Despite my issues with Costa Rica over the last couple days, today I had the most glorious ride of perhaps all of Central America. That’s a big statement that perhaps I’ll withdraw someday, but the sheer magnitude of riding from see level to over 10,000 feet from Cartago to San Isidro and onward toward Golfito and the Osa Peninsula was breathtaking. Sure the madness of San Jose and the bustling and growing town of Cartago had to be dealt with but as the Pan American Highway climbed outside of Cartago through rainforests then higher into misting cloud forests, the lush tropical foliage swallowed me as a pothole free road twisted and winded it’s way into the clouds. Tall palms, ferns, cedar and colorful flowers of red, yellow and white framed the road and formed a canopy as it climbed up steep hills around me. Traffic was light today making for the experience even more exciting. I had driven this road by car the last time I was in Costa Rica. But the night riding experience was a nightmare as dozens of trunks grinding their gears and tried to maintain speed as they climbed. And on the downhill stretches they’d barrel behind me riding my ass like an impatient New Yorker on the Bruckner Expressway.
But today the occasional bus and truck were easily passed as Doc and I fell into a Rhythm I haven’t felt since leaving Chiapas nearly a month ago. By the time the road started to drop through more rainforest, I continued my ride through the jungle, then through tropical lowlands as made my way through miles of pineapple plantations and what must be the Del Monte run town of Buenos Aires. Then the Pan American makes an abrupt change of direction at Paso Real and begins to follow the meandering Rio Terraba. While the scenery only changed by the appearance of this grand river, I couldn’t help but craning my neck and looking at the rich green foliage surrounding me. Imagining pumas, howler monkeys, yacking macaws and the odd toucan all living in their natural paradise while the drone of my F650 GS was muted by the exquisite melodies and guitar playing of Mark Knopfler. Paradise.
That is until I got into the twin pueblos of Palmer Norte and Palmer Sur, when the rain started pouring. I shouldn’t complain this is on the edge of a rainforest. But then the potholes made their haunting return. I thought to myself this could be where Jeremiah’s El Viento’s rims met their destiny. I decide to spend the night in the sleepy yet set in an idyllic location of Golfito. Once the Costa Rica headquarters for United Fruit, Golfito has struggled since high export taxes and a detrimental banana disease forced it to move its operation to Ecuador.
I pull into the Hotel Mar y Luna just on the outskirts of Golfito and negotiate a good price for a room on the water. I sit and have a cold Imperial as the sun sets of Golfo Dulce.
“I’ve got 5 Harleys!” the older Canadian man sporting a good sized beer gut, round face and a waft of breath that only could be created by just a bit too much vodka. “What’s all this,” he asked gesturing toward my riding suit, “you gotta be real hot!” Cheerful and with a throaty laugh broken only by the occasional deep cough. “I once road from Canada all the way to Florida in a t-shirt.” He didn’t think I needed my protective riding gear and insinuated that I wasn’t really riding. “Not that I got anything against this or you, but you don’t need this.” Bleach white hair and a red nose and jolly demeanor not unlike Alan Hale’s skipper on Gilligan’s Island he asks me to sit down and have a drink.
He’s in a different state of mind and a bit in my face. But friendly and eager to tell me that walking 10 miles a day has kept his diabetes in check. “The air and climate is different here than in Canada.” Did he really have to tell me this? But then he revealed something we didn’t talk further about. “The doc gave me a year.” Nothing like a bomb dropped to change the tone. But he kept his pace, laughing and smile as more locals dropped by the bar.
I notice tables in the waterfront restaurant set up for a party of more than thirty, complete with flowers and balloons. A baby shower. I guess I’m going to find somewhere else for dinner and bid my new friend farewell and make my way out of there. Tomorrow? Panama.
Photos: (1) Doc high at 9,000 feet in the cloud forest with beautiful winding pavement; (2) Costa Rica in the clouds; (3) Rio Terraba north of Palmer Norte in central Costa Rica; (4) View from my hotel in Golfito of Golfo Dulce and the Osa Peninsula; (5) Doc in the tropical jungle of southern Costa Rica