A Thousand Thank You’s

As I have accomplished my bicycle trip I have been so thankful and amazed by all the support, encouragement, congratulations, and good thoughts that have been sent to me. I appreciate each and every one of you who have helped me along the way!

Thank you Elza for being my biking partner for the first few days. You are just the BEST! You are young and strong and can bike rings around me, but you stayed by my side helping, teaching, supporting, and encouraging all the way. I didn’t have the experience or courage to set out on my own for my first extended trip, but with your help I got my act together and was able to successfully complete the rest of my trip. I will be watching your progress on your trip and wishing you all the best in everything you are doing along the way.

Thank you Steve and Martha for sharing your home with me in Playa Hermosa. It was great getting to know you and having such a comfortable place to take a break. Thank you for putting me up, for the great food, for the ride to the bus station, the tour of the area, and everything else you shared with me. I am looking forward to seeing you again when you are in our area.

Thank you Deb and Ron for giving me a home away from home on Ometepe, a magical place I quickly came to love also. Thanks for all the encouragement, for taking care of me when I arrived, and for being all around great friends. It’s wonderful to see you again and I am so happy to be here.

Thank all of you also, too many of you to mention – the fellow cyclists who have taught me and encouraged me, the friends who have supported me, the emails, Facebook messages, the blog comments, and the multitude of other ways you all have been here with me. Every one of you has helped me along the way.

If course the biggest thanks goes to Joel, my husband, who has always encouraged me to go for my dreams, whatever they are, no matter how crazy they may look! It is a beautiful thing to have a partner who gives you both roots and wings. I am a very lucky wife, and I appreciate you very much.

I will spend a couple more days here enjoying this wonderful place before I head home again, where life will continue. Who knows what other adventures and interesting things are in my future.

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The Destination is Reached!

After all the dreaming, preparation, training, cycling, and traveling I could hardly believe it when I crossed into Nicaragua, and I can hardly believe now that I am here. The last leg of the trip was also the best – really beautiful, fun, exciting, and an easy ride after the longer days I had done before.

I left the Nicaragua border behind me!

I left the Nicaragua border behind me!

it was a great day with a cool breeze, not too much sun, and a lot of happy feelings.

I know from hosting cyclists that there are many others on the road but up until now, I hadn’t seen any. Today though, I saw two, one from Chili traveling to Alaska, and another from England traveling down from Toronto to Argentina.

As I pedaled along the lake, there was a welcome cool breeze coming from the side, and sometimes a bit from the back. It is unusual for it to be so windy at this time of year and I was thankful it wasn’t a head wind.

Something I find very interesting in this area are the dozens of windmills along the lake. I have never had the opportunity to see them at such close range.

After a while the road went farther from the lake, went over some hills, and then came into Rivas. From Rivas I had to make my way a few more miles east to San Jorge and the ferry dock.

I was lucky at the ferry. They were loading up and left not long after I arrived.

It felt like I was coming home. I got off the ferry, proceeded up the familiar main road into town, turned down the other road towards the airport, made my way through the neighborhood, turned left at the school, and then through my friends’ neighborhood to arrive at their house.

Home!

Home!

Debbie, a fellow blogger, and her husband Ron are good friends. We house sat for them for three weeks last September and took care of their dog and cats, so I feel very familiar with their home, neighborhood, and neighbors. It does feel like coming to my Nicaraguan home, and I can hardly believe I actually made the goal of my bicycle trip!

I plan to spend a few days here, and then I will catch a bus back home.

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Leaving Costa Rica

I had been cycling for many days, occasionally taking a bus but mostly making my way on the bike. When I started it seemed like it was going to take a long time to get anywhere, but later when I checked a map it was hard to believe I was in the middle of the country, and then I was getting close to the Nicaragua border.

The last leg from Playa Hermosa though looked questionable. I knew it was more than I could bike in one day but there didn’t look like there were any towns or possible places to stay along the way. I have a tent for emergencies, but spending the night in the countryside in a tent wasn’t really what I wanted to do. So, I decided to take a bus to the border.

I was very glad I had made this decision. I was correct that there was nothing out there but untamed land. There is the Parque National Santa Rosa, and then the Parque National Guanacaste. Beyond them is the town of La Cruz which might have a hostel or two but was definitely farther than I could ride in a day. I was safe and comfortable on a bus that would get me to the border in plenty enough time to bike from there to the ferry to Ometepe Island.

