Pura Vida

A baby two toed sloth wows visitors at the Sloth Sanctuary just south of Limon Costa Rica. She had a skin infection so they shaved her and put her in a onesie to keep warm. Photo: Alex Washburn

As some of you may or may not know, part of the reason we were so rushed to get to Costa Rica is that Nathaniel’s Dad (Dave) flew down on December 18th to spend a little over a week with us touring around. As such, Alex went to the sloth sanctuary on December 17th, as it is on the other side of Costa Rica (three hours from San Jose in Limón). The complete insanity of that trip can not be captured in this post, further details to follow. Here, A baby two toed sloth wows visitors at the Sloth Sanctuary just south of Limon Costa Rica. She had a skin infection so they shaved her and put her in a onesie to keep warm. Photo: Alex Washburn

In San Jose we took the bikes into the Kawasaki dealership to have some basic maintenance done (chains cleaned, oil change, new clutch cable for Alex, replace Honda 50cc ignition coil on Nathaniel's bike since Farmersville). It was on the way back from the dealership Alex's bike blew the main fuse again. Replaced it and blew it instantly. Internet searches, e-mails/calls to gurus, and stripping the bike down yielded only knowing that there must be a short somewhere on the bike (Duh!). The mechanics from the dealership were dispatched over in the morning and finally found the short on the front turn signal. Bikes were nice and shinny for two whole hours before getting put back in the dirt. Photo: Alex Washburn

In San Jose we took the bikes into the Kawasaki dealership to have some basic maintenance done (chains cleaned, oil change, new clutch cable for Alex, replace Honda 50cc ignition coil on Nathaniel’s bike since Farmersville). It was on the way back from the dealership Alex’s bike blew the main fuse again. Replaced it and blew it instantly. Internet searches, e-mails/calls to gurus, and stripping the bike down yielded only knowing that there must be a short somewhere on the bike (Duh!). The mechanics from the dealership were dispatched over in the morning and finally found the short on the front turn signal. Bikes were nice and shinny for two whole hours before getting put back in the dirt. Photo: Alex Washburn

The first real day on the road with Dave we were traveling from San Jose to Monteverde to go to the cloud forest. Most of the trip was paved road, however, the turn off to Monteverde was 12 miles of loose gravel and rock on a vertical climb to get to the top. Windy, dusty, and beautiful, the views from Monteverde do not disappoint, as you can see all the way to the ocean. Photo: Alex Washburn

The first real day on the road with Dave we were traveling from San Jose to Monteverde to go to the cloud forest. Most of the trip was paved road, however, the turn off to Monteverde was 12 miles of loose gravel and rock on a vertical climb to get to the top. Windy, dusty, and beautiful, the views from Monteverde do not disappoint, as you can see all the way to the ocean. Photo: Alex Washburn

On the one full day we had in Monteverde we left early in the morning for a hike around the cloud forest (the place where clouds are literally born, from the warm weather on the pacific mixing with the cold air from the Caribbean). The biodiversity of Costa Rica is truly stunning as we saw sloths, quetzals, spiders, snakes, anteaters, coatimundi, and many varieties of hummingbirds.  Our tour guide Bernal was one of the best we have had on this trip, animated and clearly loving being able to hike for a living.  Photo: Alex Washburn

On the one full day we had in Monteverde we left early in the morning for a hike around the cloud forest (the place where clouds are literally born, from the warm weather on the pacific mixing with the cold air from the Caribbean). The biodiversity of Costa Rica is truly stunning as we saw sloths, quetzals, spiders, snakes, anteaters, coatimundi, and many varieties of hummingbirds. Our tour guide Bernal was one of the best we have had on this trip, animated and clearly loving being able to hike for a living. Photo: Alex Washburn

A violet Sabrewing Hummingbird hovers near a feeder at Monteverde Cloud Forest. Photo: Alex Washburn

A violet Sabrewing Hummingbird hovers near a feeder at Monteverde Cloud Forest. Photo: Alex Washburn

Tamarindo is the greatest little surf spot nobody had ever heard of...fifty-years ago. Now-a-days it is chuck full of boutiques, surf shops, and ex-pats all looking for a piece of the tourist dollar. As it is 'high season' in Costa Rica (from December to April), all the menus have been swapped and hotel rates lifted, making Costa Rica the most expensive country, by far, we have visited in Central America and often putting meals at or above American prices.  The town itself is a small main street that hugs the coast and then splinters into dirt roads that go off into neighborhoods.  The less adventurous traveler may enjoy Tamarindo for its faux third-world atmosphere and pervasive English, but veteran travelers can find less touristy spots with better surf elsewhere. The street food scene (usually budget friendly) is also pretty weak - this Snow Cone vendor was one of only three good finds Alex made in two days. Photo: Alex Washburn

