18 Jun

Arrival to Costa Rica

Planning and preparation for this trip began over a year ago. Now, with two and a half months of overland travel under our belts, we have finally reached our destination of Costa Rica!


The first place we camped was only 20 minutes from the Nicaragua border, but it already felt like tranquil paradise.


Cañas Castillas is a huge 100-acre property, owned by a Swiss couple who moved to Costa Rica in the late 90’s. They raised two kids, sending them to the local schools.


There are wonderful hiking trails all over their property. One path follows an adjacent river and we were told to beware of the inhabiting crocodile (he’s been known to nab puppies and chickens that stray too close to shore)!


Here’s Bruno hiding in the bushes.


Some time back, the family rescued a two-toed baby sloth. She lives on the property and they are now trying to re-introduce her to the wild. Apparently, she had fallen from a tree right beside the house and her mother never showed up to help it (typical sloths – too lazy even to save their own cute children). She slept a hell of a lot (they’re supposed to be nocturnal), but we were lucky enough to watch her eat flowers, yummy green leaves and unripe mangoes. Oooh she loves mangoes.


Announcement: Amanda is the new owner of a yellow beach cruiser bicycle! It is single speed and has coaster brakes! So proud.


Hiking the trails on the property. Hello cow.


This devious turkey was very interested in our chopped vegetables! Shoo turkey, SHOO!!


Ahhh. Audiobooks and hammocks, what a combo. Finishing up The Pillars of the Earth and about to start Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.


Next stop: Liberia, Costa Rica. Usually just somewhere people fly into on their way to a beach town. We need to run some errands in a larger city, so we camp in a hostel parking lot and this fuzzy cat became friends with Bruno!


Nice tongue, cat!


Driving west to the Pacific coast from Liberia. Smooth pavement! Better watch out, lizards! Why did the lizard cross the road? We’ll never know.


Our initial beach-camping plans were annihilated when we discovered that no one is allowed to camp close to the beach during turtle nesting season! So, we convinced a nice hotel to let us camp in their parking lot. Steps from the beach for beautiful sunsets and use of their pools. We stayed two nights and had a blast. Playa Grande, just north of Tamarindo, is a very quiet beach with huge waves for experienced surfers, i.e. not us.


The hotel had a nice pool area – and a grumpy pool CAT that stole Travis’ towel!


What are you looking at?


Here is a mono tempting fate by lazing on a power line… we’ve heard this is a common way for monos to meet their maker.


…another living pura vida.


We decide to spend a few days in Tamarindo, to see what all the fuss is about. A primary tourist destination in northwest Costa Rica, it has managed to keep it’s small town charm. No buildings higher than a couple stories, unlike the looming high-rises of the Mexican beach resorts. Just endless surf shops, restaurants, shopping and beach! We think this is a perfect spot to pick up surfboards and so we go on a hunt for used ones. Somebody knows somebody who knows somebody who’s selling a board… boom. Bruno’s packed to the gills. Can’t even see that bicycle on the roof, can you??


Time to head to our rental house in Nosara! Heading south from Tamarindo is 2 hours of seriously bumpy dirt road. Bruno’s bones have never been so rattled.


As we enter Nosara, we see this fellow and research later that it is a white-nosed coati, aka the Costa Rican raccoon!


Bruno parks in his new driveway and breathes a sigh of peaceful relief.


Home sweet home, with a nice little pool in the back.


Not bad for $1150 per month / $38 per day! Two bedrooms with bathrooms, and it even has a wall rack for our surfboards!


After getting settled into our new home, we decide to take a day trip. With numerous beach towns to choose from up and down the coast, we head south to Sámara. The abominable dirt roads continue, and it takes almost an hour and a half to drive the 30 miles.


Bruno is doing really well, but we’re beginning to feel the roads wearing on him. So much washboarding and oh so many potholes. He’s developed a small rattle, and at some point we need to inspect his underside to see if we can find what’s loose. Stay strong, Bruno.


When driving south from Nosara, the most direct route into Sámara crosses a river that has no bridges. Following directions from our open-source GPS maps, we end up on a suspicious-looking mud road, which indeed leads us to a river crossing. It’s pretty shallow and we cross with ease. However, as we continue down this “road” it quickly turns into a crazy swamp. After blasting through some mucky pits of death in 4WD, we reach some solid earth and stop. Amanda, in the driver’s seat, looks over at Travis. She is calm and collected, as if spinning tires in foot-deep mud is normal business. Travis gets out and does some reconnaissance ahead to see how fucked this road is. It’s fucked. Yes, we must turn around. Amanda turns Bruno around and I take this picture before we go back the way we came, through the pits off to the left.


As we head back, Bruno is sloshing all over the place, giant pools of water and mud, tires spinning like crazy. Bruno ends up slipping at a 45 degree angle to the road and gets kinda stuck. Amanda pops it in reverse to correct the craziness and we promptly get the hell out of dodge. We survived! What an adrenaline rush!


We head over to the alternate river crossing, which is in fact the “main road”. We wade in the river to check the depth and it’s at Travis’ knees, which is right at our comfort limit for river crossings, based on earlier internet research. During Bruno’s maintenance phase back in Oakland, we extended the rear differential breather to allow for crossing rivers in Costa Rica – and now here we are, in Costa Rica crossing rivers! So, the primary objective is to avoid getting water in the engine air intake under Bruno’s hood.


Amanda pops it in 4WD, (possibly) closes her eyes and hits the gas.




Back at the house, we have our first guests come to stay! We initially met overlanders Mallary & Chris (www.OurCoordinates.blogspot.com) in Oaxaca, Mexico. They are driving from their home in Virginia Beach to the southern tip of Argentina in a stylish grey 1994 4Runner named Lola. Beach, burgers, fish, enjoying each other’s company, and sharing stories of the road. Including how to outsmart a rice cooker.


Bruno has a lady-friend in the parking lot… appropriate blushing ensues.

In the next installment of Travis and Amanda Do Costa Rica: we take a trip to the capital of San José, prepare to part with our dear compadre Bruno for a time, and Amanda’s family comes to visit!