We made it to the border in a couple hours, a distance that would have taken me a couple days to cycle. It was also hot, windy, and sunny so I know the weather would have been a challenge. With the bus though, I was at the border fresh and ready to go.

The border crossing went wonderfully smoothly. I paid my $7 exit tax out of Costa Rica, took the receipt to customs where there was no line, and was stamped through immediately. Then I rode a short ways to the Nicaragua border where I was shown to the first stop. They took my temperature by shining a little red light on my wrist, pronounced me fine and gave me a small piece of paper. Then I was sent to customs where I paid $1, I am not sure for what. I took that receipt, the filled out customs form, my health paper and again with no line, gave it all to the agent who asked me where I was going and stamped me through. The next stop was baggage check where they took one look at my loaded bike and just waved me through. The final stop was leaving the area for the open road where an agent checked my passport, asked where I was going, and welcomed me to Nicaragua as he sent me on my way. I don’t think it even quite noon and. I was ready to get rolling!

 

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Playa Hermosa at Sunset

I had a really good time at Playa Hermosa, nice friends, comfortable home, beautiful area, what’s not to like! Of course while I was there we needed to walk down and check out the beach. Sunset is my favorite time because it is beautiful and the setting sun doesn’t threaten to burn me.

Playa Hermosa is one of a number of lovely beaches in the area. There are also resorts and many expat homes here.

The setting sun was really beautiful and peaceful.

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We passed by a hotel to wash the sand off our feet. I loved how they had built the hotel around the huge trees.

I really enjoyed my time at Playa Hermosa with my new friends. Sometimes it is interesting to find out how much you have in common with someone. Steve and I were both in home health, had made side roads into computer work, and we enjoyed photography and art, to name just the highlights. He and his wife wanted to meet on their visit to Panama but I had already left on my cycling tour. Who would have thought that we would meet in Costa Rica instead! Check out their blog here http://stevesexpatblog.weebly.com/

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Nicoya to Playa Hermosa

Wednesday, my objective was to bike from Nicoya to Playa Hermosa where some friends offered to host me for a while. I was so tired the night before that I fell asleep before 8pm, so I woke up shortly after 5am. I packed, checked emails, but wasn’t feeling like eating at that early hour so I was on the road a bit before 6am. It is nice to get such an early start in the cool morning air. I was almost chilly the first hour, and I tend to look around a lot more when I’m not trying to keep my face out of the intense sun.

It was interesting to be out so early. There was some traffic on the road, but if I had any ideas of stopping for breakfast in an hour or two I was out of luck because nothing was open. The cool air was really nice though. I had also been warned to get an early start because it was expected to be windy in the afternoon. I could already feel the wind picking up by 7am. This is unusual because this is not the season for wind.

The time went by, the miles went by, the sun became higher, and the wind got stronger and stronger. Thankfully there was only a few spots where I was facing it head on. Most of the time it was partly or fully from the side and at least the terrain was quite flat. I listened to Seven Years in Tibet on my MP3, and his account of escaping from a prison camp in India by trekking through deadly cold conditions in the Himalayas, often with minimal food, that made my heat and saddle soreness seem quite insignificant.

Today was a 50 mile day which went very well, but the last few miles were the most challenging. As I got close to my destination the road began to climb, and climb, and climb while I was hot and tired. Another cyclist gave me a big cheer of encouragement, not knowing that I just walked the last section. But, eventually I reached the top but then faced a really intense downhill. I took it a bit slowly and checked my bike part way down, and my rims were too hot to touch. I waited a while until they were cooler and the discovered, thankfully, that I was very close to my destination. The directions to my friends’ house were excellent and I didn’t have any trouble finding them.

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There was a great reward at the end of the day – good friends, a very comfortable house, and even a pool!

I can’t believe I have made it to the other side of Costa Rica! The plan now is to rest for a day at my friends’ house. Then I will bus to the border rather than risk a need to spend the night in a rather remote area. Once at the border I bike into Nicaragua to Rivas and catch a ferry to Ometepe Island, my destination! I am really excited.

