Jan. 25 – Liberia to La Marina de Guapiles

2009 January 29
by joe

I rose early, and left Levi sleep in. Went for a walk in town. I tried, in vain, to get some local currency – I have been having a real hassle getting my ATM card to work. That has been a big problem. I don’t think the problem is on the US end, because it works sometimes. But not often enough.

After Levi got up, we went to a Peruvian restaurant for breakfast. They had pictures of Matchu Pichu everywhere, and we talked a bit with the Peruvian owner. Back at the hostel, I got to exchange one of the books I had finished for another free. Good deal.

After a very late start, we high-speeded towards San Jose, which is a huge, scary city.  Saw rainbows and volcanoes, again.  Beautiful countryside and mountain vistas.  We crossed dozens of rivers, many with lots of people just hanging out wading or sitting in them.  Nice way to spend a very hot Sunday.  We passed several police road-blocks, often going pretty fast or passing multiple cars/trucks, but we were never stopped! We realized we were lost when the highway we were on just sort of ended in downtown San Hose, and we had not seen the turnoff for Puerto Limon.

We were both  hungry, so we turned into the huge McDonald’s that was there, and had crappy American-style fat, with Mcflurries for dessert!   The place was packed!

We wandered around San Jose, trying to find our way north to the Caribbean coast;  with some help from people we asked, we finally got on the right road and started up into the mountains that separate the Pacific side from the Caribbean side. But we had lost too much time, and it started to get dark as we climbed steadily into the national park outside of San Jose.  Soon it started raining, first just a sprinkle, but then increasing to a downpour;  as darkness fell, we entered the cloud forest, and now we were in fog that limited visibility to practically zero.  What followed was some of the worst, scariest, and most dangerous driving conditions I have ever encountered.  For the next 25 miles, we drove in fog and rain, in the pitch dark, often with only the road-edge reflectors to help keep us on the pavement.  We saw downed trees, and stalled and overturned semi-trucks.   The rain on our helmet shields made the lights from oncoming traffic nearly blinding, and I was simply terrified most of the way.  We struggled along,  going 20 miles an hour or less.  At one point we caught up to a long line of cars behind a slow moving truck,  and that was an improvement, because we could see the path of the road ahead, and we were more visable than when we were alone;  but at one point, the truck slowed down to a crawl, and I slipped off the roadway onto the muddy shoulder.  It  took me a while to get back on the road after that mis-hap, but soon after that we decended out of the cloud forest, and back into civilization.  We stopped at the first open business we could, which was full of travelers taking a  break from the rain and fog, and caught our breath.  It had taken nearly an hour and 1/2 to go those 25 miles, and we were very fortunate to have made it safely.

After recovering somewhat from the terror of the trip through the cloud forest, we continued on looking,  for a place to stay.  We stopped at the first hotel sign we saw, Hotel Casa Blanca, and another strange adventure began.  As I have said before, security is a big deal here in Central America.  The hotel was gated and locked with steel doors and high walls, so we had to ring a bell outside to get the owner’s attention.  The person who responded to our ring was suspicious, and did not seem anxious to let us in, until he discovered that Levi spoke better English than Spanish.  It turned out that the hotel was owned by an US ex-navy man and his Costa Rican wife.  He normally will not let motorcyclists in after dark, but since we were grigoes he opened up, and not only let us stay, but made us very welcome, and had his wife cook us a wonderful dinner, as well.  Tomorrow’s post will elaborate on what a great host ‘Pistol’ Pete and Kattia turned out to be!  A hard, dangerous day, but with a very happy ending.

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