And every day is a Groundhog Day! On the day of departure to Bahia Salinas it rained again! What a surprise! Means the gravel road at Lake Arenal would be a slippery and dangerous affair. The route was simply too steep. Therefore, we preferred to play it safe and decided for an alternative route along a main road in the north of the lake. I still had my doubts, because we knew meanwhile that a main road in Costa Rica does not necessarily mean that it is also completely paved. The first kilometers were great. The road was wet, but with good grip. The landscape was a bit like at Lake Constance, if you ignore the coconut palms and banana trees. I expected a dirt road behind every curve and almost dared to hope that we would be lucky this time. But no! Suddenly the asphalt ended. The gravel road was not the problem (not too steep, no deep sand or gravel), but it was extreme for our material and cost time. The "road" was not only littered with potholes, but also full of big stones. In between the Luis packsack and the kite pump felt down because the straps came loose. So, it was time to stop, put it back on and drive on. Then it was finally done and not only us, but also our bikes breathed a sigh of relief. But not ten minutes later we found ourselves in the middle of a thunderstorm, which accompanied us to the Blue Dream Kiteresort. There the Italian owner, Nicola from Verona, welcomed us and immediately destroyed our hopes: Wind hadn't been there for a while. The forecast (because of which we were also here, by the way) looked good again and again, but then usually no wind came through. But it rained for three days full power, so we were glad to have a room instead of a tent. Now we had the chance to dry all our stuff.
In the evening we did not pay attention to our budget and bought an original Italian pizza from the stone oven in the Blue Dream Restaurant. That was by far the best pizza on the whole trip. Nice lose ground, a lot of topping and super juicy. We really deserved that! Afterwards we sat by candlelight and red wine on the narrow terrace. Probably due to the tiredness and the rain we asked ourselves the following questions: Do we now carry our kite stuff again thousands of kilometers in vain? How bad will the rainy season be?
We wanted to make the most of the dog weather and worked on the laptop. Not only to develop the homepage further (Kai is currently translating it into English), but also to prepare the further journey to Nicaragua. The situation in Nicaragua was defused, it was still bubbling. Due to the decrease in tourism last year, many campsites, hostels and hotels had to close. We have met a former hostel owner in Tamarindo who is now trying to gain a foothold in Costa Rica. Therefore, we wrote to all campsites and hostels in advance to make sure that they are open. But our laptop went on strike: Hardware failure! Looking closer it was clear why: The hard disk had become lose due to the shocks on the dirt road and had to be pushed back in again! Luckily it was only a mechanical problem, but you had to find it first! Even if the hope dies last - there was actually no more wind. We waited every day, reminded a bit of Lake Como, but nothing came, except rain. At least one day there was a bit of sun between the clouds during a rain break. You could admire the wonderful view and watch the capuchin monkeys in the tree next door.
On the last evening we had another pizza - who knows when we would enjoy a good pizza again. And for me there was a Tiramisu for dessert. Like in Bella Italia! The next day we had to move on to Nicaragua. We were looking forward to it, because Nicola (the owner) had already warned us: This border crossing is the worst organized border in Central America! Hooray!
On the day of departure to La Fortuna we got up early again. It had rained for a week only in the evening. On the day of departure, it rained for the first time of course in the morning. So, we had to wait again. When it finally stopped raining and we had finished packing, we shook our boots as usual before we put them on. Meanwhile we were used to the fact that one or the other spider or ant fell out, but we had never seen anything like this before. Thousands of big ants fell out of my boots together with their eggs (looking like maggots)! We had never seen anything so disgusting before. And only in my boots they had nested themselves! In Kai´s the smell was probably not bearable…😉 All shaking helped nothing and made the critters only more aggressive. So, Kai had to go to buy insect spray. Luckily, this helped. He also sprayed his boots as a precaution, a few ants had dared to enter there as well.
