Rain, Rain, Rain
Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
187Trip End Ongoing
Despite the weather, we've still been making the most of our last week or two in Costa Rica. We decided to explore some areas of the southern highlands and central Pacific coast, so after completing a few more chores in San José we headed south on the Carretera Interamericana
Our destination was a visit to a Canadian couple who had retired to Costa Rica from Chesterville, in the Ottawa Valley. Over the past four years Rolf and Lise Zersch have built their home and developed a small Bed & Breakfast business on their beautiful 120 acre property in the Talamanca mountains. We arrived as "friends of a friend", but we were very warmly welcomed, and by the time we left we felt we were part of the family! "Bosque del Tolomuco" has some great trails for hiking and birdwatching, with extensive views across to Cerro Chirripó, the highest point in Costa Rica (of course, we didn't get to see them until the rain stopped on our third day!). During the summer months from December to April the climate at their 5,700 ft location is very equitable with temperatures in the 18 to 26̊C range. If you are looking for a quiet and peaceful retreat on your trip to Costa Rica, we would highly recommend a stay with Rolf and Lise (e-mail them at email@example.com) - you're sure to get a very hospitable welcome.....as long as you can make it up their long and very steep driveway
Continuing on down into the agriculturally rich valley of the Río General, we stopped in the small and bustling commercial centre of San Isidro to stock up on groceries and pay our weekly visit to an Internet Café. We had heard that the thermal springs at San Gerardo were well worth a visit, so we again headed up into the hills towards the Chirripó National Park. This was another great area for birdwatching, and was very lushly tropical and green with all the recent rain. The hot springs turned out to be a short hike up a steep and muddy track - after first carefully negotiating a rickety suspension bridge over a raging torrent, that was made even more precarious as it was in the process of being rebuilt - but were definitely worth the effort. We spent two hours relaxing in the steaming pool of clear mountain water at a very comfortable 35̊C, protected from the rain by the tropical foliage and surrounded by a veritable symphony of birdsong. We were kindly allowed to spend the night camping in the grounds of the Hotel Rió Chirripó at no charge, and spent the next morning exploring their nature trails and discovering new birds. This would be another great place for a short stay - check their website at www.riochirripo.com or call (506) 771-7065.
A short drive through the cloud-shrouded hills brought us down to the coast at Dominical and Uvita, and we spent a day exploring some quiet Pacific coast beaches and rocky headlands backed by tropical rainforest
Continuing north on the dirt road up the coast we drove through what must have been thousands of acres of oil palm plantations. We passed convoys of tractors with trailers loaded to overflowing with the bunches of orange-red palm nuts on their way to the processing factories belching smoke and steam. A rainy overnight stay in the tourist seaside resort of Jaco, and then we were ready to make the final arrangements for shipping our van out of the port at Puerto Caldera.
Although we are driving our van from Canada to the tip of South America, there is unfortunately a small hiccup in that there is no road connection between southern Panama and northern Colombia i.e. between Central and South America. The Darien Gap, as it is known, is a 200km area of jungle and swamp with no real road, only passable by foot and canoe. It is possible to get through with a 4-wheel drive jeep in the dry season, but this is not recommended as it is apparently very much the terrain of bandits and drug runners. Although we have a taste for adventure, we will certainly not be attempting it in our van
We had expected to ship from Panama, but all our efforts to contact shipping agents there proved fruitless, and we finally stumbled upon a shipping opportunity directly from Costa Rica. On June 2nd our van will be loaded on to "MV Libra Leader", a Japanese vessel that delivers new cars to ports down the Pacific seaboard every two months, and we will pick it up again in Esmeraldas, Ecuador on June 6th. The ship is a Ro-Ro operation (Roll-on, Roll-off), which means that we will also be handing over the key.....with some trepidation, to say the least! The ships do not take passengers, so meanwhile we will be flying to Quito and then taking a bus down to the northern coast of Ecuador to pick up the van. We will, of course, be taking our most valuable things with us, but all the rest of our belongings will have to remain in the van. Although we have heard many horror stories of vans being stripped clean during this shipping process, we are somewhat reassured by the strict security on board the NYK line, as well as improved security arrangements at ports since 9/11. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for us!!