Getting to far behind on our blog! It's amazing how fast you can get behind on these things. I go back and look at the photos on our Facebook (PS: You have "LIKED" us on facebook, haven't you!?) and it seems like years ago when we first arrived in Costa Rica. Then I look at the date and realize it has only been 1 damn month. Crazy! We are now actually in Colombia, so much has happened since then. Time to get writing and get you guys caught up!
We said goodbye to Nicaragua and crossed the border at Penas Blancas. Quite an unorganized and chaotic border. Not as many touts and pushers bothering you but no real rhyme or reason to the whole process. Lots of running around chasing down random officials in blue shirts trying their damn best to hide from these gringos who need an exit stamp! It was a literal game of "Where's Waldo?" as we went from blue-shirted man to blue-shirted man crazily waving our paperwork in their faces. We finally found Waldo hiding out under a palm tree WAYYYYY off in the far corner of the parking lot. Clearly hiding.
Thankfully many overlanders have gone before us and written some great walkthroughs. Thanks again to fromatob.org for their great Penas Blancas crossing article. We made it through in just under 2 hours. Not bad at all! These things are fairly easy provided you do your homework!
We crossed into Costa Rica with no real plan, as usual. We were just going to drive around and figure out something to do when we got there. We drove and drove and drove without seeing much of any interest. We made it to a town called Liberia, Costa Rica and stopped to have a look around and use some internet to figure out what to do for the day.
Our research discovered that the Rincon De La Vieja National Park was just a few miles back the way came. Apparently Rincon Vieaja is an active volcano complete with steam vents, mud pots, and the occasional eruption spewing hot ash and boatloads of hot liquid acid into the air if you are lucky. (Just kidding Mom's! But seriously... it last erupted in Sept 2011)
Sounded like our kind of place, Hopped back in the 4Runner and drove up a horribly rutted road to the park entrance hoping we could camp there. The park was actually closed when we arrived. But we randomly spotted some fellow overlander friends Petra and Klaus, who we last saw in Belize over 4 months ago! We knocked on their door, said howdy and picked up right where we left off, sharing beers and swapping stories. They said they have been camping in front of the park now for 2 nights without any problems. So we setup camp and hit the park early in the morning.
The hike wound through lots of dense rainforest, certainly didnt seem like there were gobs of molten hot magma beneath our feet...
But after about 30 minutes we heard a faint rumbling and hissing off in the distance... Soon the acrid smell of sulfur filled our nostrils. Yep. Its a volcano alright!
We came across our first sign of the Earth's guts spilling out into the atmosphere in the form of these nice steam vents/mud pots. I tried getting closer for a better picture but the warning signs describing the 400F degree steam lurking under the deteriorated thin-pizza crust ground surrounding the vents deterred me. I settled for just chunking a few rocks and sticks into the hole for fun. YES, YES. FEED THE CRATER!
We continued our hike discovering more and more volcanic evidence. It seemed the earth was leaking out of every pore. Every once and a while we would come across a rock making strange gurgling noises, you touch the rock and it is red-hot. We thought if we moved the rock a huge plume of lava would come shooting out. Obviously, We tried moving the rock but instead of being greeted by a delightful shower of lava we just received 1st degree burns on our palms. Perhaps its the Earth's way of deterring us from unlocking Pandoras box.
Walking along the path minding my own business when I see a funny rock, I think that the rock kind of looks like a crab... Nah, Couldn't be.
BAM! IT IS A CRAB AND HE IS A PISSED-OFF CRAZY LAVA CRAB
I subdued him with a stick until Lauren told me to stop messing with the poor guy. He is already very lost. Silly Crab, This is a forest.
It was a beautiful day for a hike. We learned that the Costa Rican power company actually harvests some of the steam escaping from the Volcano and converts it into usable energy. An interesting concept I thought.
We packed up the truck and hit the road. The truck has been running like crap since Nicaragua and the hunt for the needed repair parts continues. Plus we needed to get our butts to San Jose, Costa Rica to pick up Laurens Mom and sister who were expected to arrive soon.
Everybody settle in for a little BACK-STORY TIME. AKA Blah, blah, blah... Where are stinkin pictures?
The 4Runner has been acting up since around Lago Ometepe back in Nicaragua. For some reason she seems to have no gusto any more. I can't seem to rev her past 3000 RPM while driving down the highway. While cruising along I could pin the pedal and the motor would bog out and run like crap. If I geared down and slowly creeped the pedal up above 3000K it seemed fine. To me and my research this sounded like a TPS (Throttle Position Sensor). We decided to go on a parts hunt in San Jose. This turned out to be a waste of time. We jump from used auto parts, to the dealer, to a new auto parts house. I found a generic O2 sensor but they had no specific 22RE parts that I could find. Oh well, She still runs, Don't she? I'll worry about it later.
With Laurens Mom and sister arriving to Costa Rica soon our plan was to hunker down and stay a few nights near the San Jose Airport.
We found a cheap motel in Heredia and went inside to pay for the room.