It was after half past eleven when we finally got going. So, we drove again beautifully through the midday heat. After a short time, our feet started to burn - maybe an ant had survived after all? But it burned more like a real burn. The whole foot hurt. During the lunch break we both had to take off our boots because it was unbearable. Then it dawned on us why our feet were not only burning but also red: The mixture of chemistry and heat caused an allergic reaction! But we had to move on. Dark clouds were brewing again. Shortly before the Lake Arenal Google Maps sent us a shortcut along. I asked if we were right and I doubted that the road would still be tarred when the asphalt ended. Well, we were used to dirt roads meanwhile, as long as it wasn't so steep uphill and downhill. But then there were more and more rocks and stones on the way and it finally became a trail. This forced us to turn back. Again, half an hour lost. Now we had to hurry up to arrive before the thunderstorm in La Fortuna. Suddenly, however, also this asphalted road became once again a dirt road and it went steeply up and down. Beautiful with lots of gravel on the way. Perfect! We were both already exhausted and Kai would have preferred to stay in the next hostel (he had seen a German hostel with Bratwurst & Co.) when there was again a road block. With over 30 degrees and sun there is nothing more beautiful. Especially in the middle of a steep gradient without the possibility to park the motorcycles! Next to me a moped driver stopped and I asked him about the further condition of the road. We already had the fear to have to spend the next 55km on this dirt road, but he told us it would be only 10km. After that everything would be asphalted. Thank God! When we could finally drive on, I observed the odometer again and again and counted how many kilometers we still had to stand this. Then it was finally done: We were on the asphalted road! But now came the thunderstorm! So, we had to drive further slowly, since the roads were already wet. After endless kilometers we finally reached our destination: La Fortuna!
We stayed three days and enjoyed the beautiful garden which is the home of two sloth. We were lucky to be able to film these animals even with their few movements. Otherwise we saw toucans and iguanas. Actually, we wanted to explore the area and relax in the Hot Springs, but the weather just didn't go along. Every day it rained even earlier and more intensively. Every time we were wet to the skin. At the first heavy rain we were just in town and strolled through the souvenir shops. After twenty minutes in the same shop it got too boring and I spotted a chocolate museum next door with free samples. Well, you don´t have to tell me twice! So, we could use the bad weather and I tried different chocolate sorts. Heavenly! There I also bought cocoa beans. At least they don't melt in the heat... Otherwise we had no other choice than to relax and work on the laptop. And we finally found a good and cheap red wine!
Kai had a cold and muscle aches. To be on the safe side we checked every hour if he had a fever. Because with tropical diseases such as Dengue, Malaria & Co. is not to be fun. But it seemed to be only a cold. With all the rain, heat and then again "cold" (27 degrees), not surprising.
We had to announce our border crossing to Nicaragua one week in advance. This was easy with an online form (https://solicitudes.migob.gob.ni/Tramites/RegistroN ). The gardener, who had often shown us where the sloths are, always warned us because of Nicaragua. We should pay attention and be careful. Of course, we thought about it. Many, including locals from Guatemala, had advised us to drive through Nicaragua quickly. But we had also heard of other travelers who had recently been in Nicaragua who didn´t feel insecure. Since it has some good surf and kite spots, we wanted to visit at least three spots. But we would have to rely on our feeling.
