Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
Nicaragua not only charged $12 to get in, but wanted another $2 to get out. At immigration, I bumped into another cyclist named Carlos, who was biking from Nicaragua to ???. I admire the spirit to just go for it! Also met a handful of buspackers, including a couple that had been on the road for about a year and were still going strong.
Costa Rica immediately made an impression: hilly and green. Nicaragua and especially Honduras were drier than the rest of Central America, kind of reminded me of the high plains in Texas. Costa Rica made it clear: we're back in the jungle. Most days it clouds over in the afternoon, just after it starts getting hot. Now that I can get used to.
Costa Rica's roads are smooth. They don't have speed bumps on the federal highway. But even more noticeably, after a day or so of riding, there are hotels everywhere, and frequent bars and restaurants, even in the middle of nowhere. Costa Rica is clearly geared towards tourism.
I finally had a WarmShowers host who wrote back, though he went silent about a week before I got there, and when I arrived, he claimed he didn’t know I was coming. There was a Quebecois couple already there. Cedric was doing the Pan-American highway like me, and his girlfriend Aurelie was joining him for a week or so. Cedric was tall and his bike was packed relatively light, like Valeria.
For the most part, our host family stayed in the house while the Canadians and I stayed out on the porch and talked. Cedric's front tire was about to kick the bucket, so I gave him the extra spare I had. Not a touring tire, a somewhat thin cyclocross tire. Slower rolling and less puncture protection, but it would get him to the next capital city. We wound up walking to the grocery store only a couple blocks away and got a couple beers and a big bag of chips. Healthy, no, but sometimes you want chips and beer.
I was unreasonably excited to get to Quepos, almost entirely for one reason: care package! My parents had sent a box full of goodies to a hostel in Quepos, which had graciously offered to hold mail for me. Most notably, I was looking forward to having sport drink mix again. I'd been rationing it since Mexico, and I had just run out. Considering how much I sweat, it's something I shouldn’t give up.
Quepos turned out to be a long and difficult day, complete with at least an hour of rain at the end. I'd been having chafing issues lately, and rain exasperates that by an order of magnitude. The last 20-30 km to Quepos were thankfully flat, meaning the riding wasn't so bad, but the pain was nearly unbearable and growing. I winced and tried to ignore it. I finally made it into Quepos.
My hostel turned out to be up a hill. A 4 km hill that was one of the steepest I've ever seen. The roads were slick with rain and my derrière was not happy.
That care package better have some baked goods...
Quepos is a popular tourist destination, even by Costa Rican standards. The abundance of hotels and hostels was more than noticeable, so I had to keep my eyes scanning at all times. On a hill like this, you don't want to miss it and do a single meter you didn't have to.
Addresses in Costa Rica aren't normal. When I saw that the address was written as "150 meters north of the school, Quepos, Costa Rica," I thought it was a description. No, that's the legal address, and that's the norm in Costa Rica. I stopped and asked about five people where "Hostel International" was, and no one knew. But I found the school.
Before turning around and heading 150 meters back down the hill, I decided I'd try the Hostelling International app, just in case it saves any data online. And it worked! Turns out this hostel goes by "Vista Serena" in town. At the front desk, there was a Hostelling International sign, but there wasn’t one that was visible from the road.
The hostel didn't have my package, but they figured it would be at the post office. In this town, mail is delivered by motorcycle, and a package might need to be picked up instead. It was already after 5:00 PM, so the hostel agreed to make a run to the post office in the morning. Good enough.
The hostel, I gotta say, was a nice place. I was in a room with two bunk beds, in a cabin with only one other such room and a kitchen. I wound up hitting it off with a few Spaniards in my cabin who shared a little rum with me before living it up in town.
The view was nice too.
The next morning, the receptionist called the post office for me, more than once. They didn't have my package. Nor could they look up where it was. I didn't have the tracking number, so that would be almost impossible. Thinking that showing up in person might change things, I went down the hill on Valeria to see if they could do something. They couldn't. As disappointed as I was, I have to admit everyone tried the best they could, especially the hostel, who wasn't obligated to do anything in the first place.
The package had been sent 23 days ago. It could be as much as another week. With much sadness, I slowly accepted that I wasn't getting it. I decided that my "care package" would instead be a day off at the hostel, a nice dinner, and ice cream.
I would've liked to visit the national park that was only 5 km away, but there were a ton of things I'd been meaning to work on, and I never have enough time. I fixed the slow leak in my rear tire, which had been causing me to pump my tires three times a day. I adjusted my rear brake. I made two shims for my handlebars out of electrical tape, and four more for my front rack with masking tape. I wrote in my journal. I caught up on my reading. I slept! And I picked up some aluminum tubing and finally put my Texas flag on Valeria.
I bought a burrito at the hostel, a short and fat one that was more like an upside-down tortilla bowl of goodness than an actual burrito (not that I'm complaining!). I picked up a liter of ice cream at the convenience store nearby. I played king's cup with some Germans and Englishmen. Good day off.
I still wished I had that package though. Before I left the hostel the next morning, I told them to open it and share the contents however they want.