Rainforests. Cloudforests. This is Costa Rica.

Cloudforest Doc Costarica

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.

Costarica Cloudforest

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.

Rio Terraba Costarica

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.

Golfo Dulce View

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.

Rainforest Doc Costarica

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

7 replies
  1. Jonathan Karl
    Jonathan Karl says:

    It’s December 12 … and that means it’s your birthday.
    Happy Birthday!!! Please find your present in the tip jar.
    Cheers, JK

  2. Dad & Gwen
    Dad & Gwen says:

    Casper, Casper, Casper, Casper
    Happy Birthday from Vero Beach. Hope you are having a fine glass of a fine vintage. All the best for a Happy Birthday. Stay safe.
    Love, Dad & Gwen

  3. Jan Marc Staelens
    Jan Marc Staelens says:

    Happy Birthday, Allan, you legend!!!
    I’ve posted an entry on your thread on the ADVRider forum under my nickname of GyspsyRider. What the heck, I’ll post it here too, so I’m sure you’ll read it! Probably the longest ‘comment’ you’ve received so far:
    Hi Allan,
    Finally a word of news from your Belgian buddy in Thailand. Before I forget, thanks for emailing me that funny photo of the two of us tightly hugging each other in Creel. If it wasn’t for the motorcycle gear, we would look like a gay couple on their honeymoon, no? When I showed Niki the photo, she asked me where the other picture is where we are passionately kissing…
    I have been greatly enjoying your travelogue, especially the stories of your encounters with the locals and also the historical background of the places you visit. And great pictures too. It really makes a difference for your readers. Please keep up the writing, I know it must be overwhelming at times, but keep in mind how many people tune it every day and enjoy following you on this magnificent adventure… and depend on it to get us through the waiting periods between our own trips. Some might say chicken soup for the soul, but to me your stories make not only interesting reading, but are also tasty appetizers that stir the imagination and wanderlust that lives in each of us. First thing I do each morning when I sit down at my desk is check in and see if there is a new post in Worldrider’s travelogue. What better way to start a working day than catching up with my buddy Allan and seeing if he is doing OK and having fun on the road…
    Have been trying to read up on Jeremiah’s Journey, but when I click on a link to an entry in his journal, the message appears that no entries have been posted yet. I’ll drop Miah an email about it.
    After I said goodbye to you and Miah in Creel, I embarked on a trip down the canyons that turned out to be an epic ride in the good company of Gerardo Ibarra, Gaspipe (Bruce), LasVegasRider (Mike), and MaxVert, all notorious members of the ADVRider community. The weather was great, the scenery stunning, the riding exhilarating, and all this in the company of a great bunch of guys. At times like these, life doesn’t get better! We made a loop via Cerocahui (where we spent two nights at Justin Lopez’s new motorcycle lodge (Rosen’s Rides), Urique and Batopilas back to Creel. I had been down to Urique before in 2003 in the company of Juan Carlos (Gerardo’s brother) and Doc Arturo, but even if it was the second time for me, it is still an awe-inspiring descent into one of the most spectacular canyons I have ever seen. Bruce and Mike unfortunately had to turn back after visiting Urique as they had work commitments back home, while the rest of us continued to Batopilas via a little-used dirt road. Gaspipe and LasVegasRider have posted a very funny trip report on our memorable trip, with lots of pictures, see: The Road Less Travelled – Part Deux.
    Riding the (upgraded) XR650R (a.k.a. as BRP: big red pig) was truly exhilarating, it is a real power slider of a DS bike, it has heaps of power available throughout its rev range, what an amazing bike! Having ridden KLR’s, XT’s, DR’s, BMW F650’s, GS’s, Varadero’s, Guzzi’s, etc. across various continents, I have to admit that in terms of DS riding fun, nothing comes close to a XR650R. Mounting the BRP, Gaspipe, who owns two KTM 640 Adv.’s and a fleet of other KTM’s (among other bikes), was instantly converted. So it was no surprise that after returning home from this trip, both Gaspipe and LasVegasRider (KLR650) bought XR650R’s and are currently upgrading them for our upcoming trip down the Baja in February ’06. I feel lucky and privileged that Gerardo, Gaspipe and LasVegasRider have invited me to join them on their next adventure, and I am very grateful to Gaspipe for offering me a fully prepped KTM620RXC for this trip. So I’ll be back in the US and Mexico in two months’ time for some more fun and adventure.
    Talking of fun and adventure, Niki and I have embarked on another memorable adventure, but one of a very different kind: Niki has delivered our daughter, Naomi, on December 3 at one of the local hospitals here in Chiang Mai. Niki only had to push twice for Naomi to pop out! I didn’t even have time to fire up my dvd camera and record the whole event! Being born in Thailand to Belgian parents who have lived in five continents and her brother Sebastian being born in Santa Barbara, CA, Naomi will one day understand why her dad has chosen the nickname GypsyRider to register in the ADVRider community.
    Wish you all the best on your trip, Allan, and I eagerly look forward to reading all the future episodes in your well-written and entertaining travelogue. Don’t know when I’ll see you next, but remember that you’ve got a room in my home (for as long as you want) and a warm welcome waiting for you when you get to Thailand on this epic RTW journey.
    Jan Marc


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