We got up extra early in Santa Teresa to reach the overnight stop in San Pablo before the midday heat. But when we dismantled the tent it was suddenly clear where the strange smell came from that surrounded the tent for quite some time: A dead crab, the size of a palm of our hand, lay between the footprint of the tent and the floor of the tent. But not enough. It lay in the middle of a large, brown, stinking pool. So, we first had to clean the tent floor and put the tent underlay in detergent. Of course, we got off later than planned and thus fully into the heat. The dirt road was mastered but behind Paquera the road was suddenly closed. Construction work on a bridge. In two hours, the road would be passable again. The alternative route would mean 1,5h to drive back and then still another hour across the mountains over a dirt road with river crossings to drive. We were already advised against this route in Santa Teresa. There it came regularly to raids. So, we waited two hours in the shade. With growing concern, we watched the dark clouds piling up more and more. Also, the information that 25km of unpaved roads awaited us after the road closure, did not necessarily brighten the mood. But as long as it was easy to go up and down, that wouldn't be a problem. It would only take longer. As long as it didn't start raining, everything would be fine... When we were finally allowed to drive on, our worst fears came true: It was really steep up and down through the mountains along the coast, sometimes with deep gravel and sand. Perfect! At least we had the luck that the thunderstorm waited until the end of the gravel road. But then it struck with full force and pouring rain. Without an accident, but really exhausted, we arrived at the destination for the night: Cabañas Mi Mama. We rested and hoped that a good road to Tamarindo would await us the next day. Because this is, like the route before, a main connection route. But we knew now that this didn't mean much.
The rain that started in the afternoon didn't end the next day either. So, we slept in and waited until it finally stopped raining. At eleven o'clock we finally got going. Fortunately, the road to Tamarindo was well developed. Thus, we were already 1,5h later at our destination in the "Tamarindo Eco Camping & Hostel". The camping area is in the middle of the hostel and we had to set up our tent almost directly next to the common area. The roofed campground was unfortunately already occupied. The hostel has a well-equipped kitchen and even two refrigerators. So, we first went shopping and looked for something cheap to eat. Cheap and Tamarindo doesn't really fit together. We spent more than seven Euros for a few empanadas. Tamarindo is a nice surfer place with many shops, bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, we couldn't afford anything. Kai desperately wanted an ice cream or a waffle for dessert. But 2€ for a scoop of ice cream or 5€ for a waffle are simply too expensive. But Costa Rica is not called the Switzerland of Central America for nothing.
For surfing Tamarindo was finally exactly what we were looking for: nice small to medium waves, great for practicing. It was however a strange feeling to surf beside warning signs (caution crocodiles!). Especially when I saw a crocodile in the river after surfing alone in the morning. At the weekend there were an incredible number of surfers in the water, but during the week it was fine, we just had to go when the others didn’t. Early in the morning or when the tide was not perfect.
Also, at the camping we had again animal experiences: We had to store our food in the fridge or in our suitcases, because at night raccoons made the kitchen unsafe. Even the fridges had to be locked. A raccoon even ate himself laterally through a taped polystyrene box to get to the food. Two small tomcats fought each other daily in the camp. A "catfight" took place in our tent, which led to the first real crack in the tent. But there were also beautiful animal experiences, like the countless fireflies that shone the way back from the beach after the sunset.
Unfortunately, our fears that the nights would not be really relaxing were confirmed, as we slept right next to the common area. But even that didn't stop us from surfing in the morning.
The rainy season had only just begun, but it rained reliably every day. One evening so violent that we almost swam away in our tent. The next day we had to hang everything up to dry. During a strong thunderstorm some of us left the camp for an observation tower. The lightning struck directly into the tower. Luckily all of them were wearing flip flops and nobody had held on to the railing. Otherwise it could have been very bad. Because of the thunderstorm there was no electricity in the afternoon. Not unusual in Costa Rica. But strangely all neighbors were supplied again with electricity and only our camp lay in the dark- That´s why we became suspicious. We found out that the owner had probably not paid the last electricity bill, because the cable had been separated. Fortunately, the manager of the camp was able to pay the bill quickly and so we had electricity back the same evening.
