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Volcanoes

Costa Rican Birthday Surprise

The time finally arrived!

I knew something was up and Melanie had been keeping a secret from me. Most things we do aren’t planned other than a plane we must catch or someplace we need to be on a certain day. Day to day we just figure out where we are headed the following day. This time Melanie was asking how long would we be staying in Costa Rica, quite unusual. Then she had the idea to go to Tamarindo on the northern Pacific coast around my birthday. OK, she just wanted to go somewhere special, but no clues. My friends that were riding around Central America and Mexico had either stayed north or were already in South America, so that was out. The day came and we packed up with Gypsy in tow and headed off to the coast.

We pulled into town and she insisted on riding to a petrol station and finding fuel to top off the tank. Another flag as it was late afternoon and time for a bite for lunch. Searching out the perfect restaurant we park and get off the bike when I hear a familiar voice from behind with a question about where to get some good food around here. I turn around to see my son Rick, his wife Kelly and my little granddaughter Lucy Belle standing there. What a shock! They had flown down from Atlanta, GA to surprise me for my 60th birthday. I was just beside myself as this was probably the best surprise/gift I had ever received.

Enjoying lunch over a couple drinks the plans were told. This surprise had been in the works since the previous September with careful planning, condo renting, passport buying for Lucy (she’s only 13 months old) and airline ticket purchases. They are really a bunch of sneaky people.

We spent the next 5 days together playing on the beach and in the pool, driving up to Rincón de la Vieja Volcano in the Guanacaste Province, visiting and playing cards. On the visit to the volcano we passed a hot spring and decided we would return for a soak. After a walk through the jungle followed by a suspended bridge crossing we came to a great setting of cascading rock pools of clear thermally warmed water spilling over the edges to the stream below us. We all had a very relaxing 5 days that I will remember forever.

Special thanks to Melanie for helping in the planning of this surprise and being so out of character and not letting it slip. And another huge Thank You to Rick and Kelly for taking the time out of your busy schedules for making this trip down for my birthday. Seeing little Lucy Belle and you guys sure made the birthday a special one.

Cheers,

Greg, Dad and Grandpa

Melanie, Mom and Grandma

2WANDRRs

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Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Costa Rica, motorcycle travel, Volcanoes, VStrom | Leave a comment

Costa Rica

I was still fuming the first few miles of Costa Rica after feeling so violated from the Nicaragua border crossing.  I finally calmed down since it was in the past, and there wasn’t much that I could do about it, and made the turn out of Canas toward Laguna de Arenal.  The road ascends on a curvy road eventually reaching the lake and following the contours on a narrow road to our hotel high on a bluff, overlooking Laguna de Arenal.

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Laguna de Arenal

In the late afternoon, Gypsy and I took a walk from the hotel and find a small trail leading to a peninsula jutting out into the lake. It is so very peaceful that all you can hear is the rustle of leaves and breaking twigs beneath our feet as we slowly make our way to the water’s edge. Gypsy froze as we hear a small twig break to our right and see a flurry of a moving animal through the branches about 10 meters off the side of the trail. Peering into the woods I see what appears to be a large racoon with a black and white striped tail, the tail pointed straight to the sky. I see one, then two, and as my eyes adjust and focus on the animals, about 12 appear. They look at us as startled to see us as we are to see them, and turn and silently disappear into the woods. I later find out they are the Costa Rican Coatimundi, a racoon like creature.

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Coatimundi

We spend the next few days enjoying the lake views, volcano views and hot springs. There is a stream running near the road that is heated thermally from the volcanoes in the area. You can go to a resort for $US65, or stop at the bridge down from the resorts and enjoy the babbling, terraced warm stream for free. Of course, we opt for the free stream and change into our swim suits at the edge of the water and lounge in the soothing waters for an hour or so.

While there we are told about a bridge outside of La Fortuna called Iguana Bridge. It seems that Iguanas just hang out at the bridge to have their pictures taken. We ride over to see if it’s true and find a few just waiting in the branches of trees, some close enough to reach out and touch.

While we are still at Lake Arenal, a friend of mine from Minnesota, Donna Kennedy, contacts us and offers us a place to stay at a place she owns north of San Ramon in a beautiful place called Angel Valley. Donna is a motorcycle traveler and LD rider and we are part of the same national and international communities. Angel Valley is at an elevation just meters below the Villa Blanca Cloud Forest.

She is not using it at the time, so we take her up on her generous offer and base ourselves for a couple of weeks of exploration out of her beautiful Inn. The Angel Valley Bed and Breakfast is opening again soon and will be a stopover place for overlanders to recharge and explore the area.

Riding down to Angel Valley from La Fortuna we follow a great road that twists and turns through many eco systems with views of Volcan Arenal for the first few miles. Donna had recommended a place partway down called Lands in Love Hotel and Resort. It is known for the chocolate cake and coffee they serve so we had to stop and see what all the fuss was about. I believe this is the richest dark chocolate cake I have ever eaten and the fresh ground Costa Rican coffee is the perfect combination.

The first area to be explored is an area around the Poás Volcano, north of San Ramon. We take off on some back roads and finally reach Parque Nacional Volcan Poás, and walk to an observation area above the duel crater and lake.

The views are fantastic and we just stand there and enjoy the cool breezes and views. Leaving the park, we head north on 126 to Cataratas Arallanes, a great waterfall that is right beside the road.IMG_20170217_111904889_HDR Deciding to let Mr. Garmin help us with a shortcut back was again a mistake as the road headed toward Volcan Poás and terrible gravel to a washout without a road and through what seemed to be a cow pasture. At this point I decided to use my compass and try to find a way to a road I knew ran north/south and back toward where we were staying. After an interesting couple of hours, we ended up about 5kms north of the gravel road to the Inn.

