31 August, 2012

Day 56, 460km: Costa Rica

Woke up in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua and left around 7am, after a delicious breakfast. The night before brought good rest, which would turn out to be much needed. That would be a long day.

Starting with paperwork!
Crossing from Nicaragua to Costa Rica was much less of a hassle than the previous borders. There were a few helpers at the border zone entrance. I almost ran over one of them who was waving at me to stop, right in the middle of the road. I guess they got the message that I had no intention to talk to them since not a single helper bothered me after I parked.

Border cheat codes activated
 Again I cannot thank enough the guys at PanAmNotes for preparing such a great write-up. With this information in my hand, I felt like I was playing a video games with cheat codes activated. It spoils most of the fun but makes sure you'll be going through boring/hard parts with ease.

 There I met Jeannine and Libre, mom and son going from California to Paraguay (Uruguay?) on a bad-ass 4x4. We exchanged contact and I'll sure meet them when I'm in Paraguay (or Uruguay, my memory is a bit blur on that). Jeannine's father is French and we were both pretty happy to get the chance to speak French for a little bit.

Welcome to Costa Rica
 That was the first road into Costa Rica, which gave me the opportunity to paint the bike and myself in a nice muddy color. I didn't have a destination that day, lack of internet the day before meant I was headed in a general south-eastward direction and intended to stop when I was tired.
 I had another surprise encounter with a bird, this time he hit me right in the face, luckily I wasn't going very fast and the helmet didn't suffer any (visible) damage. I don't know what's wrong with birds in this part of the world, this is a third time I hit one in maybe 4 or 5,000km.
 Didn't stop to look for the poor thing, there was too much traffic on the road to do it safely.

Cool views up in the mountains
 Well the road and views were rather nice, I went into San Jose (capital city) and was surprised by the (relatively) cool weather of a city 1160m above sea level. I had been in contact with guys at "La Moto" previously regarding tires and thought I'd stop since I needed a few (minor) accessories for the bike.
Oui, c'est la moto
Unfortunately they didn't have any of what I needed in stock... Had a chat with Gary (?) the owner who's been driving race bikes 18 years in the US before moving here. Got the chance to finally ask a question that was on my mind for a long time. When in curves, I'm much more comfortable on turning right than turning left. I'm left handed. Gary told me that it's the same for all riders, usually one is more comfortable turning into the side opposed to one's dominant hand.
So I was glad to know it's "a thing" and that I'm not being scared for whatever reason to make left turns. Still my left turns are bad but now I can accept that fact.

San Jose, Costa Rica
 I didn't a very brief visit of the city and went back on the road. There were only two lanes, with heavy traffic and lots of mountain roads. Passing trucks in blind curves up in the mountain roads is always a fun experience. Now when there's 200km of that however it becomes simply exhausting.

So if you add fog...
 Above is a photo taken from the inside of my helmet, to show you what it was like up there in the mountains with a very dense fog and my beaten-up visor that isn't much good anymore at evacuating water.

Didn't expect that in Costa Rica!
 It was pretty cold up there (10 or 15C) and started raining as I reached the top of that mountain. I intended to go to a coastal town, the place was still 60km away. The rain got really bad and turned into a monsoon downpour. I stopped at the first shop looking thing I saw on the road. I turned out to be a coffee shop (hot coffee rarely felt that good) owned by a French-Brazilian couple (what's with French owning stuff in this part of the world, I don't know).
 We had a fun chat, they told me the last motorcycle rides they saw were Brazilian so I made things even! I was completely soaked at that point and asked them for a hotel, turns out there was one just 200m away in a side road so that's where I headed next.

Camping in a hotel, have you done it?
 Well by the time I checked in at the hotel, the monsoon downpour had turned into a full blown tropical storm. Thanks Denis and Jeanne for your advice, I'm glad I didn't go down the mountain under the storm.
 The electricity went off in the whole area just as I received the key to my room. Gone was my hope of a hot shower.

Why do they have power just 500m away? That's not fair!
I dropped my stuff, hoping it would dry a bit before the next morning, had a cold shower (better than nothing I guess) and cooked dinner with my stove under my headlight's pale beam. It felt like camping again, up there in the mountains of Costa Rica. Except that I was protected from the storm by a roof and a window, which were both much appreciated.
Still, I realized I kind of miss my tent. I haven't camped a single night in Central America (because of the heat, rain and lack of safe parking) and miss being in my tent a bit. It's small, uncomfortable and dark but it's the closest thing I have to a home on this trip. 

I finished reading Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes recommended by Marc-Philippe (thanks!) where Stevenson tells the story of his 12 days, 180km solo hike with a donkey. He describes far better than I do the feelings you get when exploring the land at your own pace. Part of the book also seems to describe an unconfessed epiphany with a strong emphasis on Protestantism, faith and the history of Protestants in the Cevennes. 

It's very unlikely that I'll be talking about this in the next few months I can tell you!
So I went to sleep, thinking about my tent and wondering when I would next be sleeping with her. My friend Garmin, the bike and the tent when taken together are my own Molestine, each with their own mood, strengths and weaknesses.

Cheers,
Guillaume

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