Since the rain was so heavy, we moved into a tent of the hostel for the last two nights. We spent hours cleaning everything of mud and drying it. Unfortunately, the smaller cat had also peed on the tent cover where we had kept all other covers (mattress, pillows etc.). We put everything in detergent for one night, which helped luckily. Thus, we had at least the tent itself now in the dry. At least we thought so. On the last evening it had torrential rainfalls and the yurt (into which we had moved) came to its limits. Everywhere the water seeped in slowly. Lucky us we stored our tent exactly under the only small hole in the yurt and became thus wet again...:-)
Since we had read in some blogs that the border crossings in Central America take a lot of time, we had planned only one hour driving time for this day. But this time was also long, as we were checked twice in the short time. The first time by the police (only papers) and the second time by the military (here we had to unload and open everything from the Yamaha). The departure from Panama was quite fast. A so-called "agent" helped us. He even wanted 20$ for his services (we had negotiated him down to 10$). We didn't have to open all our suitcases and bags again. The entry to Costa Rica went very fast for us, for the motorcycles it took longer again. But with altogether 2,5h this border crossing was still quite good.
We spent the night directly behind the border in Paso Canoas in the hotel "Osley del Norte" and I even found a mattress for 15$ in the Duty-Free shopping center (mine was broken)! We stocked up with chain spray again. Better safe than sorry.
The next day we went to Uvita to pick up the obligatory bands that a motorcycle friend (www.imoff.to) had left for us. In Costa Rica these have to be worn for safety reasons when riding a motorcycle. Quite clichéd Kai took the blue ribbon and I had to take the pink one. It looked more like the one from a bachelorette party... Since there are some camping sites in Uvita, among them the "El Chaman" with roofed campgrounds, and the spot for surfing looked quite OK, we decided to stay there for a few days. Actually, we wanted to go to the surf spot Dominicalito, but there was no (affordable) possibility to spend the night there. Since we were almost the only guests, we were allowed to put our motorcycles under our own sheltered place. It rained every afternoon or evening. Thus, we had not only the tent, but also our little horses in the dry.
We had already sweated a lot on the trip, but in Uvita it was really the coronation. You couldn't get out of the sweating at all. Unbelievable. It had also tons of mosquitos. You had to spray yourself with repellent all the time and run back from surfing to get as few stitches as possible. We had already heard from other travelers that the water in Costa Rica should be so warm. And yes, it really felt like a bathtub. Even while surfing we sweated!
The surf was ok but not brilliant. The waves break sometimes here, sometimes there, but hey, you can surf. The first visit from home was just around the corner! A colleague was on vacation in Costa Rica and visited us. She kindly brought some things with her that we didn't get here. Thank you Elena!
After we finished the travel planning, the laundry and the work on the homepage, we went on to Jaco after three days. But we didn't like this hyped surfer place at all. Skyscrapers, hardly any local shops, but KFC & Co. instead combined with an average beach break didn´t convince us to stay longer than one day. We had free entrance to the beach club "Blue Jaco" because of the overnight stay in the hostel "Riva Jaco". But it was Sunday and the Ticos have a different understanding of relaxation. Loud club music and lots of alcohol (which we couldn't afford) led us to leave to the beach.
The next day we took the ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula. Only the last kilometers on a dirt road up to the surf spot Santa Teresa was hard work. Totally exhausted we arrived on the Zeneidas Camping & Cabañas. Here it was "back to the roots" - cooking on an open fire. So, it was a lot of work to make a coffee. The place was quite nice, directly at the beach and in front of the famous surf spot. We knew that a big swell would roll in the next days, but we didn't expect such huge waves. So only the smaller waves stayed inside. We didn't dare go into the big walls further outside. But there were a few very good surfers and it was fun to watch.
After three days we decided to head for a spot according to our skills: Tamarindo.
