Costa Rica is our first country without Ducati and our reduced team configuration leaves us sad and listless. It is obvious there was the spiritual/emotional space that Ducati occupied in our hearts but there was a definitive physical presence that we did not fully appreciate until now. Ducati had a lot of stuff: carrier, clothes, kibble, toys, leashes, medicine, bowls, shampoo, collars, nail clippers, his very own beach blanket, the list goes on. Most of these things we donated to a volunteer veterinary clinic on Ometepe Island. It is comforting to know his worldly possessions could be put to good use instead of becoming unwanted refuse that would eventually work its way into the trash pile. We hung onto a couple sentimental items but overall it was mandatory for us to purge Ducati’s possessions quickly, nothing good comes from having his stuff stare us in the face.
When we loaded the bikes to leave Ometepe Island there was a lot of empty space in our luggage. Our packing until now had been perfected over the months and was as unchangeable and constant as the earth revolving around the sun. Now we suddenly had to re-engineer what had been perfection itself. We left with our kit haphazard and not quite right. Shannon would discover over the next couple of days that she had a lot less weight to haul while Mike felt the empty space at his back where the dog carrier used to be. His small furry buddy no longer physically had his back. But we made it. We took those steps. We left Nicaragua. We were lucky to have others riding with us as well as the craziness that is another Central American border crossing; all this distraction helped us keep the sadness in check.
We rode into the Costa Rican city of Liberia, which has American fast food restaurants, strip malls, and a complete saturation of English speaking tourists. It is the “Spring Break” season in the United States and the university students are in Costa Rica it seems. What a contrast from Nicaragua. And, the prices – more expensive than anywhere we have been since the United States. We did eat at McDonalds after Mike whined and pouted, and Shannon admitted it was oddly satisfying. She agreed she would eat there again, in another 10 years.
A surfer dude in El Salvador had given us verbal directions to a camping place on the Nicoya Peninsula. He claimed it was the best camping in Costa Rica, he was right. The campsite was on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean that we had all to ourselves with miles of deserted beach to explore as well. It was a perfect camp. We gave in to our emotional lethargy (AKA lazed about) and started to heal our hearts. But after the fourth day the intense afternoon heat finally got to be too much so we flipped a mental coin, broke camp on a moments notice, and went seeking higher altitude and the cool relief of the mountains.
We anticipated an easy 3-hour ride but Mike disregarded the directions from Shannon’s iPhone and initial Garmin route plotting, he had a better idea. The alternate route Mike had pulled out of his ass did provide us with stunning scenery as we snaked our way on gravel roads through the Arenal volcano region in the search for the hamlet of Monte Verde. It would also add 4 hours to our day and get us lost more than once.
Working with Mike’s revised route the Garmin GPS led us on progressively smaller roads and we misunderstood directions given to us by the friendly locals. The final straw before turning around was after we went through a small water crossing/mud wallow and saw the road peter-out into a steep track with grass growing in the tire ruts. We were supposed to be going to an area that busses and trucks can easily get to and it would be impossible for any bus/truck to go this way. We u-turned and rode back through the tiny village yet again. This time we saw Ducati’s doppelganger Chihuahua who barked at us in a startlingly familiar dog voice. We are sure it was Ducati’s spirit telling us hello and to confirm our butts got turned around in the right direction. We eventually found our way into Monte Verde and it was the misty green Shangri-La we were hoping for.
One evening we took a guided “night” hike through the cloud forest. While we didn’t see any mammals we did see lots of critters ranging from giant spiders, to sleeping birds, to frogs and salamanders, and finally a scorpion waiting for us at the ranger station at the conclusion of the hike. Touristy things, while being expensive, are fun and we are usually glad we decided to spend the money on an organized activity, at least once in a while.
We could have camped longer in Monte Verde but we received a challenge by email from our road family – Mick and Chris (Intrepid for 10 Minutes) to meet them on Osa Peninsula for some two-up riding on our bikes to explore the remote areas. We accepted the challenge, but in the end, we weaseled out of the deal and were able to get Mick and Chris to drive us around the Peninsula in their Land Cruiser while Zippy and the Black Donkey relaxed in camp, nice!
Osa Peninsula is a wild and protected area in Costa Rica but we were able to drive out to lands end before the road peters out. We saw more exotic wildlife here than we did in all the rest of Central America combined. If you like jungle, deserted beaches, and tropical wildlife the Osa Peninsula should be on your 2:00 AM booty call list.
And saving the “not best” for last, onwards to our final Central American country – Panama! – we left Costa Rica after 10-nights and are ready for South America. Sorry Panama but no love for you, we are ready to get the hell out of Central America.