Los Chilles, Costa Rica to a sailboat somewhere in the Caribbean!!

June 5, 2008



Map of our route thru Costa RicaSmokin´Volcano near La Fortuna Volcan ArenalEntering Costa Rica!Entering Costa Rica

Above- walking the beach near Quepos

After the all night boat ride across Lake Nicaragua, and then a river boat ride, we landed in another world at Los Chillies, Costa Rica.  We instantly noticed that the level of cleanliness had risen enormously!  And the houses aren’t surrounded by concrete walls with razor wire, but instead have mowed grass and shrubs!  Somewhat reminiscent of the good old USA.  And everything is lush and green – bazillions of shades of green!  Restaurants are as clean as in the Us and the waitresses are even friendly like they want to try to earn a tip.  We don’t appear quite as much like a freak show as in other Latin American countries, because some locals actually ride bikes for fun and exercise, and even dress in real biking clothes.  We ever-so-slightly blend in, ever so slightly mind you. 

Time for a Coconut break!                                    Ralph and Moon (day 2 of his bootcamp)


Once in Costa Rica we rode several days through rolling green hills of pastures, sugar cane and pineapple fields.  We climbed steadily, but gradually to La Fortuna  at the base of Volcan Arenal, one of the 10 most active volcanoes in the world!  We did a nature hike through the forest, spotting tucans and howler monkeys, then at sunset we watched red hot rocks vaulting out of the volcano’s crater, then bouncing down the steep flanks where they would shatter into a million glowing pieces that would continue a spark filled tumble to the base – too cool!!!  Ralph has a degree in Geology – this was geology in action!  We also took a rest day in La Fortuna and soaked in an amazing hot springs with many pools, all of which were at different temperatures.  We particularly took advantage of several waterfalls dumping into the pools, which we used as our personal nature masseuses, massaging our sore muscles – heaven! 


Pacific coast – first overlook – yahoo!                                       Pacific coast sunset!

We spent the next day riding around the very long and beautiful Lake Arenal, through pristine rain forests.  Along the way we spotted howler monkeys, tucans and wild turkeys.  We sampled the fare of a few restaurants along the way too.  We had awesome brats at a German place and the world’s best macadamia nut brownies (Ralph was skeptical – until he tried one!) at Toad Hall.  We talked to the owner, Dave, an ex-Boulderite, and got great info on the area.  We spent the next

Below – stop and smell the flowers

                                                                                Above – be careful where you park your bike!!               

two days climbing a wicked steep dirt road into the cloud forests to Mante Verde, then plunging to the Pacific coast.  We stayed in Quepos two days.  The town wasn’t much, but the nearby national park had pristine, nearly deserted brown sand beaches straight out of the postcards.  We left Quepos and bounced down a bumpy but thankfully flat dirt road to yet another killer beach at yet another coastal national park.  Nestled in the jungle just 50 yards from the beach was a great little cabina attached to a friendly lady’s home who also happened to be a great cook.  She brought us the best mango we ever tasted straight from her tree – 8” in length kinda like a smallish succulent football!

We also met a friendly couple staying at the cabinas who were scoping out the area surf for a camp they will run this summer.  The beach here was dark brown sand and super flat.  We could walk out 100 yards and still only be waist deep. 


After 2 more days of riding, one of which was on a rough dirt road with a  couple of the steepest hills we’ve encountered so far on the trip, we ended up in Drake  Bay, named after the pirate, who claimed it to be the most beautiful spot he had come upon..  It was pretty hard to argue that statement!  We were swimming in the unbelievably warm water of the bay when a flock of 20 brilliant red, yellow and blue scarlet macaws flew over and landed in trees along the shore.  They are impressively BIG ( 2 ½ ‘ long, 3’ wing span), colorful birds.  It was like watching a movie – in technicolor of course! 


We biked the rest of the Osa peninsula on a very flat road to Puerto Jemenes, then caught a water taxi to Gulfito on the mainland.  From there we climbed back up, up, up about 4000′ into the mountains, clouds and rain (wow, can it pour here!) to the quaint little mountain town of San Vito.  Here they have a large European influence so the area has GREAT BAKERIES with FRESH FRUIT CUSTARD TARTS AND GREAT COFFEE BY 5 AM (unheard of in the rest of Central America)!!!!  It was on an early morning trip to the bakery that Pat noticed our biking friend Damian’s photo on the front page of the San Jose newspaper with an article about the Argentinian’s bike trip from Alaska to the tip of South America! What a small world!!


Costa Rica was truly a tropical paradise, full of amazingly colorful birds,monkeys and plants of every shade of green.  Riding down the road it smells sweetly of hibiscus and a multitude of other colorful flowers growing wild along the ditches.  Most Costa Ricans were more than happy to help us in figuring things out, and were very patient with our Spanglish (a little bit of Spanish, a little bit of English) even kindly and politely correcting our clumsy Spanish.  Costa Rica is definitely on our list of return trips!


From San Vito, we biked on gravel back roads, left gorgeous Costa Rica and entered Panama at a non-busy border crossing in Rio Serena.   The road from the Costa Rican/Panamanian border to Volcan, the first destination across the border, was like a black roller coaster, climbing and dropping in 1000′ intervals through brilliantly green rolling hills/mountains covered with alternating coffee fields shaded by huge ponderosa pines and big pastures full of dairy cattle  We got caught in a rain storm at the top of the last big climb before town.  It’s been raining every afternoon since mid-Costa Rica – it certainly gets old.  We try our best to be at our destination before it, but today the immigration and money exchange took longer than we expected.  By the way, Panamanian currency is the US dollar, which we gotta tell you is a pleasant switch from the Costa Rican colon.  500 colones equals 1 US dollar.  It just didn’t feel right paying $1000 for 2 beers!  We waited for the rain to stop while huddled under some large trees, but the rain started coming through the trees long before it decided to let up, so we rode the last long descent (5 miles) into town in the pouring rain.  This was yet another one of those adventures we’d rather be sitting at home telling about than actually doing.