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The Ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula

Tuesday morning I woke up in Puntarenas bright and early because my plan was to take the 6am ferry across to Cabo Blanco, and then bike to Nicoya. There was a lot of rain the night before and the morning was cool, calm, and soft in the gray light.

The passage across the water was really nice. I was glad my friends gave me the idea of taking an early morning ferry because if I had landed over there late in the day, there might have been a problem finding a place to stay. It is a beautiful place, but not exactly a tourist destination with hostels and cabanas.

All good things come to a close. We docked, I walked my bike off the boat and proceeded on my ride of the day. This part of Costa Rica reminded me more of Panama. There were a lot of open spaces, agricultural farms with rice and cows, and a lot of the vegetation was very familiar.

The ride went well, though it was long and pretty hot by the time I rolled into Nicoya after just over 47 miles. Nicoya isn’t an especially interesting town, IMO, just a working town with the usual essentials. I was lucky to find a really nice place to stay though for 1200 colones (about $22.50).  I showered, had something to eat, spent a bit of time on line, and fell into bed about 8pm. Before I went to sleep though I took my tablet out by the pool and enjoyed this beautiful evening sky and then the rising full moon.

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Exploring Jaco, Costa Rica

When I land somewhere for the night, I am usually too tired to do any exploring or anything not essential. In Jaco, however, I knew I was facing a couple major climbs so I decided to take the day off and bus to the next destination. This allowed me some free time to look around the town and take my time. I also needed to find some inner tubes for the bike.

I like Jaco. It is obviously a destination for tourists, but it is an attractive town with lots to do and lots of fun things for visitors. I biked down the main drag, and then headed down a side street leading to the beach.

After the beach, I biked through town a bit.

I learned there was a bike shop it town, but it didn’t open until 9:30. When I arrived, the guy was just unlocking the shop and starting his day. He didn’t have the size tubes I needed but he directed me to another shop nearby. When I arrived that guy was also just arriving. Thankfully he had exactly what I needed, and I bought three just to be sure. He was a really nice guy and we ended up talking for almost a hour!

After I bought the tubes I headed back to the hotel, where I was told the bus would be by around 11:15. I think I have very bad bus karma! I waited, and waited, and waited…..   Another family arrived at the bus stop about 12:30 and said the bus was expected at 1:00. There was no covered bus stop and I got sunburned. But, I also got to watch the spectacular macaws. They were in the trees making quite a racket and occasionally flying around. When they fly they are fast and only silhouettes against the sky, and when they are in the trees they are hidden in the leaves. But, one time I was lucky and spotted a pair I could actually see!

Eventually, at one minute before one, the bus arrived, my bike was loaded underneath, and we were on our way. When I saw the couple long and high hills we had to climb I decided the wait for the bus was well worth it. This was the first day I didn’t bike and I (and my sore seat) needed the rest, and with the bus I would easily make my destination in time for a good night’s sleep. And, I had a lot of time to watch the wild macaws which was a real treat.

 

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Costa Rica, going to Jaco

I was in Quepos under orders to take a rest day. I spent the evening there doing pretty much nothing, but woke up early the next morning feeling much better. By 7AM it was clear that I wasn’t getting back to sleep, and I could not see spending a day lounging around. I was anxious to get back on the bike and figured if I really did need a day off, I could rest at the next destination.

It wasn’t long before I found myself peddling past miles and miles of palm trees.

I was getting tired and thirsty, so I was happy to see this ahead. When I got close though, I could see there was a lot going on! There were horses outside and tied up across the street, some of them with guys on them, women were arriving in their best cowgirl outfits, live music was inside, and the place was packed!

imageThere is a Playa Hermosa just before Jaco, another tourist oriented beach area. Do you see the sign in the middle for the Katlin Hotel? Right above that you can see two bird silhouetted against the sky. They are scarlet macaws! They are hard to photograph because they are fast in flight and hidden trees when still, but you sure can hear them. They are very noisy, and very spectacular if you can see their colors! I will keep working on catching them with my camera.

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I left the macaws behind and peddled on, climbing higher and higher. Once I saw the views from up there I was happy to have done the work. It was gorgeous with a number of different lookout points!

I like this area a lot, and I liked the town of Jaco. I need to go fetch photos from the camera and put something together about it, so stand by for more.