Tamarindo was the greatest little surf spot nobody had ever heard of…fifty-years ago. Now-a-days it is chuck full of boutiques, surf shops, and ex-pats all looking for a piece of the tourist dollar. As it is ‘high season’ in Costa Rica (from December to April), all the menus have been swapped and hotel rates lifted, making Costa Rica the most expensive country, by far, we have visited in Central America and often putting meals at or above American prices. The town itself is a small main street that hugs the coast and then splinters into dirt roads that go off into neighborhoods. The less adventurous traveler may enjoy Tamarindo for its faux third-world atmosphere and pervasive English, but veteran travelers can find less touristy spots with better surf elsewhere. The street food scene (usually budget friendly) is also pretty weak – this Snow Cone vendor was one of only three good finds Alex made in two days. Photo: Alex Washburn

The waves in Tamarindo are great for beginners, and there are plenty of them that rove in packs known as Surf Schools, that take up all available ocean on the central beach.  Most of these schools focus on the mechanics of catching waves and little to no effort on teaching people about how to maneuver the board in water.  Subsequently you see lazy-ass Americans being pulled through the water while laying on their boards, lined up perfectly to catch a wave, and then being shoved off by the instructor and all they have to do is stand up (which most do not accomplish).  Regardless - having lived in Santa Cruz for close to two decades Dave and Nathaniel were excited to get in the water. Photo: Alex Washburn

The waves in Tamarindo are great for beginners, and there are plenty of them that rove in packs known as Surf Schools, that take up all available ocean on the central beach. Most of these schools focus on the mechanics of catching waves and little to no effort on teaching people about how to maneuver the board in water. Subsequently you see lazy-ass Americans being pulled through the water while laying on their boards, lined up perfectly to catch a wave, and then being shoved off by the instructor and all they have to do is stand up (which most do not accomplish). Regardless – having lived in Santa Cruz for close to two decades Dave and Nathaniel were excited to get in the water. Photo: Alex Washburn

There could be a reason that the GPS told us to go around the peninsula and take a ferry to Montezuma instead of driving there from Tamarindo. On a path that is not serviceable in the rainy season, Dave in his Rav4 and we on the bikes, set out on our way to Montezuma (maybe this was a little revenge for us), along the only main highway that connects the peninsula with he mainland.  Once we got to the junction of 18 and 21, we shut the GPS off and traveled on into the green wilderness. (Here Dave and Nathaniel are fixing Dave's flat tire) Photo: Alex Washburn

There could be a reason that the GPS told us to go around the peninsula and take a ferry to Montezuma instead of driving there from Tamarindo. On a path that is not serviceable in the rainy season, Dave in his Rav4 and we on the bikes, set out on our way to Montezuma (maybe this was a little revenge for us), along the only main highway that connects the peninsula with he mainland. Once we got to the junction of 18 and 21, we shut the GPS off and traveled on into the green wilderness. (Here Dave and Nathaniel are fixing Dave’s flat tire) Photo: Alex Washburn

As David would say four hours later “I wanted some adventure, but this may be too much.”

What awaited us on road 162 was the most challenging day of riding yet on this trip, some of which neither of us think we could have done two months ago.  Fifty-miles of mountains on gravel/rock roads, seven river crossings (including one with 3 feet of water where the motorcycles had to cross), two broken down motorcyclists needing rides, a flat tire on the Rav4 (lucky we had a spare and were right next to a tire repair shop, out in the middle of nowhere), and eight hours later we arrived in Montezuma, a trip which everyone said should only take five. We earned our off-road badges yesterday and the victory dinner couldn't have tasted better. Photo: David Chaney

What awaited us on road 162 was the most challenging day of riding yet on this trip, some of which neither of us think we could have done two months ago. Fifty-miles of mountains on gravel/rock roads, seven river crossings (including one with 3 feet of water where the motorcycles had to cross), two broken down motorcyclists needing rides, a flat tire on the Rav4 (lucky we had a spare and were right next to a tire repair shop, out in the middle of nowhere), and eight hours later we arrived in Montezuma, a trip which everyone said should only take five. We earned our off-road badges yesterday and the victory dinner couldn’t have tasted better. This is a photo of us next to the final river crossing (the first was the biggest). Photo: David Chaney

After our hours of hard riding we were rewarded with Montezuma.Montezuma is the beach town you wished Tamarindo was. Maybe because it is on the tip and only really accessible by ferry, or that there are several towns within driving distance that off equal fare, there is a lazy, laid-back vibe in this ocean town. Beach side accommodations can be found on the cheap, and the water is the bluest yet in Costa Rica, however best part yet might just be hanging out in a hammock on the balcony of the hostel and watching the waves roll in with a slight breeze on your face. Photo: Alex Washburn

After our hours of hard riding we were rewarded with Montezuma.Montezuma is the beach town you wished Tamarindo was. Maybe because it is on the tip and only really accessible by ferry, or that there are several towns within driving distance that off equal fare, there is a lazy, laid-back vibe in this ocean town. Beach side accommodations can be found on the cheap, and the water is the bluest yet in Costa Rica, however best part yet might just be hanging out in a hammock on the balcony of the hostel and watching the waves roll in with a slight breeze on your face. Photo: Alex Washburn

Montezuma may not have the wildlife of Monteverde but it can still surprise you. Here, a White-faced monkey looks to steal any food it can from tourists.  These little bastards are everywhere, and while tourists may ooo and aww over their cuteness, we are sure locals perceive them the way Americans do raccoon, a nuisance to be dealt with.  Photo: Alex Washburn

