Day 118 – Santa Clara, CR to Boquete, PA

Day 118 – Santa Clara, CR to Boquete, PA      12/17/10      Mileage: 138

This morning I gave the bike a good once over and did some routine maintenance as the hotel had what amounts to a car port. Once I finished and the bike was packed, I set of for the Panama border…country number 10! The GPS maps for here and all of Central America that I downloaded are a mixed bag and not nearly as good as the U.S. of course. Sometimes they’re OK, other times whole towns or regions may be blank….hence why you always need a paper map also. Well, I was well off the beaten track and the GPS was helpful but with only the general direction I needed to go. The paper map was of little help as the road I needed was not on it….so I was left to do a lot of asking the locals.

Hola, do you guys know where the Rio Sereno border crossing is?

Let’s see…is it down this road…nope.

Hola, do you guys know where the Rio Sereno border crossing is?


Hola, do you guys know where the Rio Sereno border crossing is?


Hola, do you guys know where the Rio Sereno border crossing is?


OK, one more try with the GPS…


Hola, do you guys know where the Rio Sereno border crossing is?

Not looking good…

Hey wait….what’s this?

Holy crap, this is it!

After numerous wrong turns and many stops to as directions from the Tico’s, I finally found the tiny Rio Sereno border crossing which is down a random unmarked dirt road. I was also glad to see that I was the only overland traveler at border….cool! Once I found the right building, I was processed out of Costa Rica in 5 minutes by a guy who live in Freehold, NJ for 3 years….too funny!

This is the Costa Rica immigration building…

Next it was on to the Panama immigration office which also took all of 10 minutes to process through. Next it was to the Panama aduana to get an import permit for the bike, but alas….the office had just closed. Well, there’s actually only one guy who works there, and he was going to lunch…even though it was only 10:45am.

This is the Panama aduana “building”.

No problem though, I’ll have a bite to eat myself and have a look around. At 12:30 the aduana office door opened I started the process of importing the bike. The gent working in the office was a really nice guy and very helpfull…he even walked me around to the insurance office to show me exactly where to purchase the compulsory insurance.

My new friend at the Panama aduana office…

Done! Time to hit the road…

So once that was done, I was off and running in Panama! The road from Rio Sereno towards Volcan is awesome! Rural, twisty, mountainous, perfect pavement and largely deserted made for some great riding and I’d put it on your list if your down this way.

The route to Boquete that was the most direct turned out to have a bridge that was out. Bollix! Now I had to go all the way down to the Pan American highway to David, and then back north to Boquete…a 60 mile detour. Oh well, I went 100 miles to retrieve my bloody Big Sky t-shirt, so I guess that’s not too bad!

My $20 hotel with HOT running water!

The info center on the way into town found me a nice hotel for $20 with…wait for it…actual real honest to god HOT running water! It had literally been 2 months since I had a real shower with hot and cold running water….I might take two just because I can!

Here is todays route profile below….ups and downs usually mean lefts and rights also….that’s the good stuff!

Day 117 – Cartago, CR to Santa Clara, CR

Day 117 – Cartago, CR to Santa Clara, CR 12/16/10 Mileage: 197

After weeks of being in the tropical heat, the cool mountain air of central Costa Rica feels awesome! Dare I say it was even cold last night, as the hotel was at a little over 5000 ft above sea level, or about the same height as Denver, CO.

GPS elevation data from todays route.

So I bid farewell to my love-shack and hit the road headed over the mountains back towards the coast and the surf town of Dominical where I’m going to stop in and say hi to the brother-in-law of my friend Danielle. The road was socked in with fog which was too bad as the views would have been great!

 But as the road climbed it broke through the clouds into glorious sunshine all the way to the top of the mountain pass at just over 10,000 ft!

The view was awesome back over the clouds with distant mountain peaks poking through.

That #$%$@# saggy rear shock. I stopped to take a photo and the damn bike toppled over again. Of course I have nobody to blame but myself, I just didn’t get it on enough of a downward slope…knowing full well the rear shock is toast. Bollix! This guy stopped to help me pick it up which was nice of him…

Ahhhh…this is good stuff!

Once over the pass the road descended into the town of San Isidro before climbing back up and over one last small mountain range before the coast.

 Looking down at the town of San Isidro

This jet was just sitting on the side of the road like it fell out of the sky intact….becasue there is no runway anywhere to be found!

Josh is Danielle’s brother-in-law and he owns a restaurant in Dominical called Maracatu. Unfortunately (for me, not him!) he was out surfing, so all I got was a picture of my bike with his restaurant.

That will have to do as the road south beckons along with my desire to reach South America! My goal now was to reach the small town of Santa Clara which is only a few kilometers from the small Panama border crossing of Rio Sereno, well off the beaten track and the Pan American Highway.

Here is yet another reminder why you can’t (shouldn’t) ride fast down here. Here is a shot of an obscured corner where….surprise! Half the road is gone…your side of the road! It was a good 10 vertical feet down into the ravine. Yep…no cones or warning either.

Once in Santa Clara I found a reasonable hotel and then wandered out to find dinner and some wifi.

All the nicest hotels have piles of debris like this one…  😛

Dinner proved much easier to track down, as the only places that seemed to have internet were computer shops that were now closed. Oh well, the blog will have to wait.

