Category: Costa Rica

Overlanding Rainy Costa Rica

As the truck was now in order and our hotel room was becoming much too comfortable, we set off for the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica.  Who could resist the tropical beaches, warm breezes, and fresh seafood?  We were pumped to start the journey. We blasted out of San Jose, only missing one or two turns as we got used to our GPS again.  Our spirits were high.  We’re doing this!  As usual I said something about how well the driving was going, and seconds later all traffic halted and we were stuck in a long line of stopped vehicles.  The road crew was painting the lines on the pavement. Talk about hurrying up and waiting.  Our impatient North American sides, fresh off the plane, were not quite subdued and tranquillo yet.

We heard the road was closed from 7am-12pm and 1pm-4pm.  Luckily we only had to wait for 30 minutes and we arrived just in time for the road to open again.

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We continued to the coast and arrived at Camping Maria, our campsite for the next few nights.  Maria turned out to be kind of a wacky lady, in a lovable way (when she wasn’t accusing you of stealing ice cube trays or nagging you to turn off the lights…).  She had the best laugh and a wide smile.  And most importantly brought us fresh coffee every morning that we appreciated very very much.

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Maria showed us how to make fried plantains and roasted whole coconut, which was pretty awesome. The smoky taste of a roasted whole coconut is unreal. She put it over the flame of the gas stove until the outside was charred, so I am sure you could re-create it at home on the BBQ or in the oven. Just remember to drain the coconut water first! One of the resident dogs, Manchas, seemed to love the roasted coconut as much as I did.

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We were so fortunate to meet Lisa and Jason (Two Wheeled Nomad), a British couple who are riding motorcycles from Ushuaia, Argentina to Alaska. We spent many a night with them playing pool, drinking wine, chatting, and making potluck dinners in the kitchen. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for them we would have blasted the heck out of dodge because the weather was so terrible. We literally experienced a torrential downpour every day we were on the coast. The first night in the tent involved earth-shattering thunder and lighting, and extremely aggressive rain. But Lisa and Jason’s dry British wit and tales from the road made us stay, and it was worth every minute.   They really inspired us with their simple lifestyle and I have to be honest that I turned to Richard and said, “I want to do a motorcycle trip one day too!”

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We beach camped on our last rainy night at El Arrecife and had a lovely dinner powered by Jason’s beer can stove since we didn’t have time to refuel our propane before leaving San Jose.

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As the sun was going down the tide was coming up.  The waves crept up so high that it flooded Lisa and Jason’s poor tent and they ended up sleeping on the deck of a cabana, only to be interrupted in the night by the disgruntled resident of said cabana. We woke up to about 4 inches worth of water that flooded the campsite by morning. It was pissing down rain and everyone knew it was time to move on to the next destination. We said our reluctant goodbyes to our newfound friends, and headed for the mountains of Panama to escape the rain.

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Picking up our truck from San Jose, Costa Rica – We’re Back!

Just as Ashley was mentioning how well our flights from Vancouver to Houston to Costa Rica were going, our connecting flight from Houston to Costa Rica was cancelled.  I guess Volcan Turrialba had other plans for us when it erupted and cancelled 13 flights due to the ash it spewed onto the San Jose airport runway.

After a night at the Houston Intercontinental Ramada Inn and a little bit of alcohol to make the night go by more quickly in the hotel that was under construction, we woke up, flew to Panama City, and eventually arrived at our final destination of San Jose, Costa Rica.  Surprisingly, all 6 checked bags of ours arrived successfully.  Seriously though, we checked three at the main counter, one at the oversized bag counter, and two at the gate.  We were almost certain that at least one of our bags wouldn’t arrive in San Jose.

It was awesome to be back in San Jose, Costa Rica knowing that we would be back on the road again, but before that we needed to pick up our truck.  We were optimistic about our ability to get our paperwork sorted, pick up our truck, complete an oil change, and head toward the Caribbean Coast the following morning.  Things definitely didn’t go as planned, but I guess in reality that is to be expected.

According to Heather and Scott’s Adventures blog post on picking up the truck in San Jose, Costa Rica we had three simple tasks:

1)  Purchase insurance from INS.

2) Reinstate our temporary vehicle permit at the Aduana Santamaria.

3) Pay for and pick up our truck from storage from Almacen Fiscal El Coco.

We were feeling good after our early morning journey to the INS went without a hitch, and we purchased the truck insurance within a half hour.

The problems started when we went to Aduana Santamaria to reinstate our vehicle permit.  It looked like everything was going well until it suddenly wasn’t.  Since our permit was suspended for so long (almost a year) they wanted a new vehicle inspection report completed on our truck.  We took a taxi to El Coco’s  and asked for an inspection.  Without a response from the man behind the desk, he took our paperwork, filled out a inspection report, signed it, and handed it over.  Okay, apparently this wasn’t going to be a detailed inspection.  Another taxi took us back to the aduana, but that’s when there was yet another problem…

We had the correct paperwork from the storage facility saying that they had the truck, but unfortunately it was missing Richard’s passport number.  This was an easy correction for the storage facility to make… but their computer system was down.  We waited until closing time, but still couldn’t get the paperwork revised.

Day two.  This was more of what we were looking for.  Back to Aduana Santamaria in the morning to pick up our permit.  As you can tell from Ashley’s smile, there were no problems this time around!

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We were offered a ride by a sketchy looking guy parked on the side of the road selling drinks out of the back of his van.  Old Richard and Ashley would have kindly refused and slowly walked away, but we took him up on his offer and blasted over pick up our truck from Almacen Fiscal El Coco.  No seat belts, no problem.

The process at El Coco went better than expected when they gave us a 20% discount on our storage fee because they thought the quoted price was too high.  What??  This single act of kindness definitely made up for any issues we had with flight cancellations or incorrect paperwork.

Now it was time to see if our truck would start after sitting for a year…

All we had to do was reconnect the battery and the truck fired up without a hiccup!

We stayed at the Costa Verde Inn in Escazu and it was the perfect place to set up camp.  The staff were extremely friendly and helpful, the cost of the room included a delicious breakfast, and we were given a free room upgrade.  They had ample and secure parking, which is always a plus.

DeskToGlory_CostaRica-3The truck got a thorough washing, an oil change, and a new exhaust hanger.  Last year in Guatemala I smashed the tent on a low hanging guy wire that bent the hinges and split open the cover.  We also had the chance to swap out the hinges and cover of our CVT roof top tent in the parking lot of Costa Verde.

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The Costa Verde Inn was a great place to spread out all of our old gear and new gear and organize our truck life.  Ashley spent a good deal of time washing out our Rubbermaid containers, pots, pans, dishes, etc.  The wicked-fast internet was perfect for planning the first few days on the road.

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So now what?  We’re off to the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica and looking forward to spending some time on the beach before making our way to Panama!

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Party’s Over: Storing the Truck in San Jose, Costa Rica

We spent the our last few days in Jaco at the Kangaroo Hotel prepping for storing the truck in San Jose, Costa Rica. Our spare time was spent surfing in the Pacific and swimming in the hotel’s pool.  It took us about two days or so to do a full clean out of Little Red, including washing all of our dishes and utensils, vacuuming out the cab and the tent, packing up the stuff that would stay, and organizing the stuff we would take with us on the plane back to Vancouver.  It was a very strange feeling to spend that last night in the tent.  Our rig signified home for us, so it was sad to know we would be spending only a few more days driving in it, and that our tent wouldn’t see the light of day until our return.

We chose to park at the government-bonded El Coco storage facility in Alajuela, Costa Rica.  Heather and Scott’s Adventures have a great blog post outlining the location, contact person, and storage process at El Coco.  Everything went smooth for us and Andres was a great help.  He speaks English so the whole transaction was easy and relatively stress free.  The only problem was that at our time of arrival the vehicle area inside the warehouse was full, so they had to move some things around before parking the truck inside.  This meant that we had to leave the truck parked outside of the warehouse and hand over the key for them to move the truck inside later that day.  It was a good thing Ash had her fake Ray Ban sunglasses on, which were perfect for hiding the wee little cry she was having about the whole situation.  Richard just happened to get something stuck in his eyes, and that’s why his were watering…

The next day and a half waiting for our departing flight in Alajuela was a confusing daze.  We drank at the hostel’s rooftop bar to drown our sorrows, looked forward to seeing friends and family, reminisced about our time our 8 months on the road, and started thinking about the next leg of the trip down to Ushuaia, Argentina.  The conclusion after all that, was that this trip was the single greatest thing either one of us has ever done.

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A seemingly long airplane ride took us from Alajuela to Houston, Texas, where we arrived at our gate to board our flight to Vancouver.  Another 4+ hours later we touched down at YVR Airport just after midnight.  After being stamped back into our home country, we gathered our things and set off for the Arrivals Gate to meet Richard’s mom Louise and stepdad Barry.  After some big hugs, we stepped out of the airport and into the clean, amazing smell of Vancouver. Here we were, in the same place where we decided to leave, where we hatched our plan, and where we finally started our journey south.  We were entering into what seemed like our former lives, but now everything was completely, utterly and totally different.  We had changed.  Nothing would be the same, but in the best possible way.  We are better, stronger, more grateful, more at peace.  And ready to start the next 10 month adventure here at home.


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