Since Adam beat me to the punch on the summarization of Costa Rica, I was planning on not publishing this. But what the hell…
Pura Vida is Costa Rica’s motto and way of life. The border on the other hand was Pura Hell. More like a slow burn since it took four hours to cross from Nicaragua. We approached Costa Rica with high expectations but with some trepidation and curbed enthusiasm. Border crossings can do that to you. But it’s Costa Rica! It’s super touristy! That means the whole process will be easy and straightforward and lightning quick. The process was confusing, frustrating and painfully slow.
From what I understand, this is the only border crossing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Meaning that there was a lot of people and goods crossing. The process of crossing was confusing and after a couple false starts and some help, we managed to get through. It was already night and we did not really have a game plan.
Adam has been awake for almost 24 hours when we finally found a place to camp. He climbed an active volcano at midnight. The border crossing did not help, nor the humidity.
We found a nice bed and breakfast place and camped in their field for a cool $7 after we negotiated down from $10.
The next morning we ate breakfast and a little wiener dog and a majestic, yet goofy Rhodesian ridgeback greeted us. We headed to the Rincon de la Vieja National Park which was adjacent to the B&B.
We drove through the entrance and started looking for the park office to figure out what to do. We stopped at the office of an adventure tour company to ask for directions and suggestions. We were greeted by Tomas, who works there and is an avid outdoorsman. He immediately asks about my Subaru and we find out that he is also loves Subarus. He has a Forester himself. We talk shop and he said that he knows the owners of the Subaru dealership in San Jose. He calls the guy up and lets him know that we will stop by for an oil change and give us a VIP experience. We part ways and he suggests that we hike to the waterfall in the park. On the drive over, I saw my 25th Subaru in Central America and it happens to be a Brat, the precursor to my Baja!
After nearly two hours through an ever-transforming landscape of jungle, savannah and low-lying shrubs, we reach the very essence of Pura Vida.
We hike back and drive out with the intention of camping at Arenal Volcano. We punch it into the GPS and off we went. The road out of the park was all dirt and the car was not taking the bumps in stride. It was riding a little rough. We finally hit some paved roads and then we the GPS took us into some extremely rough terrain. It was deceiving because the road started off as well maintained, then it turned into a dirt road, and then it turned into rocks. Just rocks. We were too deep into this road to turn back and it was only about 20 km to the next turn. We decided to go for it. It should be noted that we do not have a spare tire since we blew out one of the tires in Nicaragua. Sometimes dumb decisions make incredible stories.
The road was challenging and we took it slow. Very slow. We even had a couple river crossings. Don’t worry, they were that deep. Since the Subie didn’t have a dual range gearbox, we had to occasionally speed up hills before the car stalled out. It was definitely a test of driving and problem solving skills.
We were running out of daylight and we still had a bit more of rough roads to tackle.
We camped for the night next to pastures with the mountains framing our view. It was an unexpected but beautiful camping site.
The next day, we headed to Monteverde to check out a cheese factory that Dana highly recommended. We finally reached the end of the dirt road and drove on smooth tarmac. Then we hit dirt roads again. They were a mix of rocky to dirt trails leading through the hills. It was a slow and bumpy ride but the Subie took it all in stride, albeit some odd noises coming from the front suspension.
We finally arrived at the Monte Verde Cheese Factory and took a tour through their facilities. The factory has a fascinating history, in which it was founded by a bunch of American Quakers who were dodging the draft.
After the tour, we set forth to San Jose. This meant driving through the dirt roads and it started to rain. This marked the unofficial start of the rainy season.