Justin and Silver Al

Costa Rica
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Al in Costa Rica

Jan. 23, 2008.  It took no time to get to the Costa Rican border, but the crossing took forever.  Lots of waiting in long lines and moving to other lines.  We did well and managed, for the first time, to acquire no helpers.  People were helpful and the scene was nowhere near as seedy as some of the other crossings that we have encountered, but it took nearly five hours getting out of Nicaragua and into Costa Rica.  The narrow border roads were clogged with tractor trailer trucks parked wall to wall for kilometers.  Huge potholes through the fumigation 'area' racked the bottom of the car. 

We are off for the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica for a few days.  Internet prospects may be low!

Greeting from Manzanilla Costa Rica.  We are just wrapping up day two here and our luck has been fantastic.  Two years ago, Eli spent a couple months here and got to know the town really well.  There is not much to do in Manzanilla except sit on the beach, burn a beach fire, sit in a hammock, play with a dog or walk in the jungle.  Upon arriving here we met up with an old friend of Eli’s, Walter, who is letting us stay in a nearly complete cabin-house just down the hill from his own amazing house.  Walter is a very friendly and animated fellow in his late 50’s.  An amazing storyteller, his eyes nearly jump out of his head as he gets himself and both Eli and I worked up over a good story.  The jungle here is dense and lush.  The flowering plants are amazing, the wildlife extreme.  There are howler monkeys and white face monkeys everywhere.  You can hear them all the time.  We have seen sloths and giant guinea pigs and toucans and ringed raccoon -like creatures with monkey tails and parrots and hawks and thousands of mosquitoes, ants, beetles and butterflies.  The beach here is one of the most tranquil that I have ever seen.  The water is just right and there are never any people here.  A couple towns north there is the town of Puerto Viejo, which is a big surfer town with lots of kids cruising around, but few come down here.  There are some day trippers that bike the 10-15 kilometers and hang out for a while, but few people take the night here.

 

The Caribbean coast has a distinct Caribbean culture that is different than the Pacific and highlands.  There are a lot of rastas and reggae.  Spanish is still spoken, but there is a lot more English. 

 

Yesterday Eli and I trekked into the jungle and eventually freaked ourselves out enough to turn back.  We were in flop-flops and started feeling very out of our element as the dense jungle closed in around us.  The jungle literally roars with the sounds of insects. Super ant highways scar the ground, and you can’t see more than a couple feet into it.  We have heard enough stories about snake and spiders to get a little paranoid.  This is not the woods of Warner.  Today we bought a machete and tomorrow we are going to put on better footwear and plunge deeper.

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Jungle creature

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Sloth

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Our Window Spider

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Howler Monkey

Howler Monkeys

More Howler Monkeys

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Our Place (Walters) in the Pouring Rain

On the agenda tonight, we have bought a chicken.  We are going to try to build a spit on the beach and sort of rotisserie it up.

 

The Beach Chicken was an amazing success.  We cooked that bird to perfection and a handful of vegetables to boot.  By the time we had finished dinner it was 12:30 pm, but so well worth it.  Here in Manzanillo we always go to the same stretch of beach, which has become our little camp.  I carved up a tall stick that I found to mark our spot.  I can't say enough about this place.  If you were to imagine the perfect beach, and your imagination was like mine, this would be the place.  Totally serene.

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The Beach Chicken

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And Veggies

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Eating the Beach Chicken

It is so nice here, we have decided to stay another day.  Tonight there is supposed to be the biggest party in the Caribbean.  People are flying in from everywhere, and there are already of ton of people in our lazy little town.  We’ll try to get some photos. Right now I am in the nearby town of Puerto Viejo where there is the option of internet.  I gave a guy a ride into town named Chumba, who has a little house here.  He is shopping around for a couple auto parts while I write this to you.  I picked up my laundry down the street (my cleanest clothes are always the ones that I wore least recently, so I have been rotating through my dwindling clothing selection for weeks) and am so excited to have a couple clean duds to climb into this afternoon!!

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Justin and Bella

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Eli

     The time had finally come to leave so we have packed it up and hit the road.  We made it to Dominical, yet another surf town, and we found a decent room to spend the night in.  The beach is nice here, but the density of gringos makes it a little too sceney for our tastes.  I went out for a walk after dark and sat for a long time on a more remote stretch of beach, possibly falling asleep for a while.  The stars glowed bright and the waves did their crashing and the mosquitoes did a little of that biting that they do.  At one point a drunken couple staggered by, but didn't see me and then staggered back by again.  Once back in our room I slept really well and woke up to a nice coolish shower.  The German guy on our common porch was smoking a joint, just has he had been the night before when I retired...was it the same one....had he moved?  He offered me a beer, which I might or might not have drinked with him, while Eli helped a couple guys work on a four-wheeler.  The German guy lived and worked in San Jose.  He came to Dominical all the time.
     After we packed up, we grabbed some coffee and are hitting the road.  We are heading for a much mellower surf town called Provones.  Eli has been there before and says it is nice.  Judging from his first recommendation - Manzanillo- I imagine Provones will also be great.  The road to get there, unless it has changed, however, should be pretty tough!

Car Sputtering Leaving Manzanillo

Jan ? -Tuesday - Halfway between nowhere and a little surf town in the middle of nowhere, we hit our first bump in the road.   It took out a fist sized piece of the aluminum oil pan -not cracked or bent, just gone.  It also put another quarter sized hole in the pan.  It was the roughest road yet...on our way to Pavones, Costa Rica.  We had to cross a river on a cable/motor-driven barge and the road just got worse and worse.  We don't know exactly when the damage was done, but we heard a rattle and a moment later the oil light came on.  We stopped the car and saw a trail of oil with the remaining oil gushing out onto the ground. 
 
