Costa Rica, whatever you heard is probably true be it beauty, people, military, wildlife and on and on. They seemed to have taken a completely different approach to tourism and the environment then the rest of Central America and most of the world from what I’ve seen. Certainly after months in the dilapidated setting of most of Central America, Costa Rica will seem like an entirely different planet.
Hell they don’t even have a military.
Unlike any other country on the planet.
To start Costa Rica is the only country in the world to actually meet all five criteria in the UNDP environment criteria. Two times best performing country in the happy planet index, in 2009 was named greenest country in the world by NEF, in 2012 banned hunting recreationally and has some ambitious plans to be carbon neutral by 2021. Wow that’s a lot to pack inside 51,000 sq kms or roughly the size of West Virgina.
While here I did a number of hikes through the sweltering humidity in the lush jungle just to break myself into the country. You know, those hikes where you see trees engulfing other trees, you could see fallen vegetation was quickly being swallowed up by living terra firms and historical mammoths of a tree that would take several people to wrap your arms around aand were still reaching for the sun. Yip it wall all here, monkeys, toads, sloths, snakes, birds, crocs, fish, huge lizards, even those Jesus Christ lizards that walk (run) on water.
It was here I was given some comfort knowing that after humans brief time making a modern mess of the planet, in the end the earth will eventually win itself back & Costa Rica was modern day proof of what that will look like again.
Magic, actual environmental magic!
The first fifty kilometers into the country.
I stalled at my first stop at the camping area of a Swiss couple who had started building a farm some twenty years earlier and it was now over one hundred acres of orchards, hiking trails & accommodation. Flanked on one side by a slow flowing river with good fishing and a resident crocodile or two, then flanked on the other by a small tilapia farm next to some horses set in the base of rolling hills. The place was a magnet for wildlife, with and abundance of mango trees in season during my time there you would often see the monkeys take one bite of a mango, throw it on the ground and then get a fresh one, cheeky little buggars.
I was often beckoned by the host first thing in the morning when she would find a sloth or two hanging out in the tree tops, for such slow moving creatures they seemed to appear in completely different treetops every day. In the end however I’d say my most memorable sighting was first the cat who seemed oddly out of place just under my motorcycle one night who once I shone a light on him was staring down a six foot boa constrictor! I’m not too keen on cats, however this fuzz bucket saved me from stepping on the snake and I’m happy to say the cat and I were friends for the rest of my stay. The snake however I watched for fifteen more minutes then casually crawled into my tent putting the zipper to the top this time.
Next stop beach, almost.
En route to the beach I stopped for groceries and on my way out was spotted by two other riders on there way in. After a brief chat about the 38oC beach heat vs mountainside drizzle of 28oC, I abandoned previous plans and chose to ride with some random parking lot dudes in a foreign country!
The American, Art, had the exact same bike as me with a few different modifications... Where I had put extra reflective stickers on my bike to be spotted better he had installed a circuit that would cut the power to all lights on his bike. In the event he was being chased by gangs or drug narcos he could more easily elude detection. Next little ad on he showed me was a mount on his crash bars where he had installed a baton that would quickly erect from about sixteen inches to about four feet in one quick swoop. Again he was concerned that if he had any issues with anyone this might be a way to quickly defend himself. My thoughts were to pack extra cutlery and a larger pot incase I had company over along the trip. Perhaps it was because Art grew up between Belarus in Eastern Europe and America and I grew up in very small farming town Canada. I don’t know for sure though I feel this may have influenced how we prepped for the trip.
The Swiss guy Philippe was on a Suzuki DR650 and his luggage was more on the practical side, you know; extension cord, little chair and naturally a few Swiss army knifes.
The choice to go with the boys was fun, the first night we camped over looking Laguna de Arenal and the next day biking we found ourselves a natural hot water river that flowed from lava filled volcano Arenal while cut a steamy swath through the jungle. We we’re along way from the only ones there at the time, yet it didn’t take away from the magic of it all and a hot bath for the first time in a while was welcomed with open arms. Me, Art & Philippe stuffed into a little rocky bathing hole made for some funny photos and my only regret is I had not thought to bring my laundry & some soap.
I recall that Art had asked me when we first met if I had any problems with my bike burning oil? Only a couple times that I could think of and they were both when I had the bike closer to 120-130kmph away from my usual breakneck speed of 80kmph as a KLR has high RPMs over 120kmph. Art said he liked it closer to 140kmph and after whipping through the windy mountainside in third place dawning my usual shorts and shoes with t-shirt riding gear I could see why he burned more oil then me. I thought I was keeping up quite well until I lost the grip to the pavement on my front tyre coming around a corner in the rain one night and narrowly avoided death. Luckily it was raining enough no one noticed the pee running off my seat! I settled into a distant last for the remainder of the ride that night.
Until we meet again.
We parted ways as I opted for the back route through the country side and the boys headed for the capital, San Jose. As I went to leave I spotted my little family from France I had traveled with off and on through Mexico, Nicaragua and now Costa Rica. We had the standard French lunch of bread, cheese, wine and cigarettes before I left. They always seemed to show up, have the kids smother me in fun, feed me, remind me I should know more French living in Canada, then I wish them well and ride off only to bump into them again someplace. Damnit this French needs to be better, or I mean even remotely existent.
Next stop Monteverde for bull riding, English breakfasts and tropical downpours…