When we looked at the maps for Costa Rica, we quickly discovered that there were a plethora of dirt roads which we could explore. Upon crossing the border and staying in La Cruz de Guanacaste at the cheapest accomodation we could find (still overpriced), we set out to circuit the Nicoya peninsula. Having heard that the roads were rough, we thought it was only the right choice. To be completely honest, I hadn’t bothered looking at the roads because I figured they’d be flat since we hugged the coast persistently. I thought we would easily knock off 100 km a day and e-mailed our next Warmshowers host an ETA of 3-4 days.
Riding from La Cruz, we had tried to take a minor road shown on our maps through Santa Rosa national park, however the entry cost was 10 dollars per person and they told us it didn’t exist (we firmly believe it does but weren’t going to spend 20 bucks to try). We were forced to follow the Pan American highway for a bit, and once we reached Liberia we turned off towards the coast and made camp at Playa Panama. It’s a busy spot with locals but safe and free (like most beaches in Costa Rica).
Beautiful sunset at Playa Panama
The following day we carried on to Sardinal for a small restock and began our next section on the “monkey trail” which would carry us coast-bound first by asphalt and then turning to dirt. We had fun detouring onto even smaller dirt roads and once split up to try and race each other. It was like a maze, all these wicked little dirt roads and if you got lost, leave it to a local to put you back on track. At this point the roads were bumpy but in reasonable condition. We found a place to camp at Playa Negra, where Frank, a local fellow, stored our bikes inside for the night while we enjoyed our evening at the beach (thanks!).
Cooking dinner at Playa Negra
Next morning we set off with good spirits and met a French couple who are cycling around Costa Rica. They were robbed just a night before (stolen shoes and bike saddle), also Frank had mentioned that opportunity theft was common due to many wealthy people having (holiday) houses down here. Luckily, we have been spared any troubles like that so far. Then things started to shake up. As we continued cycling, the roads got so rough and climbed so steeply we had to push the bikes up, and a steep descent always followed. Rinse and repeat for the whole day, we couldn’t catch a rhythm and grew tired in the heat of the sun.
Crossing rivers, always refrehing and thus very welcome
One of the few flat sections that day
We made it to Estrade in the late afternoon and got permission to sleep in a local church. It was the following day when Dan felt like he was made of lead. His coffee hadn’t been strong, he felt hungry and unenergetic, Gina coincidentally felt fine. He was off his bike anytime he even sensed a hill coming. He couldn’t find any energy left and just wanted to sleep. Gina saw a sign saying “coffee” and stopped to have a look, hoping that it might boost Dan’s spirits. While Gina went up to the house, Dan passed out in the grass next to the road. A woman, Melissa, welcomed Gina and after hearing what was going on she told her to get Dan so she could fix him up with some iced coffee on the house. Melissa’s husband Dave joined and as Dan came back to strength sipping on his coffee, Melissa made us some cinnamon buns and fruit smoothies. They just moved down from Texas to house-sit (bed and breakfast that offers coffee for those that come across it) and start their adventure of living in Costa Rica (see their blog where they also wrote about us). We chatted away and at some point they even prepared scrambled eggs for all of us. Dan finally felt like he had been revived. We were very lucky to stumble upon Melissa and Dave, thank you so much for your generosity and for giving us an energy boost.
Early river crossing by Estrada. The water was dark due to heavy rain during the night, who knows there might even have been some crocodiles in the water…
Our saviours that day and their photo of us after having regained some energy
Since we had been with the two of them from around 9am to 2pm we only kept going for another 10km or so into San Francisco de Coyote. No one was at the church nor the police station, making it difficult to ask for camping permission. A fellow, Eric, who manages a site for turtle rescue, turned up at that moment and offered us to stay with him for the night. A final day on the peninsula followed; dirt roads up to Cobano and then asphalt to the ferry Paquera.
Those never-ending hills…
Probably for the first time ever, we were glad to be on asphalt again. The ferry cost around $1.70 per person and they wanted to charge us $4 for each bike. Luckily we found a truck driver who was happy to load our bikes onto his truck so we wouldn’t have to pay for them. On the ferry then we met another cycle tourist, Frank, who has been on his bike for around 6 years, cycling through various continents and now from Alaska to Argentina. Once off the ferry we all cycled to our Warmshowers host Alex for the night. Dan discovered a puncture on his bike in the morning but it was a quick fix, and together with Frank we made our way along the highway. We split off later on and ended up camping at Esterillos beach in front of a hotel/restaurant which kindly allowed us to use heir bathroom facilities for free. That night, our tent finally got to see rainy season down here, which means an immense downfall for a couple of hours. From 8 till 11 pm we could hardly close our eyes, being worried whether the tent would withstand the great waterforce. All went well, and as we hadn’t gotten much sleep we were glad to find the following day to be the flattest one so far in Costa Rica. We went to a Warmshowers host in Londres, finally no more sand! As nice and romantic beaches are, you do get sick of the sand finding its way into every corner. We’re staying here two nights as we’ve got to do some bike maintenance, laundry and sewing, and all the other things (like blogging) that we hardly get time to when we’re on the move.
Thanks a lot to all the people that have passed our way so far, offered us shelter, food, or just shared their stories and experiences.
Dan and Gina