I’ve been fairly negative towards monkeys lately, but I have to say: At least they keep a regular schedule. Our adventure in Costa Rica continues with a visit to Manuel Antonio National Park. We also take on our final Central American border.
Tuesday, February 13th (cont.)
Ok. I survived a night in a tent “of mice and monkeys.” Time to drink in more of the beautiful country of Costa Rica.
This was a day all about the beach. I must confess, I’m not one who normally feels drawn to parking myself along some picturesque site and staying for many days. I could probably do that if I had to, but that will probably not be an element of this trip. Accordingly, I think I visited at least four different beaches in one day. If one is good, four is better, right?
I had a bit of a surprise early on in my ride: A toll! It was my first one since passing around Mexico City. A 50 cent hit to the budget was the price of admission to Costa Rica’s coast. I’ll survive….somehow.
First stop was Jaco. This is a major tourist beach. Since Costa Rica is a song place (55 of 92), I was still seeking my quintessential picture to represent the place. I got a couple of good options here.
The touristy places in Costa Rica offer an interesting contrast. Though all of the official street signs are in Spanish, all of the advertisements are in English. Whatever flaws exist within the collective character of Caucasians, spending money whilst on vacation is not one of them. 🙂
I sat beneath the shade of coconut trees and worked on some writing. Working on the beach is definitely a sin, but hopefully just of the venial variety.
Next I stopped by nearby Playa Hermosa, before continuing on to Quepos. On the way, I saw something that I had not seen since the US. A public spigot dispensing potable water. What luxury!
I also saw what I believe to be a coconut farm.
The city of Quepos is the jumping off point to visit the Manuel Antonio National Park (more on that later). As with the other touristy places, it was very “Westernized.” Speaking Spanish is scarcely a necessity and the US dollar is accepted at most businesses. There were some nice sights just driving around.
Driving is a bit of an adventure, since there are so many people in rental cars. It is difficult to assume whether a driver is going to be following Central American, North American or European driving rules. Anticipation is one of the pillars of motorcycle safety, but I had a really hard time predicting people’s actions here.
My residence was Manuel Antonio Hostel Resort. It was a nice place and only cost $12/night. The internet was really fast and there was air conditioning in the dorm room.
Unfortunately, they forgot to mention one important fact: That every day at around 4pm a group of squirrel monkeys comes tearing through the premises. They cause a general ruckus for about ten minutes before moving on to terrorize the next people on their list.
I had a nice, quiet evening and made some new friends.
Wednesday, February 14th
Basically just a work day. I mostly hung around the hostel, using the great internet to upload things that were long overdue.
One of my go to “meals” on days like this is a bag of chips and a bag of refried beans. You can just rip a little corner off of the bag of beans and squeeze it like toothpaste onto the chip. Super efficient!
I did take a break in the afternoon to go visit the beach. I parked along the road so I wouldn’t have to pay. The beach is really crowded. It appeared that you could buy almost anything from the roaming vendors without leaving the shade of your umbrella. There were surf/body board rentals, paragliding and everything else even remotely related to beach leisure.
It was a brutally hot day, so the ocean felt great. When I returned to Annie, I found that something had pooped all over her. I’m going to blame the monkeys.
Additionally, a random local walking by tried to get me to pay him for the parking spot. I actually got a little offended by this, as he was obviously trying to rip me off. I refused in a manner which was less polite than my normal demeanor.
I made it back to the hostel in time for the daily primate invasion.
It was another great night. I met a lot of people just in the process of making and eating supper. There were lots of Argentinians there and it was good practice to listen to their distinct version of Spanish.
Pete from Texas, Nico from Argentina:
Marco from Montreal:
As Annie fills up, signing postures must become more creative. Maybe I should auction off the remaining space to help pay for the trip? 🙂
Thursday, February 15th
I was up early. Today was my day to visit Manuel Antonio National Park. This is another unique area of biodiversity, where the forest meets the coast. Though it is relatively small in size compared to other National Parks in Costa Rica, it boasts 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. Only 3 of those mammal species fall into the monkey category, so it seemed like it was worth a visit.
I found another free parking spot along the road and had just a short walk to the entrance. The cost was $16. I walked through nearly the entirety of the park.
There was a decent amount of wildlife around.
This included lots of monkeys, of course. Despite my aversion to these primates, the picture at the top of this page is one of my favorite of the trip.
At one point I was approached on a trail by a gang of 7-8 of them. They are very used to having humans around. I am less used to having monkeys around.