On the way from Colon to Playa Venao on the Pacific coast, we crossed the Panama Canal once. Actually, we wanted to go to a lookout called "Pedro Miguel" but on the spot they told us (but the descriptions on the internet said nothing like that) that this lookout was not open for tourists. We had to go to the Lookout "Miraflores", but it costs 20$ entrance fee. That's why we left it to just cross the bridge. With an overnight stop in the motel "Residencial Aguadulce" we arrived the next day at 35 degrees in Playa Venao. Actually, we wanted to spend the night directly at the main spot, but there everything was very expensive (28$ for Camping - no thanks!). Therefore, we headed to the Hostel & Camping "Venao Cove" at the far end of the bay. There we pitched up our tent for 7$/person the night. Shopping possibilities were limited. There was a small, completely overpriced Minimarket and a bakery, as well as some small things to buy in the hostel. But every few days a "Fruit & Veggy Truck" came by, with relatively good prices. By chance we found out that you could get food delivered from Pedasí, a town one hour away, for 7$. We thankfully took advantage of this service and supplied ourselves with everything we needed besides fruit and vegetables. And of course, beer and meat for Kai.
The rainy season was just around the corner and everything was very dry and burned. According to the photos on the internet the water should be turquoise and the beach white - unfortunately it was not. But the waves were good and there are even three different spots. We didn't have to walk far to get to surf. The "Venao Cove" offers a lot for the money: Large kitchen with lounge and two chill areas with hammocks. So, it was quite bearable and we stayed longer than planned. We got to know very nice people, also many long-term travelers and had great surf sessions together. There was also "Wildlife" enough: Monkeys roared in the morning and in the evening, we also saw them from time to time in the trees, crabs populated the beach and in the water on some days unfortunately countless jellyfish, which one felt with every paddle stroke. That´s why we all had burns again and again. One jellyfish even made it under my rashguard. It burned like hell. The day before I had already rammed the fin into my thigh. Luckily the fin is quite blunt, so there was only a slight cut. On some days you should simply stay in the hammock...
There was only one thing that really bugged us. A psychically cracked bird. He was probably injured by the cat once and since then he is mad. He even stayed in the kitchen and stabbed us in the back out of nowhere. We had even put a bounty on him. But neither the cat nor the dogs made any effort to grab him. Probably even they had respect...
In Venao the "Semana Santa" (Easter week) could be endured very well. It had only three days (Good Friday to Easter Sunday) loud music on the beach and in the evening a festival in the village center (music until 7 in the morning). It was a new and interesting experience to go surfing with loud reggaeton or techno music. Otherwise it was relatively quiet. Only my broken mattress stole my sleep. Three chambers had connected and so I lay either left or right of the "bead". The manufacturer EXPED USA had promised us a replacement, we hope it won't get stuck in customs again like our kite material...
Depending on the tide we went surfing, relaxed in the hammock and worked on the laptop. Kai surfed his first small barrels (hollow breaking wave in which the surfer completely disappears) and I also made more and more progress and fought my way through the waves into the "lineup" to the other surfers.
Actually, we wanted to go for a ride through the rainforest. But the horses were looking for food in the mountains (at the
coast everything was burned) and after that they couldn't be found anymore. When they were finally found, a horse probably had a cold and so the ride got cancelled again.
After two weeks we managed to leave this place and drove on. Since we had stayed longer than expected, we decided not to stop at another surf spot in Panama, but to continue directly to Costa Rica. So, we stayed one night on the way on the informal camping site "Buena Esperanza" behind Santiago. There we pitched our tent directly under a huge mango tree, next to a small lake. But unfortunately, a pole broke during the pitching up. After already a pillow and a mattress had broken down, now also the most valuable one broke: Our home! We repaired it with a sleeve and hoped that no more poles would break. Then we would have nothing left to repair it... We sat restlessly and angrily on the chairs and watched the locals climbing the mango tree and harvesting fruit. We also got some and enjoyed fresh organic fruit directly from the tree.
The next morning a lot of turtles watched us having breakfast and we enjoyed the peace and quiet at the lake. We gave the campground keeper a small donation (camping itself was free here), then we went on to David for the last night before the border to Costa Rica. The rainy season already had started there: We were showered properly after shopping! Afterwards Kai had to repair his turn signal - it was broken off (probably out of solidarity to the BMW) during the trip...