We came back outside and see some old man walking towards us with our fridge in his hands. I am runnin over yelling at him wondering how I can justify punching a Grandpa in the face when all of the sudden the owner of the motel comes out yelling that this old guy is actually his friend.
It turns out some young punk tried to run off with our fridge while we were inside paying for the room. Luckily these two old
timers saw it all go down and karate-kicked the kid who then dropped our fridge and ran off. +1 for Old Man Strength and +2 for
not having to fight a senior citizen. He probably would have kicked my *** anyway...
All that said and done we moved everything of value inside the motel room just in case. We got on facebook and sent out some feelers to see who was in the area.
Turns out one of our blog followers and a fellow <a href="http://expeditionportal.com[/img]expeditionportal.com</a> member, Erick, lived right there in Heredia about 10 minutes from our motel. We met up later that night for some beers. We got to practice our spanish (which gets better and better with each drink) and listen to some awesomely horrible spanish karaoke. I considering singing those Tico's a rendition of "The Gambler" they would never forget. Even if they wanted to...
Erick and his sweet Nissan pickup.
Instead we stuck to planning a 4x4 overlanding trip together out on the Osa Peninsula in a few weeks. We had both heard that the roads out there were very bad AKA fun. Erick also gave me a lead on his mechanic who may be able to track down a new TPS and take a look at my issue. He graciously agreed to drive us out there the next morning.
His mechanic checked it out, agreed it may be the TPS but would need more time to be sure. We decided to come back later once we had picked up Laurens Mom and her rental car.
During our facebook blast we learned that fellow overlanders Brad and Sheena from http://DriveNachoDrive.comwere in the San Jose area as well. Word on the street was they were setup in some giant palace looking out over the mountains. They had bedrooms to spare, beer in the fridge, and meat on the grill. We said Adios to our motel in Heredia and headed for the hills!
We rolled up to the bad and simultaneously said "UPGRADE!!!"
When we came inside we met Brad and Sheena already hard at work whipping up some amazing dinner in their baller *** house. The place was a friend of a friends vacation home. Berry nice... Berry berry nice.
Dinner was delecious and many beers and storys were shared. As with every overlander we meet we became fast friends. We all have similar (Read: slighty insane) mindsets and outlooks on life. The community doesnt exactly discourage grandious ideas, going BIG is kinda our thing. As Brad and Sheena told us of their plans to ship their 1984 Volkswagon Vanagon to Asia to continue the journey once they hit Ushuaia, We started getting ideas of our own....
Brad also mentioned a neighbor who recommended an english-speaking mechanic in town. He had taken his VW Van there a day or two before. I figured it would be easy to just drop the 4Runner off for repair with this guy while we ran around Costa Rica in Lauren's Moms rental car... More on this later.
View from the Kitchen Window
Next morning I woke up and strolled around the "grounds". Thats what rich folk call a backyard. The house is set on a beautiful coffee farm with boatloads of beautiful plants and animals.
Aside from Coffee and Mangos, they had a "Cashew Tree" as well. I never realized cashews grew on trees, nor that each Cashew grows out of an individual fruit on said tree. The more you know...
Here you can see the "Cashew apple" just barely starting to form and the nut beneath.
Lauren and Sheena had left for a hike at 7 in morning that day. We had talked the night before about leaving at 10:30AM to pick up her Mom from the airport. When the girls weren't back by 9:30 I started thinking hmmm...
I started loading the truck, casually glancing over my shoulder from time to time wondering where the hell these ladies were at. Lauren is known to wander off for hours at a time on her morning hikes but she usually pops up eventually. I assumed she <em>did</em> in fact want to pick her Mom up from the airport...
At 10AM Brad and I considered them officially lost. We jumped in the 4Runner and searched the hills surrounding the house searching for our lost sheeps.
They couldn't have gotten to far... Or could they? There is a lot of land out there...
After 30 minutes of futile search and rescue I had to drop Brad off at the house and hightail it to the airport solo. It was a stressful ride as I racked my brain trying wondering how in the hell I was going to explain that Lauren was hopelessly lost somewhere in the Costa Rican mountainside to her mother.
Racing like a madman I made record time to the airport. I actually beat the plane by 45 minutes.
I found a payphone and called Brad's house.
"Are they there?"
"Yep, they just showed up"
I could work on the details later, all I needed to know was that she was alive.
I met Laurens Mom and sister, grabbed their bags and started walking them towards the Rental car pickup. I could see the confused looks on their faces wondering where their kin was hiding.
"Its a long story... but shes OK"
We headed back to the house and reunited. Everything worked out in the end as it always seems to do. Everyone was alive, Mom and sister were here.
Brad and Sheena from DriveNachoDrive, Carly, Lauren, Laurens Momma, and yours truly. Safe and sound!
You can read Brad's much more thorough and well-written account of our ladies MIA report on his blog here.
Time to see some sights!
Haha. Thanks for the link to his story!
Can't wait for more!
Thanks again for the updates!