Day 116 – La Fortuna, CR to Cartago, CR

Day 116 – La Fortuna, CR to Cartago, CR 12/15/10 Mileage: 103

I spent almost 4 hours at a little cafe this morning updating the blog and looking for information on getting my rear shock spring replaced in Panama city. The bike is running great and I have no complaints or problems save for one….the stock rear shock spring. It is really soft, and even though I am traveling reasonably light and have it adjusted to its stiffest setting, it is sagging so much that the bike will barely stay on the side stand on level ground with bags on. To park the bike on the side stand now, I have to look for uneven ground and lean it to the downhill side. Once I get on the bike, I would say at least half or more of the suspension travel is gone and the ride is terrible on rough roads. So hopefully I can find a shop that can replace the coil spring on the rear shock, or else I might have to replace the shock all together which is big $$$. So after all that internet surfing, I didn’t get on the road until 1 in the afternoon.

The view of Volcan Arenal from La Fortuna….looks dangerously close to me!

A Wave Sport “Kinetic” whitewater kayak….I used to own one of those! (Remeber these John D!)

 The road south from La Fortuna towards San Jose is full of twists, turns, ups and down….in other words, fun!

Traffic in San Jose

Because of the late start, I wasn’t going to make it very far, and nightfall and rain both caught me just south of San Jose.

Are we having fun yet!?

I ended up in a no-tell-motel again, but this one did not have a stripper pole unlike that one back in Mexico.

However, it did come with 2 free beers!

I guess if you’re staying in this kind of place, you want to keep the good times rolling before either of you sober’s up enough to see how truly unattractive the other one is. Anyway, like last time it was quite clean and a bargain at $20. The “regular” hotel just down the road wanted $68! Did I mention it also had a garage?

It’s the no-brainer of motorcycle travel no-braniers. It was still pissing rain and I didn’t want to go back to town several miles for dinner, so I dug out my “emergency” tuna pack which has been riding around in my bag since San Diego. I washed it down with one beer and a granola bar with the other. Good enough.

Day 115 – Jaco, CR to La Fortuna, CR

Day 115 – Jaco, CR to La Fortuna, CR 12/14/10 Mileage: 161

This morning the guys headed further south on their whirlwind blast down to Panama, and my plan was to backtrack slightly north towards Lake Arenal, before turning back south through the central mountains. The weather was perfect and the skies clear and blue…it was going to be another great day of riding. I got off the CA-1 heading through Juntus and up into the mountains.

The road turned to dirt within a few miles and the riding was only rivaled by the spectacular views looking back across the bay to the Nicoya Peninsula in the distance.

Looking across the bay to the Nicoya Peninsula in the distance…

The road turned back to pavement near Lake Arenal and the ride around the lake was picturesque and twisty good fun.

The famous Lake Arenal…

I stopped off at The German Bakery which is a great place for a coffee and a croissant….which is what I did!

These cute little guys were foraging right next too the road…too cute!

Lake Arenal and Volcan Arenal….

I spoke with this Canadian couple for a while…it was their 3rd time to Costa Rica.

I ended up in the town of La Fortuna where I managed to find a nice room for $15 after much asking around.

Afterwards I wandered out for dinner at the Lava Lounge and used the wifi.


They also had Leffe in bottles!! After months of a steady diet of local beers(which are drinkable but average), you have no idea how excited I was to have one of my favorite Belgian beers…I savored every once!

Day 114 – San Juan del Sur, NI to Jaco, CR

Day 114 – San Juan del Sur, NI to Jaco, CR      12/13/10      Mileage: 197

This morning I knew right were I was going back to for breakfast, and upon walking into El Gato Negro I saw 4 guys in moto gear sitting a table. I went over and started talking to them and they are on a 2 week ripper from Texas to Panama! They shipped their bikes down to Texas, crossed in Brownsville and will be shipping the bikes home from Panama. Seeing as we were going the same way, a tagged along with them.

We hit the Nicaragua / Costa Rica border by 8:30am and aside from the usual 20 signatures, 7 different offices, 15 officials and numerous photo copies, the border was smooth and uneventful. But after the Honduras border crossings, anything would seem simple by comparison! All told it took around 2.5 hours or so, and we were on our way into Costa Rica.

Sneaking by a line of trucks on the Nicaragua side…

Let the games begin…

Checking the bike permits…

Outside the Nicaragua immigration office…

Last checkpoint in Nicaragua…

First stop in Costa Rica….bike fumigation. In Honduras, this cost $11, and they didn’t even spray the bike(which I now know was BS anyway). In Costa Rica, this didn’t cost anything and he did a nice job…as my bike hasn’t been cleaned since L.A.!

Costa Rica immigration…

Costa Rica aduana (customs)

Last window for customs inspection of the paperwork

Final Costa Rica checkpoint…yahoo!

Last checkpoint…

We’re in and on our way south!

I’m not sure who started it…and I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit it… but before long we were all riding like complete hooligans…and took many liberties with the traffic laws and common sense! It was like a game of you could make the most dicey or ill-advised was a little nuts and in hindsight a bit foolish. It was however good fun at the time!

We all survived though and pulled into the beach town of Jaco mid afternoon. After finding a room and a shower, we were off to dinner and man is Costa Rica expensive compared to Nicaragua, El Salvador etc. I knew it was going to be but it’s every bit as expensive as the U.S., which is partly why I’m not going to spend too much time here.

After dinner we found a bar that had the Giants game projected onto the side of a building nextdoor…now that’s a big “flat” screen.

 I’m not much for team sports, but I do like watching the Giants every Fall…and I only got to watch one other game back in Guatemala, so this was a treat.