Thursday, April 2, 2015

Santa Rosa to Lake Arenal, March 31-April 2

Although Daniel wasn't there to share it with us, our day at Santa Rosa was still great: super restful and filled with animals and bird sightings (barred antshrike!).  
White-faced Capuchin Monkey

The next morning we said our goodbyes to the park, the ritzy field station, and our new primatologist friends.  Thanks again to everyone who made our stay here so great!  Dan, Krisz, Saul, Ben, Lauren, Derek, Carolyn, Yohan, and random guy at gate who didn't make us pay when we left. Keep living the dream. 
The rest of the country beckoned.  The road that runs by the park, the Pan-American Highway bypasses almost everything interesting until the southern beaches, so we made plans to get off it as soon as possible.  No shoulder and a fair amount of buses and trucks confirmed our decision, and when we came to the first road that went east into the mountains, we decided to take it.  Even if the roads turned impassable, we figured we could at least stay at a lodge a few kilometers up the road recommended by our guidebook.  Right before we turned onto said road, we started talking with a cyclist who turned out to be the owner of said lodge!  Girard told us that the roads up in the mountains are super steep and thick gravel, while the Pan-American is under construction just a few miles ahead, and though the road isn't open, it's done (read: giant bike lane!).  So we ended up staying on the Pan-Am, and sure enough, the riding was great with our three-lane-wide bike lane!  
Rex leading the way

Part of me wishes we had had the adventure of going up into the mountains, but we'll be on some smaller roads soon.
One perk of staying on the Pan-Am: giant mangoes in Liberia!  I'm eating this one like a peeled cantaloupe.

Around mid-afternoon, with a headwind blasting, we came across a sign: "800m to waterfall."  Why not?  Although the place was absolutely mobbed with Costa Rican tourists due to this week being Semana Santa, Holy Week, the waterfall turned out to be really nice, a refreshing dip.  Shortly after, we arrived in Bagaces, where the road to Parque Nacional Palo Verde begins.  It would be almost 30 kilometers, roughly 19 miles, of gravel, and with the sun setting in about an hour, we set about trying to find a ride into the park.  Usually it's easy to find rides in Latin America, even with bikes, because so many people drive pickup trucks and don't seem to worry about crazy axe murderers as much as people do in the U.S.  However, this time no one came, and I went over to the restaurant across the street to see if we could camp anywhere near where we were.  They said no, but they called up a friend who said we could camp at his farm about 5 kilometers down the road.  Awesome!  We set off riding, and a few minutes in, a guy pulled up in a pickup truck and offered to take us the rest of the way.  Anything to avoid the gravel!  Plus we got to enjoy a view of clouds rolling in over the mountains.

We arrived at the house and set up camp; the owners, Uli and Johanna and their family, arrived a little while later.  They offered us a bed, a shower, food, a beer, anything!  They were so incredibly nice, and though we took them up on some of it, I felt a little bit bad refusing their hospitality.  Sometimes it's better to let people give you things; altruism leads to feelings of fulfillment, according to Psychology Today and personal experience.  But really what we wanted was to go to sleep, so after talking for a bit, we headed off to bed.
The family and Tam

The next morning, though we had already eaten a few sandwiches in the tent, we couldn't refuse a home-cooked breakfast!  Sharing some more time with these wonderful people was a gift in itself.  Uli told us that today and tomorrow, Thursday and Friday of Semana Santa, are very important holidays.  Easter Sunday isn't a thing.  And in Germany, where he is from, Easter is celebrated on Monday.  Some towns here have elaborate parades and services, but their tradition is to go to the nearby river with everyone else and eat fish and seafood.  I'm sure there's more to it, but that alone sounds pretty good to me!

Although our ridiculously wide and smooth bike lane continued from yesterday, the headwind was really roaring and made the riding less than fun.  At least it kept things cool.  We turned left at the town of Cañas, finally leaving the Pan-Am, and started to climb.  As expected, it was super steep and additionally challenging with the wind.  At one point I looked down and my odometer said five: five kilometers per hour.  It was slow going.  Yet, bit by bit, the coastal lowlands fell away and the air started to cool down.  We finally arrived at a viewpoint of Lake Arenal and headed over to a Warmshowers host in Tronadora, right on the shores of the lake.  We met Peter actually right when he was heading out for the night, but he gave us the keys and we had a nice night in, including a wonderful, freezing cold shower.  
Our location

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