confirmed to be on the bike. Charming...
In Australia 5 years ago I received in good time before I left Norway, a detailed description of the route for every day. I also got a link to where I could print every days itinerary marked on a file from Google map. A detailed point to point guidance with distance to every crossroad where to turn, was attached. I could print that in list-form and put it in the transparent map holder on the tank top that I was able to rent together with the map, and I could easily follow it without stopping the bike. Or, use my navigation app on my phone and charge it with the USB charger on the bike just like I had planned to do in Costa Rica. And because all the distances was from point to point I knew when I could relax and just enjoy the ride because I could follow the distances on the trip counter on the dashboard. In addition I received a detailed "what to see-list" with every point of interest highlighted, including pictures. Here (link) is an example of such a list from BRO in Australia.
And what did I get in Costa Rica?
I received an email when I booked the tour with information about every days route. Here is an example of one of the days:
Jan. 01 Monteverde (B)
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the most diverse and rich tropical cloud forests in the New World and home to the resplendent Quetzal and the rare bell bird. Monteverde is not only interesting for the Cloud Forest Reserve’s inhabitants, but also for its founders, the Quakers. After check-in, feel free to explore your new surroundings.
Overnight at the Monteverde country Lodge, classic room. Breakfast included.
When I arrived in Costa Rica I received driving instructions on paper. Written instructions that was in a style like this (the example are the trip from Poas Volcano to Arenal Volcano (link here) and my comments are in red):
The rest of Costa Rica.
Just a couple of minutes later I only had 3-4 cars in front of me, and when the road was clear for 3-400 meters I drove past them all and returned into my lane. The car in the opposite lane probably disliked my driving, so he changed lanes and started to drive straight towards me in my lane! What he disliked, I don't know because it was more then 200 meter left when I was finishing passing cars and there was never any dangerous situation that could occur to that other car.
When he came closer, he startet to honk the horn and flash his headlights towards me, and just when I considered to drive off the road, he drove back into his own lane.
When I came to Nicaragua after Costa Rica I returned to the airport in Managua after a week on the Nicaraguan Little Corn Island in the Caribbean. I had booked a room at Hotel Camina Real near the airport because I would just stay over one night and fly back home the next day. I had written an email to the hotel a couple of days earlier because they claimed to have free airport shuttle. The answer came back as follows:
And vist Monteverde. If you like adventure will just love this place!