Montezuma may not have the wildlife of Monteverde but it can still surprise you. Here, a White-faced monkey looks to steal any food it can from tourists. These little bastards are everywhere, and while tourists may ooo and aww over their cuteness, we are sure locals perceive them the way Americans do raccoon, a nuisance to be dealt with. Photo: Alex Washburn

Life on the road

Giovanni the Handyman at our hotel poses for a portrait before we leave. Photo: Alex Washburn

Giovanni the Handyman at our hotel poses for a portrait before we leave. Photo: Alex Washburn

With only a few days left in Nicaragua, Alex and I were reviewing the timeline before we battled our way through another border and on into Costa Rica. We decided that we wanted to spend a half day in Granada before moving on to the border.

Granada is a lake town that sits on the edge of Lago Nicaragua, with views of Concepción Volcan in the distance. We would have pictures of all of this, but there was another unfortunate motorcycle hiccup. As we pulled the motorcycles into our hotel in Granada (Hotel Casa Barcelona, a hotel that promotes jobs for local women to become independent bread winners) Alex felt/heard a snapping sensation in her clutch cable, lo and behold we could see that of the nine or ten strands of cable, all but three had snapped.

Alex shows off the damage after pulling the frayed clutch cable out of her bike. Photo: Alex Washburn

Alex shows off the damage after pulling the frayed clutch cable out of her bike. Photo: Alex Washburn

Plans for our restful day by the lake quickly dissolved into web-searches, youtube videos, and greasy fingers. After watching a video on how to remove the clutch cable, Alex stated to me “I think we can do this, without any tools”. Well one of those two statements turned out to be true.

Before I could protest, Alex was out of the hotel lobby and into the courtyard, borrowing a pair of pliers from the hotel handyman (Giovanni, he will be in the story later) and beginning to rip into the clutch lever. The only conversation we had on the subject, was whether we thought the bike could make it in its current state to the shop we are going to in Costa Rica. Upon further review we both decided it would be foolish to continue without some sort of repair.

In about thirty minutes we had dissembled the clutch lever and removed the clutch cable. Alex held it out to the two handymen that were working on staining a table in the courtyard where our bikes were. Giovanni came over to inspect the cable, and Alex asked where we might be able to obtain another one.

By now it was 4:00, and the main concern was that if we didn’t find a replacement, most of the shops would not be open on Sunday and it might mean a delay of several days to get it repaired. Giovanni said he knew of a shop and suddenly we were in his car racing through Granada.

It was at this time that the sky’s let loose the rain they has been threatening all day and monsoon style downpour drenched the tiny town as Alex and Giovanni sprinted into the shop. The full cable assemblies they had in stock were too short by only a couple of inches, so we ended up getting a long replacement cable to feed into the tubing of the original.

Back to the hotel we went, the rain went just as quickly as it came, and though the bikes were wet, it didn’t slow the installation. Giovanni provided a helping hand in getting the new cable threaded and hooking the clutch lever back up. Next we needed to attach it to the motor. Here we ran into some problems because the washer and bolt that came with the replacement cable were too big to fit into the housing on the motor.

Giovanni shapes the nut to cap the end of Alex's new clutch cable. Photo: Nathaniel Chaney

Giovanni shapes the nut to cap the end of Alex’s new clutch cable. Photo: Nathaniel Chaney

Giovanni pulled out a grinder and started shaping the nut to fit. A little bending to widen the housing, and we were able to get the nut into the system. A little adjustment at the lever, and it was good as new or at least jimmy-rigged enough to get us to Costa Rica. It wasn’t pretty, but it meant we could stay on schedule and get across the border. It took all the time we had in Granada to do it, however Alex’s faith in us being able to fix it was unwavering, she amazes me!

Also, as in Honduras, when we needed help, the right people seemed to show up. We are grateful that Giovanni was so willing to help two strangers and are still amazed at the kindness of strangers here in Central America.

The following day came early and it was time to see if the cable would hold and what the border had in store for us. The border crossing wasn’t the worst in terms of harassment, but was the most extensive in paperwork and general futility. All told it took five hours.

Nicaragua had the most amount of work to exit a country yet. Most countries are glad to let you go with a stamp and some well wishes as you become the next country’s problem. However, Nicaragua required we have an official (who is wandering around the immigration area) inspect the bikes, then we had to get a stamp from a second of official in a booth, before tracking down a police officer (who also is just wandering around) to sign our forms. It took two hours just to get all the paperwork filled out and signed just to exit Nicaragua. For comparison, exiting Honduras took all of twenty minutes.

Next it was on to Costa Rica. Instead of describing the whole procedure, we have drawn this diagram:

Here is our 5 step process to get into Costa Rica. Photo: Alex Washburn

Here is our 5 step process to get into Costa Rica. Photo: Alex Washburn

After five hours of border crossing hi jinks, which included the insurance agency typing Alex’s VIN wrong three times, we made it into the countryside and all the way to Liberia Canton for a victory dinner. Country number seven is ours for the taking, and we are off to San Jose for our appointment to have some much needed maintenance done to the bikes.