We had actually made it. On the 6th of April we finally entered the sailing boat from Cartagena to Panama. 5 days without internet, just relax and let your soul dangle. But the open sea is not a lake. Before the sailing trip we had bought tablets against seasickness but it wasn´t the plan to actually take them. We were lucky and "only" had 2 meters high waves but this didn´t prevent us from seasickness. We spent two days on the open sea and could enjoy life on board. Again, and again we were accompanied by dolphin schools and sat on deck to enjoy the vastness of the ocean. We were lucky with the weather and had to be careful not to get sun burned too much. Our two British fellow sailors lay on deck during the crossing and slowly turned into lobsters. The next days they spent wisely in the shade. The starry sky at sea was simply incredible and the fluorinating plankton sparkled like diamonds in the rising spray. Simply a magical moment. We had never seen anything like it before in our lives.
We were lucky with the group. We were a total of eight guests and three crew members. All nice and super relaxed. The chef gave her best and so we ate healthy and good. From pancakes and fruits for breakfast, over rice with vegetables and meat for lunch, to Red Snapper for dinner.
Arrived on the islands, we could not get out of our amazement: Small islands over and over covered with coconut palms, white sandy beaches and turquoise water. This is how we had imagined the Caribbean! Also, the underwater world was beautiful. Most of the reefs were still intact and were home to a large fish population and colorful corals. One evening we made a campfire on the beach and searched the shallow water for fluorinating plankton. This sparkled like stars in the hands and Kai in the face.
The entry to Panama officially took place on the island El Porvenir. It dragged on for several hours, but we could chill in hammocks, bath and have lunch. We had never experienced such a relaxed immigration before. The departure ticket from Panama (it was recommended to us to have it, since Panama usually requires this to make sure that you leave the country again) we did not have to show. To be on the safe side we had reserved a flight to Mexico in order to be able to show this as confirmation of the departure.
As we would not arrive in Puerto Lindo / Panama as planned on April 11 in the morning, but only in the evening, the captain offered us to stay another night on the boat. Since Colón is probably the most dangerous city of Panama, he did not think it was advisable if we arrive there in the dark. We accepted the offer gratefully and enjoyed another night on the boat in the harbor of Puerto Lindo. Early the next morning we left to Colón by taxi. There we met at half past seven with Pepe and Alegria, our shipping partners. The Argentinians and Brazilians were supposed to join us, but didn't make it in time. We had to start the procedure before 11am, otherwise we (it was Friday) would have to wait until Monday, because customs don’t work at the weekend. Fortunately, they were finally there at nine o'clock and the paper war started. First of all, there was no stamp on the entry paper of the container ("Bill of Landing"). After that we went to different places to get some stamps and papers. Since the harbor area is quite large, we had to move with a taxi. At 14 o'clock we finally got our motorcycles and vans back. Unfortunately, the turn signal of the BMW had broken off and someone had tried to steal the BMW emblems. Someone even tried to break into the VW Van of the Spaniards! For the fact that in Colombia it was such a big deal to seal the container with police, it was incomprehensible to us why we were not allowed to be with the opening of the container in Panama. And that, although it was said, everyone had to be present at the time of opening! It must have happened exactly in between. Very annoying!
Completely sweaty we packed our motorcycles again (luckily, we had been able to store everything in the VW van of the Spaniards, otherwise we would have lost some of it...) and drove the six kilometers to the hotel. There our fears became true: There were no secured parking lots! We would certainly not leave our motorcycles out on the street! We only had two options: Either to take a more expensive hotel around the corner (with guarded parking) or to drive half an hour to the next camping site. Since it was already late afternoon, we decided for option 1. The guards were very nice and assured us well to watch our motorcycles. For shopping around the corner, we could still get around on our own. But we had to be accompanied to get to an ATM. Better safe than sorry. It is simply too dangerous!
After we had rested a bit and repacked everything, we finally drove on the next day. We left the Caribbean coast and headed for the Pacific. After almost 6 weeks we finally wanted to surf again!