I was really hoping to see a sloth, but never got a good view of one. A guide pointed one out that was high in a tree, but it was scarcely visible.
One of the main attractions of the park is the access to the four beaches contained within. These beaches are natural and peaceful, without a sunglasses salesman in sight.
But beware of the raccoons! A pack of five of them stealthily sneaked up and grabbed a bag of goodies sitting right next to a couple of sunbathers. They retreated back to the forest and devoured their spoils.
After many miles of hiking, I spent some time just floating in the calm waters. It was nice to be in a place that was so beautiful, yet peaceful as well.
I find it slightly ironic that the year in which I have the most evident farmer’s tan, is the same year that I am furthest from farms. 🙂
What a beautiful place. Hopefully my pictures have said enough, so I don’t need to say anymore. 🙂
When I returned to Annie, I found that a lady had “claimed” the area of public parking and was charging people to park there. I told her that she should have been there at 6:30am if she wanted me to pay (probably not the most polite thing, but my aversion to paying for parking is difficult to suppress). She went on a pretty significant verbal tirade, most of which I did not comprehend. She even lifted up her shirt to show that she was, indeed, a woman. I’m not sure what that gesture was supposed to accomplish.
I had initially planned on making some southward progress on the day, but couldn’t find any good lodging options close to the Panama border. I decided to stick with the known quantity of my current hostel and devote the evening to border crossing study. The last Central American border!
I was so engrossed in my work that I didn’t even go out to see the 4pm monkey visit.
Friday, February 16th
Panama or bust!
I had an uneventful ride to the border at Paso Canoas. I arrived at 11:30am and got right to work. The first thing to do is to visit the building pictured below.
Here is where you pay an $8 “exit tax.” Essentially you are paying for the privilege of leaving the country of Costa Rica. I thought about trying to circumvent this by claiming that I had no money and camping at their border facilities until they let me pass without paying the tax. Alas, time is of the essence. Next trip…. 🙂
At this building I got my passport stamped and went into customs to cancel my importation. The staff were impersonal, but fairly efficient.
Panama definitely wins the prize for most attractive immigration building.
Being that I arrived over the lunch hour(s), I knew that the process might take awhile. I tried to get my passport stamped first, but the lady there wanted to see my mandatory Panamanian driving insurance. The first office for this was closed, but one of the helpers pointed me to another place down the street.
$15 later, I was insured.
At first I thought “Danos a Terceros” meant that I was covered even if I had three people on my bike. I eventually realized that this phrase means “third party damages.” Spanish is hard.
I returned to migration office, prepared for an interrogation. I had read that some people were required to show bank account statements or even proof of onward travel for leaving the country. I did not have copies of either of these.
The lady did not ask me any questions until she had returned my passport. They were merely asked in a small-talk kind of way. After telling her about my trip she said that I needed to buy a car instead. 🙂
The customs office was really backed up with truck traffic. Unlike some borders where passenger vehicles take precedence, this office seemed to be processing trucks at a faster rate. Fine by me.
Once I reached the window, I turned over my documents and copies and was told to wait. I don’t know how long the wait was and I didn’t really care. I could feel that I was about to conquer the last Central American border. The wait would be worth it.
Plus, the guard was making some hilarious tweets about gringos on motorcycles (I assume):
Once my paperwork was done, I still had a thoroughly confusing dance of getting the bike fumigated, opening cases (they didn’t check the frunk), getting signatures; but one of the staff people sensed my confusion and constantly pointed me in the right direction. She was really helpful.
After fumigation (just a light sprinkling of the tires) I stood by Annie for about 10 minutes. One of the guards came and asked me what I was waiting for and I told him I was waiting for someone to tell me what to do next. He got the attention of the helpful lady and she waved me on, telling me that I was all set. The checkpoint a few kms down the road just waved me through. With that, we officially crossed our last Central American border.
Time to dance!
Neither bears nor monkeys have been able to stop us. 🙂
….and since it would be criminal to post that gif without the full video:
Though our swing through Costa Rica was brief, I feel like I was able to get a good feel for the things that make this country special. It really is unique in so many ways. My next visit will surely be longer! As always, thanks for reading.
Realtime update: I have survived my first day sans Annie (sannie?) in Panama City. I will have a couple of more down days which will hopefully get me caught up on my documentation. My flight to Cartagena is on Sunday. Someone tell South America to prepare for an invasion!