The ride to San Vito was so great, we returned the same way: surprisingly difficult on the dissected ridge, relentless ups and downs, but once we hit the downhill we flew!! What a shame the wind had changed direction…. I felt cheated to have a headwind in the flatter valley on both days.
My new name for Charles is the Toucan Spotter, he always sees them. Shame he’s not so good at noticing traffic. New roads are great, new drivers aren’t. One lad took a bend too fast and almost ran into Charles, middle of the road, eyes in the trees!!
It was pretty spectacular when over a dozen macaws flew out of a tall tree by the road, then we stopped and watched the ones squawking and fussing over favourite branches.
End of the ride and within 10 minutes we were on a bus to Cartago, up the “hill of death”, its actual name, a 3000m+ pass, narrow and twisting, to be completely avoided on a bike, there’s barely room for 2 buses to cross. Sadly the bus bypassed Cartago and took us straight to the capital, San Jose, dropping us in a red light area at night, razor wire EVERYWHERE. We found a secure hotel: no squawking macaws but sadly a noisy prostitute ‘working’ in a nearby room. We stayed in our room until morning check-out.
Chepe (San Jose) completely lacks any character or charm. Concrete blocks surround concrete squares! Only one person spoke to us: a gifted linguist but he turned out to be a fraudster. We moved to a vintage 1936 art deco hostel /residence with parquet floors, so stylish, we loved it. Chepe’s Teatro Nacional (1897) is the only building worth visiting: a lavish festival of marble columns and statues. Best of all, at Chepe’s altitude the nights are cold, jackets on cold!!
From my best rides to our worst! Early on Sunday morning we headed east to Cartago, expecting a reasonably quiet road. It began well, joining (overtaking some) fast Sunday riders, but the hills, gale-force winds, a broken surface, no shoulder, and fast traffic made for scary riding. Usually on a big climb I count revolutions, in Spanish! ‘I’ll get to the top in 240 turns’.Occasionally I sing – it’s surprising how easily I remember hymns – then a white truck almost hit me, and once I recovered I had to smile: at least if I died I’d go straight to heaven!!
Cartago was Costa Rica’s first capital until it was destroyed by an earthquake: its basilica survived, and inside it is stunning. From Cartago we descended into the beautiful Orosi Valley (still following bikers) in fact three valleys linked together by a HEP reservoir. I love it here: bright warm sunshine but cool at night, a distant rumbling volcano, vistas of coffee plantations and forests, safe quiet roads, and a wealth of crystal clear water – hot springs and waterfalls. Here confirms how ‘Pura Vida’ is a way of living and why tourists love Costa Rica.
Orosi town is tiny with Costa Rica’s oldest functioning church, friendly and ordinary, except at weekends when dozens of cyclists blast around the three valley circuit. It’s very steep in parts, rewarding views, and the safest route in Central America. We have extended our stay in this pleasant hostel with its outdoor kitchen and free Costa Rican coffee. Bonus, it’s next door to a hot spring swimming pool!
We fly to Cancun next week, ten days there then home. So we may just stay here…. only one more ride with bags, out of the valley, then it has to be a bus from Cartago to San Jose.
Notice the nests hanging from the palm tree. The bird is a Montezuma oropendola – I had to look it up. It inhabits forest canopy, and builds hanging testical like woven nests of fibres and vines, high in a tree. Each colony has a dominant male, which mates with most of the females: they are really noisy!