Volcan had beautiful surroundings, including an extinct volcano as a backdrop.  It also had a great Greek restaurant – a pleasant change of pace from the typical Central American fare of rice and beans, fried bananas and a meat for every meal – EVERY meal.  After several days of catching up on internet (time to order more gear and bike parts for South America), we rode out of the beautiful, but wet mountains to the flatlands and the dreaded Pan Am Highway.  As a note: the Pan Am Highway designers did an excellent job of plowing it through the most monotonous stretches of Central America, Panama being no exception.  We try to avoid it as much as possible.  Unfortunately no through roads follow the Panamanian highlands, which we feel are prettier than even Costa Rica and Guatemala, so we were banished to the boring black gash.  The one exception was around the tiny town of Tole, where it climbed quite steeply through the jungle.  Also at Tole we were invited to stay with a local family for a night.  We exchanged information about our two very different countries and got a first hand look at daily life in Panama – much simpler than the US.


We put in big days along the Pan Am, starting at 6:00 am in order to finish before the afternoon rains.  Our destinations along the way were David, Tole, Santiago, Penenome and La Churrera, before crossing the Panama Canal  on a bridge (in the back of a passing truck that a policeman flagged down and ordered to give us a ride across, no questions asked – bikes aren’t allowed to ride across it) and heading north toward the Caribbean coast.  We passed through a beautiful jungle area of a national park after the bridge on a quiet narrow 2 lane road.  Along the way we met another biker, Ezra from Texas, who is also biking to the end of the earth and who today was heading to Puerto Linda to catch a sailboat to Columbia – the same reason we were headed there.  There are no roads in the Darian Gap region, the southernmost area of Panama (mainly to keep Columbia’s drug problems in Columbia – it slows the flow enough that the Panamanians are in no hurry to build a road), so to get to Columbia you have to either fly or take a sailboat.  We opted for the sailboat since it seemed more in line with our mode of travel and had a romantic/pirate-type feel to it.  We are currently on a sailboat, the Melody captained by the competent Mark and his lovely wife and first mate Paola, and accompanied by a great group of backpackers.  So far we sailed one day to get to  the San Blas islands off the coast of Panama.  Here we will spend two days snorkeling, swimming, wandering the tiny mostly uninhabited islands, staring into the clear Caribbean waters, and taking a vacation from our vacation at “the swimming pool”, a crystal clear bay.  From here we will across the open waters of the Caribbean to Cartagena, Columbia.


Well folks, this marks halftime in our fabulous journey.  Get up, walk around a bit, fluff the pillow as they say, get a bite to eat in the kitchen, and hurry back for the second half!  Meanwhile we’ll just hang out on the boat, have a couple celebratory shots of tequila for knocking off a quarter of the planet!!!!  It is hard to believe that we have been riding for almost 12 months and have pedaled just 50 miles shy of 10,000 miles!!!  On a typical stretch of road we make 250 pedal revolutions per mile.  Therefore we can safely say that we have moved our legs through the very familiar rotation over 2,500,000 times!!!  Just think how many calories that burns, and more importantly, how many ice cream bars you can consume with no unwanted “side effects”!  Having shared those thoughts, we are certain that Pat’s girlfriends will be lining up to join us!


Seriously though, we have seen absolutely spectacular country, viewed towering jagged peaks, huge glaciers,  countless wildlife, pristine beaches, lonesome deserts, gorgeous lakes and all sorts of colorful and not-so-colorful cultures.  We have witnessed pristine settings and appallingly filthy conditions.  We have seen the huge vacation homes of the very wealthy and the tiny mud huts of the very poor.  We have seen a world you will never see on TV.  Almost everyone we’ve met along the way has been open, friendly and helpful, and we’ve discovered that the world is a whole lot friendlier than the US news stations depict it.  We just hope the second half of our journey will be as great as the first.


Stay tuned!!


Biking on, Pat and Ralph

We finally have been able to post photos, so here are some more for you to enjoy!!!

Below – boat ride into Costa Rica – bikes up front






                                                                             Typical hotel with pool – $18 per night!!!




Above – riverside home of locals                          Above – Ralph and Moon biking the rolling hills




Above – Hibiscus                                 La Fortuna, Costa Rica            More flowers!!!!            


Ralph eating breakfast at La Fortuna – outdoor kitchen



  1. Bueno!

    Just happened to tune in and find your most remarkable blog yet. The photos interspersed with the copy bring one right into the adventure. 10,000 miles is actually 40%of the earth’s circumference…by the time you reach Puenta Arenas you’ll have biked most of the distance around the globe.

    Heading to Ouray next Friday for summer with both bicycles. Thanks for the terrific update!


  2. Hi Pat & Ralph!!
    Congratulations on your achievement! It is great. I am the male member of the couple you met at the restaurant/hotel in Media Agua, San Juan, Argentina. I am reading through your log and enjoying tremendously. Great photos.

    One comment/correction: Ralph, (I think it is you) the spelling of the country name is Colombia, not Columbia. I am not sure that you can change the spelling in the posted places though.

    Best to you in your next adventure.

    Liz & Lito

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