 

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Costa Rica, Uvita and Quepos

We got up in Playa Tortuga (whatever morning that was) with plans to cycle to Dominical and maybe Quepos if we were up to it. Little did I know what lay ahead. At this point I had cycled about 135 miles in three days, more than I had ever done before. Today I learned the importance of carefully checking the route ahead on the handy site http://www.cycleroute.org. If you see something like this with all those red spots, you are in for a difficult day.

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But, as we set out I was blissfully ignorant. I pushed up the first hill, and the next, but soon there was no pushing except on foot and even on foot they were challenging! After each uphill there would be a hair raising downhill (please no blown tires!) followed by another climb. That last climb at about 10 km, I think that one did me in.

We straggled in to Uvita, Elsa tired and me totally spent, sweating so much my clothes were literally dripping. We sat in front of the supermarket to regroup for a while and then decided in the interest of me surviving the day, I was to go on by bus to Quepos. First though we went all over town looking for inner tubes, to no avail.

Recovering at the supermarket

Recovering at the supermarket

So, Elza left me at the bus stop and headed down the road. I waited at the bus stop, and waited, and waited….  One bus was only going to Dominical and told me to wait for the blue bus. After I’d been waiting more than two hours another came, not blue but saying Quepos on the front. He said he didn’t have room for a bike though. Not underneath in baggage??  Oh, ok. He opens the back compartment, perfect for the bike, loads it up, and off we go. At least my clothes had dried by this time.

Quepos is an interesting little town, definitely tourist oriented for the Manuel Antonio Park nearby. My first objective was to find inner tubes for my bike.  As I was riding around following various directions I had been given, I rode by a nice looking hostel. All I really wanted was a shower and sleep so I was happy to book a room there.

I should have taken some pictures of Quepos but I was too tired to think of it. I bought some bananas and coconut water, about the only things that sounded appealing. I had no luck finding inner tubes. It was Saturday afternoon and one shop was closed already. Another didn’t have what I needed but they would be in on Monday. Maybe there were some at a hardware store? But, I was too tired to look any more or understand half of what was being said to me.

ELza made it in not too long after and we met in a bakery down the street. She was going to stay with the bomberos, but also stopped by to visit me on her way to turn in for the night.

I was having second thoughts about going to San Jose. I didn’t really need to go and it would extend my trip by a few days, no big deal except when you have a husband at home who you look forward to seeing again soon. So, it was decided that I should rest a day in Quepos and then proceed up the coast. Elza would take off the next day so she could get to San Jose in time to see the head guy at the orphanage she was planning to visit before he left town.

I enjoyed the WiFi to catch up with some things but didn’t get much else done before I couldn’t stay awake any more.

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Playa Tortuga, Costa Rica

Our cycling trip through Costa Rica continues. On the road, the days don’t mean nearly as much. Which day is this of our trip? What is the day of the week? The date? Who knows!

I have been falling behind on posting anything. For me this is a challenging trip and most nights I want to touch base with family and go to sleep. But, little by little I have been sorting photos and putting things together.

By the time we rolled in to Playa Tortuga it was afternoon, and I was very tired and about melted. Elza got a lead on a cabaña so we went to look. It was fine, $20, had a bed, water, electricity, and WiFi. What more does one need? Well, maybe WiFi that does need a cord connection that didn’t fit my iPad, but he let me use his computer to at least get a message home.

We couldn’t be this close to our first beach area without paying it a visit, so after we showered and rested a bit, we set out for the beach. It was definitely worth the trip!

Unfortunately it seems my patched tire wasn’t holding air very well but I was too tired to do anything with it, so we ate and went to bed. The next morning I put in my spare tube, pumped it up, and it promptly went flat. We got some water and couldn’t find anything leaking. We did find a small leak at the patch of the repaired tire though. I hoped the new tube lost air because I had left the pump attached, so I put it back on and hoped for the best. Thankfully it seemed to hold. I am getting enough practice at changing tires! Since this was my last tube though and there were none to be had in this town, I couldn’t afford to have any trouble with it.

Bikes loaded, tires adequate, we set off stopping at a gas station on our way out of town to get my tires inflated to proper pressure, thankfully. I’m sure it didn’t help yesterday that I was peddling in that heat on a tire that was low, which takes more energy to peddle.

Hopefully today would be better. Little did we know!

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