Donna let us know of a Tope happening in Punta Arenas on Saturday. We thought it was a festival but it turned out to be a night parade of Mexican/Pacifino horses all doing a high step. This is an important tradition in Costa Rica dating from colonial times. The horses are beautiful and we enjoy the festivities surrounding the entire event.

My rear tire was down to maybe 1000kms left when I noticed to screw in the tread. A quick plug fixed the problem, but I still needed a tire. Most of the shops you come across deal with small bikes, thus small size tires. A recommended shop in town carried the size rear tire I needed, but all the tires were all tied up in customs with new regulations, and had been for two weeks. Seems nobody has this common size tire. A post on FB saved the day as Sandy Borden from California knew the guys from Touratech Costa Rica and they had one tire of the size I needed. A little less dirt and more road than I wanted, but it’s still a good tire. Thanks Sandy and Touratech CR!IMG_20170224_085556157

Our next ride takes us through San Jose and over to a couple active volcanoes, Volcan Turrialba and Volcan Irazú. The ride and day were beautiful and mid-day we stop to get money out of our ATM. Well, neither of our Wells Fargo cards work.   A phone call to them reveals they think we have exceeded our limit for the day which was impossible.  I drew money out of the bank after my cards stopped working but why have an ATM card that doesn’t work?  Time for a new bank when we return.

We are riding through lush green, tropical rainforest terrain, through small villages and enjoying the afternoon when the blue skies turn dark and the rain starts. Seems like this is needed to keep things lush and green. After about an hour of medium to light rain we arrive at the beautiful valley of Orosi, and find our hostel, the House of Coffee. We are the only ones there and, as it is still raining and now dark, we unpack and I head out to find some food to cook. Looks like chicken, noodles and fresh veggies are on the menu for tonight. Our host gets home from her job later and we sit and chat and realize, again, how lucky we are.

The next day the skies are bright blue, the air is cool and everything is green, such beautiful contrasts in this little valley. Riding toward town and crossing a little one-lane suspension bridge we find a little bakery to have our morning meal while standing beside the bike on such a beautiful morning. We hop on Pan-American Highway 2 for a twisting ride through Parque Nacional Los Quetzales on the way to the Pacific coast, and our destination for the night, the Wide Mouth Frog Hostel in Quepos. Neat little hostel near downtown with great secure parking for the bike. Quepos is near the Manuel Antonio Nacional Parque, a fabulous area boosting sloths and turtles. We see neither as you must be lucky to see them, so we hear.

Heading back to San Miguel we stop at Crocodile Bridge to see the famous crocodiles. These huge beasts just hang out under the bridge, some at least 4 meters in length.

You must wonder why they stay here, stationary in the water and on the banks. What kind of critters are being dropped off the bridge for them to feast on…

Cheers

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Central America, Costa Rica, Horizons Unlimited, Volcanoes, VStrom | Leave a comment

Nicaragua

The Nicaraguan border is complex, to say the least.  As we near the border we see the “helpers” milling about watching our arrival, then circling in for the kill.  It all starts off innocent enough.  They start helping you figure where to stop first.  We are trying to politely tell them “no gracias”, but they just continue to help, even if it’s not necessary.  This border between Honduras and Nicaragua is the most unorganized crossing I have ever been through.  Nothing is marked or in any kind of order.  One of the policeman needed for Gypsy’s paperwork was sitting in a chair in the parking lot.  The helpers work quickly trying to help you through the maze of places to visit and deal with each step, and helping you to part with your money.  Having a trailer being pulled by a motorcycle without a tag or registration, it’s homemade and has never been tagged or registered, threw a wrench into the system, something you don’t want to do at this crossing.  The day was clear with blue skies overhead and a gentle breeze moving the 40°C air and diesel exhaust fumes throughout the area and the buildings.  We had arrived by 8am and we finally left the area after 4 ½ hours of this running from building to building, handing over fistfuls of money for the “business”.  At one point as we were discussing Gypsy I said it the officials, “Just f%@k it, I’m going back to Honduras”.  Melanie calmed me down and kept me focused, as she has ulterior motives, which will be in the next chapter.

Our Nico stamp was for 30 days but we zipped through the country.  We stayed a night in Leon then headed for Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya, an active volcano southwest of Managua.  We rode to the top of the crater on our motorcycle and were told to back into the parking space to enable us to make a hasty escape if the need arose.  Hummm, OK.

The smell of sulfur filled the air as we neared the edge of the crater. Looking over the edge you could see smoke billowing out as the fiery molten lava below bubbled and crackled noisily below us.  The clouds of steam cleared occasionally giving us views of the lava which was quite the site.  To the left of us was a trial that would go to the upper observation area, but it was closed due to the increased activity of the volcano.

The next day we headed toward the island of Ometepe, in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. We wanted to spend a couple days there as the views are dominated by two large volcanoes. The island is the combination of two volcanoes, one on each of two connected land masses.  The winds are quite strong when we arrive forcing the ferries to stop running with a full schedule for a couple days.  We find a hostel near the water for the night and head to the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border the next day.  Same confusion and frustration at this border also but not as expensive. All total it cost me almost US$400 to get through Nicaragua with my motorcycle, pulling a trailer and with our dog, and 7 hours of my life. Not worth it, but had to get through it.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Horizons Unlimited, motorcycle travel, Nicaragua, Triumph, Volcanoes | Leave a comment

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