February 18, 2007
Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
We headed north over the mountains to the Caribbean coast of Panama. I don’t know what the history of the forests here is, but it seems to be the most undisturbed that we’ve seen in Panama. It was neat to cross over the divide and see the Caribbean Sea off in the distance to the north. Just a few miles before, we could see the Pacific off in the distance to the south. We didn’t visit the islands of Bocas del Toro. By all accounts, they are beautiful, but we weren’t sure of leaving our motorcycles and much of our gear. So we headed for the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.
But first, we had to cross the border. The border formalities here were very easy. The interesting part was the bridge across the Sixaola River, which is the border between Panama and Costa Rica here. It is an old railroad bridge. Although there are no longer any railroad tracks leading to or from the bridge, the rails are still on the bridge. It hasn’t been resurfaced for the road traffic it receives. After clearing out of Panama, we headed across. It was full of pedestrians, which meant we had to constantly start and stop. Stopping wasn’t so comfortable, as it wasn’t quite wide enough to put both feet down. I made the mistake once of looking down to see if I could put my right foot down, and all I saw was river. Hmmmm….. This isn’t the best time for mild vertigo! So it took some concentration to cross the bridge. I didn’t actually realize how much adrenaline I had going until I was filling out the Costa Rica immigration forms. Trying to write passport numbers in little boxes was tricky because my hands were trembly.
We found a small lodge right on the beach and stayed a few nights. A few miles away is a national park, and we had fun hiking through the jungle and along the beaches there one day.
From there, we headed inland, into the mountains. We stayed in a mountain lodge that night, enjoying the cool air and fabulous views.
Then came the volcanoes! We got up at sunrise one morning to head to Volcan Poas, trying to get to the top before the usual cloud cover rolled in. It was wonderfully clear when we got to the top. (We drove most of the way – only had to walk about 1 km.) The ride north from there was great fun, twisty roads, waterfalls, etc. That night, we got a cabin just north of Volcan Arenal, the most active volcano around. And we saw its show!! During the day, we could hear lots of rumblings, see puffs of smoke, and with binoculars, see boulders rolling down the side. But once it was dark, the real show began! The boulders were all glowing red hot, and they would disintegrate as they bounced down the mountain. Fireworks!
Yesterday, we decided to ride around Lake Arenal. Unbeknownst to us, we picked the weekend of the annual bike around Lake Arenal. This was only a problem when the road narrowed to a rough single lane because there was a line of some 50 vehicles accompanying their bicycling friends. By the time we realized what was going on, it was too late to turn back, and we became part of the slow parade. I suppose the upside was that without the crowds there, we never would have attempted the river crossing. This was by far the biggest river crossing my bike has ever been through. Tom took both bikes through, and the water was mid-thigh on me as I tried to assist. Other than wet feet, he got both bikes across without incident.
We cleared out of the madness of the bicycle event as soon as we could and found a small lodge run by a man from Seattle! Fresh cinnamon buns for breakfast this morning. Yummy!