On the Road in Costa Rica, Day #3

Here we are again, cycling through Costa Rica. We were lucky last night to find a simple but charming little cabana which even had air conditioning! We were so tired that we went to bed early and woke at first light. We ate a couple plantains, packed our stuff, I put on my still wet biking clothes and hit the road. It is definitely better to get out early because afternoons get so hot.

There are so many palm farms in this area. This field of young plans caught our eye because it was so pretty.

Today, our goal was to reach the beach. The ride started out fairly smooth but after a while we were going  up and down hills again, not bad ones but enough to make you work.

Eliza spotted some great coconuts by the road

This pretty field was across the street, and the cow didn’t give us much of a look,

Pretty coconut tree

There has been a lot of traffic on the roads at times, and a lot of big trucks. Thankfully they are polite and move over when they pass. For a while the roads were heavily patched and bumpy in places, but later we had great roads, smooth and wide enough for everyone.

We continue to pass palm farms, some beautiful and tall, and others green and open with young trees.

Elza’s sharp eyes spot some huge mangos on a tree.

There were only a couple usable mangoes on the ground but they made a delicious snack for us

Elsa goes for a panoramic shot

When we pedal in to Coronado, Oso, we know we are getting closer to our goal of the beach. This beautiful river runs into the ocean not far from here.

This is the view as we cross the bridge into Coronado, Oso

We spend a bit of time in Coronado at the Movistar office. I bought a chip for my iPad with some internet time, but my tablet was showing no service for a while. I could get an explanation for how much data or time I had bought so I figured I might be out of time. The poor gal at the shop had such a hard time! They can deal with phones, but they don’t know how to recharge a tablet that doesn’t make phone calls. Finally after another guy did something on his phone, and we put the chip in her phone to call it in, the put the chip back in my tablet, things were working again! But even then as we pedaled along Internet has been very spotty. It works in some places, but unfortunately hasn’t been working where we spent the night last night or tonight.

So anyway, we we’re finally on our way after losing some valuable cooler morning time. The terrain seemed to change now with less farms, more natural areas but vegetation that was generally shorter than it had been before. The road was very nice and fairly flat for a while too.

We pedal on going west towards the beaches

After 2 1/2 hours of peddling and not much breakfast we figured we should stop for a break and something to eat. Elsa got out her nifty little beer can stove, mashed some papaya we had picked up with some plantains, cooked it with some oatmeal and it was really good. As she was cooking though we heard a pop and a whoosh and my front tire blew out, just sitting three in the grass, for no apparent reason! Thank goodness though, rather than when I was sailing down some hill.

I spent part of break time patching and changing the inner tube.

We didn’t spot any wonderful break spots by rivers or other scenic spots so we decided to just use this spot under some big trees.

Elsa spots some likely papaya trees along the road

We did find a couple fallen fruits that look like they will be ready tomorrow. Then, we pedaled on but it was getting into the afternoon, and it was getting seriously hot. I was starting to feel very wilted and we hadn’t been able to inflate the tire to full pressure so it was hard going. I made it up the smaller hills but walked any of the bigger ones.

We finally pulled in to Playa Tortuga and that was as far as I was going to go for the day!! Today was only 35 miles but it felt like as much as the other 50 mile days. We were lucky to find a nice cabana though, and after a cold shower, a few liters of water, and a bit of rest I was feeling more like myself. We set off in search of air for the tire so we could fully inflate it, and then we went to the beach.

There is no internet here so I am writing off line again, and now it is late and I am going to bed! The beach was lovely though and there will be pictures coming soon.

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On the Road in Costa Rica, Day #2

We stayed with the Bomberos last night, and woke up early this morning. It got light. My air mattress slowly deflated itself during the night. And, we were anxious to get going knowing it only gets hotter with each passing hour. I grabbed a banana and water, and off we went only to find out we we’re locked in. But one of the sleepy guys answered our ring and unlocked the door for us.

The bomberos are really good guys

The start of the day was very pleasant, cool, and quit flat. We passed a lot of these palm farms growing palms for oil.

There are so many of these palm tree farms for Palm oil

Elza is always on the lookout for something yummy along the road. She spotted this coconut tree with coconuts within easy reach. The home owner said he has lots and they don’t usually do anything with them so he was happy to let us have as many as we wanted. We each drank a couple and filled our water bottles with coconut water. Not only is it really good, it is really good for you and especially good for hydration.

Elza cracks open the coconuts

 

Then the pro brought out his machete and opened as many as we wanted

After refreshing ourselves with coconut water and filling our water bottles with it, we continued on enjoying some gorgeous scenery.