Much to our good luck a truck came by with a short piece of rope and was willing to give us a tow.  We were pulled for miles down the rocky road trying to work the e-brake and keep the proper tension on the rope.  It only broke once.  Eventually we ended up at a small-town mechanic, still very much in the middle of nowhere, where a father and son proceeded to dismantle half the engine.  The VW oil pan doesn't come off easily and many bolts were hidden by other parts of the engine.  They had never seen anything like it.  After a few hours of watching them try to get the oil pan off, we all realized that it wasn't going to happen today and we decided to try to hitch the next 20 Kilometers to Pavones. 

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A Night in Dominical

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The Barge to Pavones

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Getting Towed

Busted Up Oil Pan

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At the Mechanics

At the Mechanics

Caught a ride to Pavones

We walked for miles, long into the dark night.  Every once in a while a dirt bike would pass us, but that was it.  Our spirits were surprisingly good and we trudged up and down hill after hill passing the occasional cow, pig or barking dog.  Finally a truck pulled over for us and we tossed our backpacks and selves into the back.  It was a pretty big truck with a huge plastic box in the back full of diesel fuel.  They had really high clearance and gave us quite a ride, getting whacked by branches, splashed with diesel fuel and generally slammed around.  Finally we reached Pavones.  It is all about surfing here, and very mellow.  Our ordeal yesterday left us very short on Colones (currency), and we haven't eaten in the past 24 hours.  We did have a couple beers last night and some good coffee this morning.  I'm sure we'll figure out how to convert USD with the little bit of effort that we haven't exerted yet.  Anyway, here we are, probably for a couple - few days.  It is going to be tough to check up on the car, but we'll try to call them tomorrow.  They seemed confident that they could fix it and I'm sure they will -at least long enough to get our greenbacks and sent us into Panama.  There are worse places to get stuck, anyway, and Eli says he has a friend around here named Clay.  I'll keep you posted and maybe get a few more pictures and recordings up in the next day or two.

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Beach of Pavones

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Chillin' in Pavones

After cleaning our beat and grubby selves in a crystal clear river, we spent the rest of the afternoon in hammocks watching surfers and palm trees.  In the evening we decided to try another beach chicken dinner.  With a bottle of rum and some limes, a handful of vegetables and a thawed out chicken, we built a fire and prepared the chicken.  Our chicken preperation is fairly simple.  We bought the cheapest vegetable oil and spice mix we could find at the local store...a sort of seasoned salt....and rubbed it all over the chicken.  We used the same mixture for the veggies.  We then hacked down a sappling to use to skewer the chicken and found a couple forked sticks to place on either end of the fire to hold the giant skewer.  We use banana leaves to make a table cloth to keep the chicken from getting sandy while we season it and then eat it.  After slowly spinning the bird around on the fire for a couple hours, it is ready to eat.  A dog befriended us, smelling the bird and did try once to get it, but we shut him down.  Just as we finished our delicious meal, a ragged and skinny, sped-up and drugged-out young fellow joined us, seeing out fire from down the beach.  He was very twitchy, but friendly, and didn't cause us any problems, even when we insisted that we were not interesting in 'going in on' some sort of drug that might have been at the root of his dishevelled impression.  At one point he took off to 'meet up' with someone and we strategically called it a night before he returned.
 

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Second Beach Chicken Pavones

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Second Beach Chicken Pavones

Today we are kicking it in Pavones again.  Per a phone call earlier, the car might be ready tomorrow.  On the agenda this afternoon...a hike up a river to see what we can see.

The hike up the river was great, but rough on the bare feet.  Beautiful swimming holes all along the way.  Vine rope swings.  We met a new friend named Willy who lives in Panama (gringo) and is looking into Costa Rican property.  He hiked with us.  Last night we turned in early...too early... and I was awake through hours of the night.  This morning we made the call and the car is ready.  I'm scared about how much they are going to want for the work...but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.  We have already discussed torching the car in the road in front of the mechanic, if they want more than we can afford.  They thought it was a nice car...a shame if we couldn't afford the repair and had to leave it for them.  No gonna happen.
 
Anyway, we've got a long hitch or hike ahead of us to get back to the mechanic, so we're gonna hit it here after I finish up this passion fruit-mango juice. 
 
To sum it up:  Pavones (finally spelled right, I believe) is a very cool place to get broken down.  20 Kilometers from Pavones...not as cool, but do-able.  Just try to break down as early in the day as possible, if you are 20 K out.
 
We are heading for the Panamanian border today...unless we torch the car....even if we do torch the car.  Don't know how far we'll make it...hopefully Silver Al will avoid another belly smashing...I'll try my hardest to keep that from happening.  You'll be the third or fourth to know!

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mechanic

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Got the Car Back

The car has been fixed a little and broken a little by the mechanics.  They were able to patch the oil pan up pretty well.  It only leaks a tiny bit of oil now, not enough to worry about.  The repair job only cost $160...good news from our point of view considering the job it took to get the oil pan off.  The bad news is that the car makes a new clunking sound in the transmission box.  It was also making a squealing sound but we took the tire off yesterday and found the source of that problem and were able to bend some metal away from the axle.  There appears to be something else missing from the engine, but we donīt know what it is.  We know something is missing because there is a nice big clean spot and nice clean empty bolt holes.  Maybe just a shield...and who needs a shield, right?  So we are avoiding thinking about these problems, and it feels good to be back on the road for a while.
 
It didnīt take long to reach the Panama border!!

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