Moto's, Bikes, Cruisers, and Overland Vehicles
Now that Laurens Mom and sister have arrived we had some exploring to do! We loaded up the rental Toyota Rav4 with all our gear and hit the road. Our first destination was the Monteverde cloud forest up in the mountains. We waved goodbye to Brad and Sheena, plugged the coords into the GPS and away we went.
It was a beautiful paved highway drive back towards the northern side of Costa Rica. After about an hour we turned off the highway and started down some smaller paved roads, which gave way to a potholed road, which eventually gave way to straight dirt track. Ahhh... GPS how I love the adventures you take us on.
The dirt track took us up into the mountains through some fairly decent offroading action for a rental Toyota Rav4. I had to use 4x4 twice to get up some steep skree track. Banging up this rough and rugged road we successfully scared the crap out of Lauren's Mom who kept mumbling something about a "deposit"...
Lauren assured her this kind of driving was quite normal in Central America and away we went. The scenery was beautiful and as long as I kept the RAV4 a decent distance away from the sheer cliff drop off everyone was happy.
View from top of the pass. You can see the Nicoya peninsula and Golf of Nicoya off in the distance
View towards Monteverde, You can see all the clouds hovering over the "cloud forest"
We eventually arrived in Santa Elena, where Carly had booked us a cool little apartment complete with kitchen so we could cook most of our meals. We settled in and got to eatin' and drinking.
View from the apartment
Next morning we were up early to see the sights. First thing first. Coffee.
The coffee is served in traditional Costa Rican style. The device is called a "Chorreador" and consists of a cotton bag which is filled with grounds and hot water is poured through.
As you can see, Carly is very excited about the coffee. Yes... Yess!
Finished product. Delicious
After getting our caffeine boost we headed to the "Butterfly Garden". I was thinking... Ohhh great. Butterflies. This is going to be lame. Suprisingly enough it turned out to be very interesting. We got to see and interact with some cool butterflies and bugs.
Lauren's Momma with a Blue Morpho
The girls got to release some freshly hatched? butterflies into the garden.
More pics, vids, and the rest of the story on the blog at http://homeonthehighway.com/mommaverde-and-puerto-viejo-costa-rica/
We were up with the roosters in Puerto Viejo. We had to truck it from the Caribbean coast back to the interior of Costa Rica to pick up Lauren's dad from San Jose airport.
We waved goodbye to the Atlantic knowing soon enough we would be seeing the waters of the Pacific. One of my favorite parts about Central America is you can drive from ocean to ocean in one day. Bored of the Caribbean? Let's check out the Pacific!
After we grabbed Lauren's dad we headed out to the Pacific. First order of business, Lunch and drinks!
After fueling up we headed to Playa Bejuco, Costa Rica. A small little beachside community south of Jaco and north of Manuel Antonio. A perfect basecamp for relaxing on the beach and taking in the sights. This time Carly found a nice little beachhouse for us to stay in while Laurens dad visited.
We unloaded our junk and hit the beach!
We spent the next week exploring the area and eating/drinking our faces off! My favorite kind of activity.
Ed working the grill. These Central American coals take finesse!
Many an Imperial were drank. The official beer of Costa Rica.
Every night was spent beachside watching the amazing sunsets.
We were there for the "Super Moon" as well.
View from the El Avion restaurant.
It was nice to take life in the slow lane and enjoy some family time.
After a week of hanging out in Playa Bejuco it was back to the airport once again to drop off Lauren's folks and prepare to pick my Mom up the next day.
I am getting to know the San Jose Airport pretty intimately....
Off Road Photography: www.nwoods.smugmug.com
After dropping off Lauren's Dad and Sister we prepped for my Mom's arrival.
Originally the plan was to take her around in the 4Runner but after a hell-raising few days of dealing with a mentally unstable mechanic who will further be referred to as "Bill the Butcher". We threw in the towel and got another rental car. More on that later...
We grabbed Mom and headed out to Dominical, Costa Rica. I have a long-lost Uncle who has been running the Bella Vista Lodge out here in the jungle since the mid-70's. However, none of us had ever been.
We learned that he recently leased it out to another ex-pat named Bert. We arrived not knowing exactly what to expect.
What we found was a wonderful blend of the mountains, jungle, and the ocean. Basically, We found paradise.
Every sunset was matched with "Sundowners" of course.
Toucan's would wake us up each morning with their distinct call. In the background, you could hear the howler monkeys hooting a response.
We spent a few days at Berts, relaxing, taking in the nearby beaches and doing some horseback riding through the mountains with my long lost cousin.
Some of the gorgeous Costa Rican countryside and jungle we rode through.
We parked the horses and started hiking out to a secret waterfall
We crossed the river via this crazy trolley my Uncle rigged up years ago
Mama enjoying the wild ride
Our reward for our hike. We swam in the crystal clear and COLD waters of the falls. It was a refreshing dip after a long ride and hike
On the way bike we found this beautiful Strawberry poison dart frog. It was about the size of a dime and BRIGHT red. Don't touch!
More of the story and the rest of the pics on the blog at http://homeonthehighway.com/mamadukes-visits-costa-rica/