Beautiful scenery

Just after I snapped this photo, Elza noticed her back tire was flat. She had the tire off in a jiffy, the hole patched, and everything out back together so we could continue on our way.

Stopping for a tire repair

The upside was the wonderful scenery!

Beautiful views

We crossed a lot of rivers and they looked so inviting. Most were too far down to be accessible but relaxing nearby is good too.

Water break by a river

Really pretty scenery

By now I was starting to feel really tired and I was walking up the bigger hills. It was a good thing here or I might not have noticed the cacao trees.

The fruit hanging on the tree trunk is the cacao fruit filled with fruit and those seeds that eventually become chocolate.

By now we were pretty warm so when we saw this river with a road leading down beside it, we had to go check it out!

Elza cools off in the river.

The dogs cool off in the river

There were some women and children on the other side of the river enjoying the day

We could have stayed at the river all afternoon but it was time to move on. We got back on the bikes and peddled on. Elza was ahead of me on a hill when I heard her holler excitedly. There was a plantain tree (at least we think so, or it could have been an unfamiliar type of banana). It had fallen over and the big stalk of ripe fruit was lay by the side of the road! Elza had bee dreaming of finding bananas ever since she started her Central American trip.

Look at all that fruit!

Elza is thrilled with her find! Some of it was past its day but a lot of it was perfect and ready to eat.

Many had perfect white, sweet, delicious fruit

This fruit was really good for me. I had been really dragging and the hills were doing me in. I had three plantains and more water and started to feel better almost imediately! I hadn’t had much to eat and didn’t even think about the body’s need for fuel when asking it to do so much activity.

We pedaled on with more enthusiasm and speed helped by the food and the decrease in hills to climb. Of course when we saw more coconuts we were not about to pass them up.

These coconuts were amazing, full of lots of juice and it was sweet and wonderful!

Right next to the coconuts was a tree loaded with star fruit. It was just a little tart and really good.

I should also mention the mamonchinos that are ripening everywhere. Elza had picked some which we enjoyed eating. It wasn’t long after this rest break that she spotted some nice red ones. The home owner not only gave us permission, he came out with a rake to grab more fruit than she and I could fit on the bikes. My front basket was overflowing with them!

A pretty spot where we took a rest break

We continued to find some hills but not as many as earlier in the day and of course the scenery continued to be beautiful. We were getting tired though and there was very little on the road except the homes of the local people. When we saw a sign for “Cabanas, Waterfall Lodge” we went for it. Down a dirt road we found this charming little place, $10/night.

Waterfall Lodge, our home for tonight

We crossed one river getting here and we’re told that there is access to the river farther down the road, so we went out for a walk.

Another very pretty river

The guy apparently rides through the river to get home.

The beautiful butterfly was by the river

This huge grasshopper was also by the river

We walked through here on our way back from the river

Some of the neighborhood homes

Across the street is another palm farm

It looks so free, pretty, cool and peaceful in there

These are some of the seed pods that are harvested and processed in to oil.

So, that is the news of the day, and we have a great spot to spend the night. We even have air conditioning! We don’t have Internet though, and access with my iPad chip is minimal. I have written this post with an app that saves it for uploading later which is why it looks different. It feels strange being out of touch but I did get a few messages home to let Joel know that all is well. Apologies to everyone else who have had their emails, messages, blog comments, and everything else ignored. I’ll catch up one of these days. Meanwhile, time to get some sleep before we hit the road again.

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On The Road, Day #1

Today we biked from David to Cuidad Neily, Costa Rica which according to my bike computer was 50.15 miles. We got an early start which was really necessary because as the day goes on it gets hotter. It was a day of blue skies and bright sun so no coolness today.

We we said goodbye to some friends on the way out of town, and stopped in Boqueron for a rest with our friend Richard who had come down to see us. We pedaled on knowing we would continue climbing until we reached Concepcion, but unfortunately the climbing continued well past there. Finally though we headed back down and were able to enjoy some miles of mostly downhills.

We stopped at the checkpoint where most of the cars were being waved though, but the guard asked for our IDs before wishing us well and waving us on. The border crossing was unbelievably easy. We were sent to the luggage inspection room which was great because we had to wait for awhile in the cool air conditioning. Then the guy got to us he asked if we had any children in those bags, and when we said no he laughed, wished us well, and waved us along.

The gal at the window who sent us to inspection now took our photos, stamped our passports and we were done. There was no line when we arrived and only a few people when we returned so we were through there in minutes. The Costa Rica side was equally easy. Fill out the paper, take it to the window, stamp passports, and done. She didn’t even ask us one question and here too, there was no line.

