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Had to Go Back to San Jose, CR


January 20th, 2017

We arrived back at Camping El Tecal near Uvita and Playa Colonia around ten in the morning today but someone was parked in the spot we’d had last week: a couple from Quebec; so we parked a little deeper into the property where the Wi-fi reception sucked but not a biggie. There was also a Dutch couple tenting there and later a Costa Rican family set up three tents for the weekend. This campground is well maintained; grass is cut, bathrooms and cleaned at least twice a day, they have both seats and TP and there is an above ground pool. It’s about a five minute walk to the beach.

(Turns out the French Canadians  left the next day as they found it too hot and they don’t have AC; good news for us so we moved over there.)

Doug had a conference call at ten thirty so after that we had lunch and spent the afternoon at the beach sitting under the palm trees instead of our umbrella this time. There were hardly any people here (unlike last week) so we had no trouble finding shade under the palm and almonds trees.

The Dutch couple, Feika and Alie, were spending three months in CR travelling by bus and using a tent. We chatted with them a bit that day and invited them to join us for dinner out on Saturday. They have travelled quite a bit; they both work in Holland and take three months off each winter to really get to know a country. They have been to CR at least twice before.

Saturday we both went for a run in the morning (Doug’s much longer than Fran’s) and then in the afternoon approaching low tide, we walked out to the whale tail spit again mostly walking with our feet in the water to stay cooler. Serena had given us both surfer SPF shirts for Christmas so they helped keep the sun off.

It was a very pleasant stroll and we finished off the afternoon reading in the shade at the campsite before our dinner out with Feika & Alie.  We have not eaten out before in Costa Rica as prices are like back in the States or higher. We have had the odd drink at a bar but only when they were cheap or at happy hour.

Sunday we spent another day here at Uvita Beach just enjoying and feeling thankful for our wonderful life.  This time the tide was WAY out so we took our umbrella and settled on the beach.

Upon returning to the campground, we saw a vehicle that looked familiar; lo and behold wasn’t it the German woman, Claudia, and her mother, whom we’d met back in March in Cancun. Claudia travels solo but her mother joins her periodically along the PanAM route if there’s a country/place she’d like to visit. Claudia had spent nearly six months back in the US doing the Pacific Crest trail last summer and nearly finished it before the wet, cold weather set it. What an accomplishment.

We left Uvita Monday morning and offered Feika and Alie a ride towards San Jose. We knew we’d be stopping in the larger town of San Isidro and figured there’d be a major bus terminal there for them to catch a bus back to San Jose that same day. They took us up on the offer and we all piled into Tigger.

We drove inland to San Isidro on a very good road and after dropping our new friends at the bus terminal, we went to run a few errands and then got on the PanAm and headed north ourselves. This road is in okay shape but needs some TLC. We obviously we are sea level this morning at Uvita but at the highest point we were at 3400M/11150′ on this road. We stopped at a look out at Cerro Ascunsion for a short walk/stretch but found no good viewing area.

Our destination was a lodge in the Parque Nacional de Quetzales and we arrived at Mirador de Quetzales in the early afternoon. They allow overlanders to park with no services for $10 for the night or if you need bathrooms/showers, they charge another $5. We took the cheaper option and then arranged for a guide tomorrow morning to try and spot these magnificent birds.

We sat in the sunshine (the temperatures had dropped significantly for us as we were so high – camping spot is at 2900M/9500′ and by 4:30 felt we needed to sit inside. The temperature dropped overnight but we were comfy and cosy inside. At 5:30 am when we awoke it was 3C/37F so we cheated and warmed up Tigger with the furnace to take the chill out before getting out of bed.

We met Jason at the reception area and he had already heard a quetzal. While he was looking for it Fran spotted it and five minutes later there was a second one. They were both males and a little on the smaller side but we enjoyed watching them for a little while before, Oscar, our actual guide joined us and took us on an hour’s walk through the property.

He spoke about other fauna in this park including puma and tapirs and showed us signs of the former. Finally, he heard a quetzal and we were treated to about a minute of watching a quite large male up in the avocado tree. They eat these small avo’s that are not much bigger than grapes and spit the pits so another tree can grow.

Upon returning to Tigger we had brekkie, broke camp and headed to San Jose. Doug has to fly to LA for three nights so we booked a hotel with his Choice points near the airport. The drive took longer than expected and we naturally hit San Jose traffic in the last 30 minutes or so. The Hotel Quality Real was very nice and had a huge parking lot so no issues parking Tigger. We treated ourselves to dinner out at the nearby Pizza Hut and the next morning, Doug left for his flight.

