Crossing the Border to Costa Rica

Trip Start Jul 04, 2010
Trip End May 10, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Bella Vista

Flag of Costa Rica  , Guanacaste,
Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rivas, Nicaragua to La Cruz, Costa Rica 60KM
Elevation Gain 748M (ouch)
Average slope 2.2%

Temps 70's to mid 90's

Early start and easy rolling hills in the cooler morning. Initially, the wind was not too bad. As we got past the turn off to San Juan Del Sur near La Virgen, the wind picked up and we soon arrived near the giant turbines of the wind farm power generation field. They turbines were spinning and we expected the wind would clear the sky for a good view of Ometepe's volcano rising from massive lake Nicaragua. We couldn't see it. The island and volcano were obscured by billowy clouds and haze. We followed the shoreline looking out to the dark choppy waters of the lake. 

A few km  before the border, we found a restaurant and stopped for breakfast while keeping an eye on the rain clouds in anticipation of a brief downpour. Nothing happened and the sky brightened while the morning continued to be relatively cool (meaning not bloody hot) 

Border crossing went smooth as pie. We paid $1 (or 20 cordobas) per person at a booth for the Nicaragua border city of Sapoa. Young guys hanging around there handed us the immigration forms and told us where we needed to go. They showed us identification badges to indicate they had some sort of official status. Then, as we rode over to the the border exit gate area, the guys began asking for "tips" "tips". Dave didn't think their 'help' warranted a tip and we rode past the gate, leaving the guys behind. 

We found the Nicaragua immigration building where we paid $2 per person to exit Nicaragua. We got through this wicket quickly but could imagine a long wait if we happened to be behind a bus load. We mounted the bikes and rode past the Duty Free building and found Costa Rica's Immigration building about 100 to 200 meters away.

Money changers patrol the outside of the CR Immigration building and Dave stopped and changed USD and left over Nicaragua currency to Costa Rica colóns at an easy to calculate 500 to 1. While he was counting, a line began to form at immigration. A bus had arrived and the passengers got off and began to queue. Michelle jumped into the scramble to secure us a place while Dave kept an eye on the bikes parked outside. We heard rumbling that we might need to show a 'ticket' for our onward journey out of Costa Rica. We wore our helmets in the line so they could assume we were on bicycles and not ask about onward tickets. We got to the front after 45 minutes. They had Dave fill out a new form then stamped our passports without asking any questions. Our bikes must count as our 'own transportation' trumping the need for tickets. 

Once in Costa Rica, you immediately notice difference in scenery; more jungle and mountains. And, happy to say, much much less garbage along the roadside. Sadly, little or no shoulder but traffic is (mostly) not heavy. And most of the houses along the roadside have glass windows! 

The road becomes windy with more ups and downs. We heard bird songs we've never heard before but failed to see more than a few parakeets and loads of those long tailed blue jays. Part way up one of the last big hills toward La Cruz, we looked up to see a family of monkeys scrambling in the tree tops. We watched as we rested for awhile and made a video even though the little buggers were quite high.  An Iguana raced across the road as we started to ride. We are going to like Costa Rica.

We made it to La Cruz (66 km from Rivas) 750 meter total alt climb. The last hill before La Cruz was tough for me, especially when the heat was turned up after 9 am!!

We found nice clean great place on the crest of the hill in the center of La Cruz "Hotel Bella Vista". Michelle dragged herself into the patio restaurant and heard a friendly 'oranje boven!'. A friendly Dutch guy "Kees" had spotted her bright orange shirt. Kees is the 70 year old owner and he aims to please. He has the best fresh fruit drinks and forced us to sample them all. Then he told us tell him what we wanted to eat, don't worry if it's not on the menu. Michelle asked for vegetables and soon two giant plates of steamed veggies appeared. 

We choose a fan room /shared bathroom for $20. Later we witnessed the great sunset view from the ridge about 20 meters up the road.
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