From here we pedaled down the road a bit to get away from the trucks and traffic, found a shady spot under a tree, and had some lunch.

Our friend Karen had given us pancakes rolled around sausage and eggs. Very yummy!

Our friend Karen had given us pancakes rolled around sausage and eggs. Very yummy!

Elza, my biking partner, is an expert at finding treats along the road – mangoes, oranges, lemons, and coconuts.

Now, we figured we had maybe 15 miles to Cuidad Neily, which seemed a reasonable goal. It was very hot in the sun but a lot of the way was easy downhill riding so it wasn’t long before we reached town. We had heard the bomberos (firemen) are good people to stay with, so we asked around until we found them. They didn’t have a dormitory with a bed but we’re happy to let us have an empty room. This was great! We had mattresses so all we needed was floor space and it was wonderful to have a shower, electricity, and a safe place to stay.

Even though we also have use of the kitchen here, after riding in the heat I only wanted something cold. We headed out and found the chip for my iPad that is allowing me to post this, and then we went to the supermarket for some tuna, tomatoes, bananas, and a green pepper, oh and some limon flavored mayonnaise. We made a great tuna salad with some orange juice from one of the found fruits, and it was excellent. Then it’s time to check emails and relax before calling it a night.

We plan to get up early tomorrow and set out for another day of biking through this beautiful country! I’ll leave you with a couple photos of some of the scenery we saw today.

 

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On The Road Again

Tomorrow I start a new adventure and new version of “on the road”. I will be starting my first extended bicycle tour with Elza of Generosity on Wheels, my cycling partner.

We plan to ride along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and then up to San Jose. From there we will make our way to Nicaragua to see friends on Ometepe Island. After that, who knows. I am not sure how it will go until I am out there. Maybe I will wear out in three days and want to come home. Maybe I will love it and want to travel on. We shall see.

I will only take my tablet so the blogging won’t be as fancy. I am looking forward to cycling through the beautiful country of Costa Rica though, and being able to look and stop anywhere we choose. I think it’s going to be amazing.

A lot of people think I am crazy for doing this. Maybe I am, but I have been very interesting in bicycle touring ever since I heard about it. The day will come when I am no longer able to do things like this. I don’t want to look back and regret the things I didn’t do and the opportunities I let slip by. I feel like I am well prepared as I can be, we will travel through populated areas so help will be nearby, and we will keep our goals sensible. I think it will all work out.

So, tomorrow, I will be peddling down the road. No, Joel isn’t coming with me on this one. He has other things he enjoys doing more so he will be keeping it together on the home front, playing his guitar, and following me on line.

See you from the road!

 

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Visiting a High School

Last week was English week at the high school where my friend teaches. We were invited to judge the singing and dancing competitions. It was a really fun afternoon and we saw a lot of amazing students!

The first event was a modeling event, something I hadn’t seen at the school before. The students were doing it for the experience and there was no judging. I was surprised to see more boys than girls participating, and the boys got a lot of cheers, more than the girls!

Joel was asked to sing a song, so they brought him up next. It was really fun to see the enthusiastic response from the students!

The singing competition was next and soon got under way. I was supposed to be paying attention and rating the students on a number of aspects of their performances, so I didn’t take many photos or videos. Here is just a little bit of a couple singers I liked.

In the middle of the singing competition they took a break to watch a performance of a dance group that was really excellent.

Then, it was back to finish the singing competition.

The final thing was the dance competition. I was very impressed and really enjoyed watching the dancers, and I did take a bit of video of each group. The students has obviously worked very hard on their performances! The group at the end of the video was the winner.

This was only one of the things that happened this day, my birthday. When I returned home my cycling partner had arrived. I had to dash off to art class though so conversation waited until I returned home again. I also had a lot of phone calls, emails, and Facebook messages. How wonderful to have so many people think of me on my birthday! And if all this wasn’t enough, I checked my bank account and my social security money had arrived early.

There will be a lot more about my cycling partner and our upcoming travel plans, so I will be writing more about that soon.

 

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A Monk in the Mountains, and Communication

I had a very interesting time a couple weeks ago. Lama Lobsang Samten, a Buddhist Tibetan monk was visiting the mountains of Chiriqui. If I understood correctly, he has been visiting Costa Rica every year and when friends here learned that he was going to be nearby, they invited him to spend a few days in Panama.

Not only was it interesting to meet this wonderful man, it was interesting to watch the communication. He is Tibetan and grew up speaking a language very different from ours. Then, he ended up in Montreal where he speaks French on a daily basis, and he has also learned some English though he admitted it was pretty rusty. Now he was in Panama speaking to a group of people some of whom spoke only Spanish, and others who spoke only English.

