Panama & Costa Rica (Importation & Volcanoes)

Posted by on Jul 25, 2012 in Travel Blog | 0 comments

Panama & Costa Rica (Importation & Volcanoes)
I must admit it was great to see the main land after 5 days at sea. The jungle looked no different to when we left Columbia but from a mental perspective it was symbolic to the trip. Getting our bikes to Central America was always going to be difficult as no road joined the 2 continents.  And I didnt want to fly on this overland trip. Once we arrived in Carti harbour we had the delimma of getting our bikes onto the mainland. We negotiated  with the local fisherman $10 per bike for the use of their boat. Which in my opionion was very reasonable. When we reached the riverbank we realised it was not going to be easy. There was no jetty, just a steep muddy embakement. Between 4 men we were able to slide the bikes onto dry land.  On the 3 hour ride through the jungle to Panama City, we were constantly stopped by the military at various check points. It was the only time on the trip where we had our backpacks inspected. Panama City instantly felt different to any location in South America. Big display boards advertised american brands like Burger King and Dunkin Donuts.  Because of USA’s financial involvement in the Panama Canal, it really felt like were were riding through USA. The currency is US dollars, English is widely spoken and signs became clear to understand. As we entered Panama from the jungle we still required our temporary import document. We waited for 2 hours at the customs office only to find out we need to purchase motorcycle insurance first. By the time we located an insurance company, paid $15 (not sure what this would actually cover in the event of an accident) and returned, the customs office had closed. The next day we arrived at opening time and patiently waited for our documents to be processed. It took an additional 2 hours before we recieved the completed import document.  After a celebratory dinner with the crew onboard the boat, Dale and I headed for the Pacific coast. We stayed in Santa Catalina, a surfing village about 4 hours East of Panama City. I set up camp on a hill overlooking the curling waves that rolled in. The sand was black which caused the water to look a little murky. I went for an early morning surf as the sun peaked over the horizon. We follwed the coast line and as we normally do stopped off at placed that looked interesting. We dont like to plan too much, we like to leave decision making for the moment. We travlled inland to a town called Boquete. A cool in climate, high in elevation coffee region at the base of Volcano Baru. It looked like a small Canadian country town. There was a fresh smell to the air as we rode down a windy road into the valley. Pine tress lined the roadside. The majority of sinage was in English. We later found out that Boquete was listed in an American magazine as one of the 4 top places in the world to retire and foreign retirees started snatching up blocks of land.
We crossed the boarder into Costa Rica and nobody directed us to stop. We could have ridden straight into Nicaragua. But knew we required the correct documentation to avoid possible problems with corrupt police and boarder authorities. We lined up at the custom officials office and had to deal with paperwork, photocopies and passports. We had read that Costa Rica had amazing beaches so we wasted no time inland and headed straight for the coast line. The beauty of our trip is the fact that we have no time restraints and can stop where ever we like. It’s this freedom that allows us to change plans at the drop of a hat. Majority of the time we dont know were we will stay for the night but head in a Northly direction. We followed the surfers primageage along the Pacific Coast and stopped off at places like Dominical and Jaco. Small huts line the beach serving cheap meals that overlook the waves that curl in all year round. We darted North to an inland town called Monteverde. Consisting of 2 cloud forest reserves, the area is renounded for sightings of the 2 toed sloth and other rainforest creaters. Unfortunately all we saw was a deer and a raccoon.
Missing the coastal beaches we headed back south to Montezuma. A laid back hippie/surfing village. We hiked into the jungle to visit a waterfall. The humidity made the trip difficult as too did the insects. But the waterfall was worth a visit. The flow of water was unnormally high due to the moonsonal rain that hit the coast the day before. I slept sweating in my tent that was errected on the beach that night. I have never actaully slept in my sleeping bag this whole trip. I simply use it as a mat.
Judging from google maps the trip to Playa Tamarindo looked quite straight forward. I knew it was not going to be sealed but estimated the trip to take 3 hours. 2 hours into the trip I realised it was going to take twice as long as first expected. The roads were not only corrugated but rutted out from recent rain which meant progress was slow. We darted from left to right and back again chasing the smoothest lines. When comparing against other south and central American countries, Costa Rica is quiet expensive. I dare say its due to the tourism boom. Therefore when ever possible I camp on the beach. It was in Playa Tamarindo that I lost my wallet. I still to this day do not know for sure where it went and the only explaination is that it fell out when I pulled my camera from my bag. Luckily for me, I travel with a second bank card in my big backpack. I cancelled all my lost cards and my travels continued unimpeded. The only other document that I lost was my Australian drivers licence but I also carry an international drivers licence.

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