Friday, March 9, 2012

Costa Rica: Saturday (Sabado)

Early flight...
Our pre-flight chaos was much less than normal. It really helped that I had the day before our trip off... I was able to get the bikes all boxed up and get all of my electronic gadgets charged and ready for travel. Actually putting "clothes" in a bag is the easy part. Jean, unfortunately, was working the day before our trip, but she had done some preparation. All in all, we got to bed at a decent time... usually we're up until the wee hours of the morning looking for language translation books or maps or I'm trying to upload GPS maps. I would have been even MORE prepared had I not also been required to spend a significant amount of time restoring my beloved Macbook Pro after a hard drive suicide, but that's another story for another time. Read More...

Our airport shuttle arrived early, and in style--they sent the stretch limo. I only wish our departure had been a little later so that the neighbors could have seen. Anyway, we were on the plane and in the air in no time. The connection through Miami was a breeze and we ultimately arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, with all our stuff.

We travel in style.
As a side note, I really do think we actually pack fairly light, but the addition of two full-size 29'er mountain bikes, tools, some essential spare parts, helmets, cycling shoes, hydration pack, and some cycling clothes exponentially increases our baggage. If you take away the bike stuff, it's really just a few outfits, camera and iPad. But, I digress...

The rental BeGo!
Anyway, we took a shuttle to the Hertz rental center, and, waited. I don't know what it is about renting a car in Costa Rica, but it does NOT seem to be a quick process.  "Getting the car ready," apparently takes about an hour. I was able to capitalize on the delay by asking to use their air compressor to inflate my bike tires. This was MUCH easier than inflating four 29'er tires with my little compact travel pump.

With our car finally ready, we loaded up and hit the road. Our first stop? Wal*Mart of course... We pulled in to get some water, food and other supplies. I've got to say, this was one of the nicest Wal*Marts I had ever been in. Huge, bright, and clean. The real kicker about this Wal*Mart was the level of security. There was a booth we had to pass through, to get a parking pass, and there was one security guard for every row of cars. I felt both safe and a bit scared... why did they need that much muscle? Anyway, I didn't want to leave the bikes, er, Jean out there too long, so I didn't dally.

The roads are *exciting*.
The drive to our first accommodations, the Peace Lodge, started out a bit hectic as we were in the traffic laden city of San Jose. Once through the city and into the country side, the roads opened up and we wound up and down tight, twisty, hilly "roads." If you don't know, the quality of the roads in Costa Rica varies considerably, from reasonable ribbons of pavement to seemingly war-ravaged jeep trails. And, at any time, they are occupied by cars, trucks, busses, horses, motorcycles, pedestrians and farm animals. Also, despite quite precipitous drops on the sides of the roads, I have yet to see a single guard rail.

When we made a similar drive on our trip in 2010, the conditions were zero visibility because of fog (literally, we were navigating SOLELY with the in-car GPS, meaning the road looked like it should be turning left, so I'd start turning left, watching the little GPS car icon and how it appeared to be located on the road... we couldn't see the end of the hood of the car and because we couldn't see the actual side of the road, I couldn't pull over because of the aformentioned precipitous drop-offs without guard rails... even road-side drainage ditches would be been bad, and alas, we couldn't see a thing). At times we had thick fog on this drive, but nothing sustained, and NOTHING like we endured in 2010.

The Peace Lodge is a mini-resort inside a natural park, and it's amazing. Sitting at about 5000ft above sea level, the entire property is built into the side of valley, so there's fairly significant elevation change when going from, say the reception area, down to the restaurants. Just getting down to our rooms was down several flights of stairs, and it seems like an entire family of Costa Ricans was recruited to carry our luggage down.

I really can't say enough about the Peace Lodge. The rooms were great (in room fire place, two jacuzzis, amazing views), the restaurants were fantastic, the property hosts everything from monkeys and jaguars to toucans and butterflies, and the staff was exceptional.  Although, they have to be. If anyone in the staff doesn't do a good job, he/she becomes a jaguar snack.

Peace Lodge Restaurant
A bit weary from our travels (up at 4am, 6hr flight, 2hr drive), we didn't do a whole lot that first night. I got the bikes about 80% assembled and it was sleepy time. I should note that I had a moment of panic because a piece of Jean's rear hub had apparently fallen off at one point and I initially couldn't find it.  I feared that it was back in San Jose, having fallen off when I was inflating the tires. Or perhaps it had fallen off when we were bringing the bike stuff down from reception, and it had rolled off the stairs into the underbrush. Or maybe it had fallen off in the car, but then fallen out of the car at one of our stops. None of those options were good, and there were no bike shops anywhere nearby. I try to be prepared with certain "emergency" parts, but this was not one of them. I spent some time combing the walkways with a flashlight (not much stronger than a match), but the piece was in our rooms all along.  Disaster averted.

Flying over Costa Rica

Our trip included SEVERAL rainbows, and I hate them all.

The rugged, rural countryside makes for great riding!

Our bathroom at Peace Lodge

Seriously, we pack light...
The view from our balcony.

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