A lovely teaching and meditation space had been prepared.

A lovely teaching and meditation space had been prepared.

One can get by with pointing and gesturing, but when it comes to more complex things there is no substitute for a common language. Lama Samten spoke English well enough to be understood, and a bilingual student translated into Spanish. Sometimes there were questions and he needed his traveling companion (who spoke French, English, and Spanish) to explain something to him in French. She would explain his answer in English, and then it was translated into Spanish so everyone could understand. I found it fascinating to watch this process of communication. I think it’s unfortunate that in the US, learning languages isn’t given more importance. When you can talk with each other it opens up whole worlds of communication and understanding.

The teachings were basically about happiness, and how Buddhist philosophy and meditation can help you live a happy life. Lama Samten is a wonderful example. He escaped Tibet as a teenager when the Chinese came in, surviving a very perilous two month walk through the Himalayas to reach India. In spite of this very difficult time and being displaced from his homeland, he radiates happiness and kindness. His very presence lights up a room.

I was introduced to the Kadampa tradition in Florida and the founding monk is also a Tibetan refugee. The organization has grown so large that he teaches to groups at festivals, and very few have an opportunity to speak to him in person. This group, however, was probably 20-25 people. There were times for questions and answers, and also a social time later where I spent quite a bit of time talking with Lama Samten. He loves to laugh, joke, share, and connect with others. His happy attitude is so contagious! He really is a special person.

Smiles and happiness!

Smiles and happiness!

Word is that he is going to come back next year and if at all possible, I am certainly going to be there.

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A Visit to the Farm, after Navigating Around the Protests

Yesterday I made a visit to the finca (farm). My friend Cedo is in the USA visiting family, and it was payday for the caretaker. After meeting the mechanic about my misbehaving car (a disappeared alternator belt) a couple friends and I set out for Cuesta de Piedra.

We drove down the highway past Boquerón, towards the bridge before Concepcion, and found traffic at a standstill and the road blocked by protests. The Barro Blanco Dam has been under construction for some time and is almost completed. The indigenous people have not been happy about the project and continue to oppose it, saying it will damage their land and displace their people. (There is a news article HERE).

I am happy this is a country where people can express themselves. I wasn’t so happy yesterday to have my day complicated, but I wasn’t nearly as troubled as a lot of people trying to do their work and get goods where they needed to go.

I was expecting the mechanic to contact me around lunch time, so I didn’t have time to backtrack and take another route. I returned to David. It turns out the car also needed a new alternator and wouldn’t be ready for another day, so Joel and I set out after lunch to take the route through Potrerillos and across to Cuesta del Piedra. It is a beautiful drive though some parts have steep uphills and downhills on very curvy roads, and I was thankful Joel was doing the driving. But, at least, we did have another route to get where we needed to be. There are many areas where the PanAmerican Highway is the only way to get through, like in San Felix where there were more protests.

We made it to the farm with no problems. I am taking a drawing and painting class so I needed to be back by 4PM and this didn’t leave any time for lingering, but I did meet with the caretaker and took a quick tour with my camera. A picture is worth a thousand words and I know Cedo misses her farm and her animals, so here are some pictures.

I also visited the pigs. The caretaker said there had been problems and lost piglets from diarrhea. When I got home I called Cedo’s son who said he had talked with the caretaker and medicine was on its way.

That’s a lot of piglets! There were more adults in the enclosure behind the pig house too.

Cedo, aquí están sus animales. Ellos te extrañan y estará encantado de verte. Yo también, te extraño mucho y te ver en unos pocos días!

It was a hectic day between the car and complications getting to the farm, but it was also a beautiful day. Everything is very lush and green and the drive was gorgeous!

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Waterfall Hostel

There is a new hostel a bit north of David on the northbound road towards Boquete. We stopped by the other day and Peter, the owner, gave us a nice tour. It’s in a really pretty spot by a river and waterfall.

First we looked at a few of the rooms. Peter has been working hard sprucing up the place and making any necessary repairs. There are a variety of options and sizes for rooms, and the prices are reasonable.

The grounds are really nice. There is a lot of open, green space, and it feels relaxing. There is a restaurant on site, a social area with a pool table and other activities, and two swimming pools with a sitting area between them.

The best part, I think, is the river and the waterfall. I had driven by this place and seen people swimming and playing in the river, but it’s even more beautiful from below.

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This is also a great spot for a day trip or a party. It’s $1/day ($.50 for kids) and you can relax, use the pools, swim in the river, and there is the restaurant on site for drinks and food if needed.

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One of these warm days I need to go enjoy this spot for a few hours!