We got a real bargain here for laundry.   Fran noticed that they had “guest laundry” so after asking, they said there were two washers and one dryer up on the fourth floor and that the washer cost $1.25 and the dryer $1.00 so we “bought” some US quarters {?} and Fran did three loads of laundry. We have found laundry really pricey here in CR (once we paid near $50 for three loads!) so this was cheap. It made it even cheaper that not only did we have our own laundry soap but the dryer turned out not to have a coin thingy attached to it so it was free! Fran did three loads for $3.75 US.

Fran checked out late, did some shopping and went to a nearby water park about 15 km northwest that allows camping. This is the place we’d made a deposit for back at the bank in Puerto Jimenez. There are very few spots to camp in the capital and most of those are free wild camping spots that we’d check out before and Fran was not comfortable spending nights alone in any of them. Parque Recreativo Los Manantiales has four pools, some water slides, hiking trails, shelters to rent and a camping area with bathrooms and showers as well as access to power. It’s quite large and walk from the site up to the restaurant for wifi was steep and long. But the internet worked well up there and the nights were extraordinarily quiet.

Fran was all alone the first two nights with not that many people during the days either. The pools are fed by clear creek water here and they are COLD as are the showers. Other than the main pool up by restaurant they are not cleaned often and that put Fran off trying them out. The water slides didn’t appear to have water running down them either which was different…….

On Fran’s last night, two french couples arrived at different times but they were travelling together. They’d stored their vehicles in San Jose for six months while they went home. It took them two full days to get their rigs released; we’d heard from Josee & Joe that it took them 2.5 days so Doug’s seven hours was not that bad in comparison; still ridiculous though.  Doreen is actually from Zimbabwe but is married to Michel, a Frenchman.  She did not meet the other couple.

Fran left Los Manantiales in the late morning and headed back to the hotel we’d stayed at on Tuesday. She stopped to top off the gas tank, sort out an issue with our hotspot’s sim card and got some more groceries. Since laundry was so cheap at the hotel, she also did another load of stuff that we’d been holding off on (blankets, mats and the like) and when Doug returned, she did another with his work clothes and the stuff she’d worn the past couple of days. Two loads = $2.50.

Doug’s flight landed early and since the hotel had good internet, we skyped with the grandkids for a bit before unpacking the goodies he’d returned with from the US (did some amazon shopping). We ordered room service for dinner and had a quiet night.

Sunday we were up fairly early as we wanted to get to Volcán Irazu about an hour away before the clouds came in. This is the tallest active volcano in CR and on a clear day you are supposed to be able to see both oceans. The sky was blue in San Jose but as we approached the mountains, we could see clouds building over some of the ranges.

We arrived at the national park entrance and learned to our dismay that it was a $15 ea entrance fee plus a $2 parking fee; a little steep but we bit the bullet and went in. After you park, there are two trails to take to see three of the five craters. The main easy one takes you past one and then to see the largest one and you walk back across the oldest one called Playa Hermosa.

Then if you want, you can take the 1km road up to the highest viewpoint. At 3400 m this was a short but somewhat tough walk for us but we had to do it. From the lookout we did see the Caribbean Sea but it was too cloudy looking west to see the Pacific.

As it was still earlyish we had to decided what to do next; hang for the night nearby and expect a bad sleep at this altitude, go down some to free camping without power but where it’s not too hot at night or head to the Caribbean which was a several hour drive from where we were. We opted for the second option and drove only as far as Cartago to a parking lot beside their big church where other had parked before with no issues.

Here Doug discovered that he’d forgotten his kindle back at the hotel in San Jose. This is the new kindle he’d just bought when we went home over Christmas to replace the one that had gotten wet in Nicaragua. We were lucky we had not drive east as we were only 35 kms from the hotel here in Cartago. Doug called the hotel and housekeeping had found it and was holding it for us.

Now the thought of driving back into San Jose’s traffic was not appealing and it was already past 4 o’clock we decided we get up early and try and beat the traffic into the city (we are south east of the city now) and then we are heading northeast to hit the east coast, so we should be heading in the opposite direction of the rush from the north side.

Turns out that there were two Sunday night masses at this church so it was little busy in the evening but not really noisy until around 9ish but then it was quiet for the night. We got up around 5am and didn’t get more than half a click away when we hit traffic trying to get on the highway. There appears to be only one road that merges onto the highway and traffic seemed to come from every direction to get on this merging road. Then to put the cherry on top, there was a lane closed for paving for a section once you get on the highway. So the first part of the drive that should have three minutes tops, took 45 minutes. We arrived at the hotel at 6:40 only to learn that the woman with the key to the cupboard that was holding the Kindle did not start work until 7. But in the end he got his Kindle and we began making our way out of San Jose slowly.

At first both our GPS and wanted us to drive right through the centre of the city to get to the northerly highway we wanted. This was ridiculous and Doug found us a route through a burb that took us to the highway lickety split considering the alternative.  That is why Doug navigates and Fran drives!