Matapalo to Paso Canoas. Biking in Costa Rica

The benefit of camping is being closer to nature and it is better for the environment and the budget. Saturday nights thunderstorm and downpour cured us of the temptation of being that close.

Terrestrial rain and proximity of lightning resulting in a power cut when we were still in the open kitchen at hotel/campsite Charlies Jungle House, so that was not too bad. All night downpour with our tent being in a slight dip resulted in moisture entering through 2 layers of tent footprint into the sleeping quarters. On top of that, the door to the kitchen and showers was still closed at 6:30 am and we had to wait until Charlie showed up to unlock it. This made us decide that as of now we only will wild camp when safe and/or really needed and when there is no rain predicted.

At least we camped once again but it took ages to slightly dry the tent and we still had to pack it wet, adding again weight to Franks heavy load.

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We started to reconsider camping at the seaside, but Frank was against camping in the rain again when our gear had not even dried yet. When we see an old sign saying “Tortuga Hospedaje” we decide to call it a day and see if we could dry our stuff. We first check with a roadside store how far it still is as google maps is not working and we don’t see it on MapOut. Only one kilometer down the road we are welcomed by Fabio, from Switzerland, moved here 8 months ago and is now refurbishing the hostel.

Clean, small, remote…perfect. Luckily Frank carried food so we can cook our own dinner and breakfast in the open kitchen as only lodging is provided. Morning welcomes us with bright sunlight which gives us the possibility to finally dry our gear.

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Route continues between palms or banana trees. Wondering how it was possible that so much of worlds biodiversity has been converted to mono-culture, which is consuming tons of water, changed the environment for the local people and is only providing work and good money for a limited number of people. Palm plantations are already estimated to cover up to 27 mil. hectares of land globally, a landmass the size of New Zealand, and even this may be an underestimate.

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nd we all use palm oil as it is an ingredient for margarine, chocolate, ice cream and bakery products. And widely used in non-food products such as soap, candles, and cosmetics. On top raw oil is also part of fuel for cars and trucks. We see a few production plants owned by Shell.

On Google Maps we found cabanas (very basic lodging)in this area, so we follow some back roads, but are again disappointed to find that what is indicated on Google Maps sometimes just does not exist (anymore). Directed back to the main road by locals and returning in the direction we came from, as there should be cabanas close to the HW. When we arrive we face the next challenge as these cabanas are closed for the season. We ask the local shop if we could camp but they recommend against it.

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A local road salesman says we should again turn south as there would be cabanas at the intersection 14 km down the road. Already later in the afternoon so we try speeding. And this all with a road that is not flat. But at least a good road, not too much traffic and no rain! At the intersection with 245, the road heading to peninsula and Corcovado National park, there are no signs of cabanas.

When asking around we can rent a cabana a few km down road 245, at a restaurant at the intersection, at least going the right direction. Luckily there is a grocery store, taking all we need for a basic pasta which we cook at the door of our tiny room, as the restaurant in front of the cabanas is closed.

Happy to be inside as it starts to rain just when we have found the cabanas. Next day biking 245 is a joy.

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Special moment when honoring Sam on his birthday.

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We decide to stop at Playa Blanca. As it will rain again, the shelter of an old wooden house/cabana is better than camping. We cook on the concrete floor with the drumming sound of rain on the metal roof. Camping 2.0. What a magical spot.

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Our hostess, Christina, cooks a healthy gallo pinto breakfast. 67 and 8 kids, no longer a husband as he took off but beautiful kids and grand kids that keep her busy. And self supporting with camping, cabanas and restaurant. A recommended nice remote spot with crystal clear drinking water and limited connectivity.

We continue riding along the bay and visit Finca Kobo for a great cacao drink and coffee. Today we first bike to Dos Brazos, remote village giving bordering to the Corcovado park.

As visiting the park is ridiculously expensive we opt to hike to hostel Bolita. It is a hostel which you can only reach by a 30 minute walk over a small foot trail and crossing 1 wide, but shallow river. All linen, gas, etc is carried to the place and you need to take everything you want to eat and drink with you. Drinking water is provided by a well. So we first need to sort out what we need to take for our 2 nights stay, bikes and remaining stuff is locked at the “office” in the village.

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The Hostel is a real hostel, basic with a shared kitchen, bathrooms and toilets. Everything is clean which is quite some work as the jungle continuously tries to take over. Located on top of the hill with a beautiful view of the bay. As it starts to rain when we arrive we decide to chill in the open living area.

You can choose for a bed in a dorm or a bed in a private cubical with your own patio and view. No doors, no windows, very thin walls and limited privacy if the hostel would be full. Only a mosquito net around your bed separates you from crawling creatures (spider was as big as half of my hand).

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In the morning an opossum climbs the papaya tree in front of our bed. So cool to only have the sounds of the jungle and nothing else. There is only one other guest and he stays in the dorm. We soak in the quietness and only leave around 11:00 for the hike to the waterfalls. Walking trails have been made by the owners who now have this spot for 15 years. We spot monkeys, poisonous frogs and lizards. Only the last 30 min we are welcomed by a downpour. Even if it is so peaceful we decide to leave the next day.

Great ride, first following a dirt-road to Puerto Jimenez, 10 min too late for the ferry to Golfito but this gives us the opportunity for a real lunch with seafood and a beautiful view, watching locals and immigrants.

Interesting discussion with a Canadian lady who just moved here with husband and daughter. They will start an eco-lodge with access to a wide river for fishing and a waterfall to generate energy. Seems that 150$ per night is an average price for their target group of anglers and bird watchers from the US. We also meet Cristopher who is leaving for the heptathlon of Panama. It is a track and field combined event contest made up of seven events. One of the 15 best young talents in the country.

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Our captain brings us safely to the other side with his 2x 300 hp ferry, with our bikes at the front. In Golfito we stock-up with some food and we bike to a hostel just outside of town. Still could not beat the rain and are again soaking wet when arriving. Seems that rain is seeping though our rain jackets.

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Old colonial house converted to a fancy, rather expensive hostel but with a beautiful view. No swimming as a crocodile was spotted. We see our first turtle, but at first did not recognize it as such, as they usually do not have antennas sticking out of their backs. Apparently this one was followed by a transmitter in some project.

On Saturday it is our last biking day in Costa Rica before crossing to Panama. Of course we choose for the back roads. Some of them are gravel and almost no traffic. After a while we hit 238 which runs parallel with the Panama border. As downpour starts again we are happy it is a “real” road. At one moment there is so much rain we shelter and every downside has its upside, since we get to see the last 10 minutes of Uruguay against Portugal. Just before Paso Canoas heavy rain and thunder starts again. We choose the easy option and stay at the first hotel we see, with great beds and warmest shower in a very long time.

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21 days biking and hiking in Costa Rica was a bliss. We have not hiked so much in a very long time. What a difference between the mountains and the seaside. Friendly people, amazing biodiversity. Super clean road sides and villages. When we reached the border we came to the conclusion we have not seen any big city or much of cultural life but were glad that we have been able to spend so much time in nature and discover so many amazing animals in their natural habitat. Costa Rica is already much further developed and organized than any of the other Central America countries. They understand the natural wealth they have and protect the biodiversity and use it this as a source of income by exploiting it for tourism. They start to see the impact of palm and banana industry and counteract against this. Hope they can resist the easy money of big companies buying lager parts of land or destroying too much land by cutting it up in smaller lots to be developed for tourism.

Still it is the first country which is aiming to be climate neutral in 2021! Not sure they will make it, but at least a praiseworthy target was set.

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