For more information, visit the Waterfall Hostel Website

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The Municipal Market

There is a big municipal market on the south side of town, and it is interesting to see how it has grown. I first visited it when it was quite new and wrote a post about it HERE. At that time where was a lot of empty space and not enough shops to even begin to fill it up. I went back again recently and found many more shops, and also quite a few restaurants in the food court. It was middle of the day and definitely not overrun with customers but there were some people shopping and others eating in the food court.

Click on any of the photos below to see a larger version.

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When you walk through the doors, in front of you are many produce markets along the center aisle. They all seem quite similar and I wonder how they all stay in business. It seems like most people would check the first few markets, and the ones farther down the aisle wouldn’t get much business.

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To the left are two new seafood markets, and there is another farther down on the left aisle. The fish looked fresh and the prices good. They were higher than buying directly from the fishermen in Pedregal, but lower than prices I’ve seen in the supermarkets. Last week I bought some amberjack from the guy on the left. It came in prepackaged bags, boneless fillets, frozen, for $4.70/lb and it was delicious. This week I bought tuna from the stop on the right, $3.50/lb, boneless fillets, and it was also excellent. That is their price list in the photo. (Atun = tuna). I remember what it cost in the US so we rarely bought it. It’s a real treat to have this great seafood anytime we want.

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This is the fish market farther down with their price list. Fish heads, eewww!! Those are pargo, or red snapper, and you can make great soup. When I buy a whole fish I always ask for the head and bones for soup. My fish favorite soup is made with yuca and grated plantains.

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On the opposite outside aisle I found this market with all sorts of lunch meats, cold cuts, and sausage / hot dogs. In Panama they have many varieties of things that look like hot dogs or sausages.

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To the right of the front door across from the seafood shops is this meat market with beef and pork. That’s his price list for beef. The left side is price per pound and the right is price per kilo. I bought some pork ribs from him. They are usually sold with the slab of ribs covered with the part that is a sheet of meat with fat, not the healthiest thing around but it sure is good! Unfortunately this meat was so salty I couldn’t eat it. Now I know to ask if a meat has been salted. We soaked it in water a while though and added it to split pea soup, and it was great in that.

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There was also a chicken market on the right outside aisle. The prices looked good and the chicken looked fresh. Pechuga is breast, muslo is thigh, and alas is wings.

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This is the price list from one of the produce markets. I don’t see much that is $1/pound. The only $1 are a pineapple or a bunch of culantro (a popular herb). Oh, I also see name (a root vegetable) and peppers for $1/pound.

Now lets go back to the food court area…

Many of the produce vendors are people who used to be on the streets downtown. I think downtown is probably more convenient for many people and evidence for that is the multitude of vendors still on the streets, especially near the bus terminal. I can see stopping to pick up something for dinner as you go to catch your bus home. But, hopefully there will be enough business to keep the municipal market vendors in business, and I’m sure it helps to have the meat and fish shops, and the food court. It is also well air conditioned which is probably better for the produce than sitting out in the heat all day. So we’ll see how it goes.

 

Posted in Exploring the Area, food, Getting Things Done, Panama | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

A Beautiful Full Moon

The night before the full moon was perfect. A beautiful, bright moon rose behind the trees in a clear sky with just enough clouds to make it interesting.

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It was so pretty that I had to go out in front of the house for a clearer view.

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I love being outside and spend a lot of time on the terrace. I enjoy the daytime,  and also some lovely nighttime sights like this. Lately we have also been enjoying a frog, and sometimes two frogs that come to the birdbaths at night and chirp for us.

(Turn up your sound)

It is not all peace and tranquility in the land, however. Last night we had an insane rain storm! It can rain here like you would not believe, but last night seemed even more intense than the usual big downpours. Lightning was flashing, thunder was crashing, and crazy amounts of water were raining down on us.

The neighbor’s yard looked like a lake.

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Across the street there was a river in that neighbor’s yard, and the street was full of water.

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Just when it seemed like it was going to slow down, another wave would come through and continue the pounding. The electricity eventually went off. As it got dark, we lit more candles and watched the storm. After a couple hours the electricity came back just as a huge thunderclap cracked overhead and about made us about jump out of our skins.

The rain continued well into the evening but like all things, nothing lasts forever. By the time we were ready for bed peace had returned to the skies and to the neighborhood. This morning was a beautiful sunny day with blue skies and a light breeze. Of course that never lasts forever either and the rains returned in the late afternoon. But, today, it was just a gentle rain that cleared up by mid-evening. And, so it goes in the rainy season when everything is lush and green in Panama, and usually rain soaked by evening.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Panama | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments