Welcome to Costa Rica. For the night we set camp in front of the Reserva Biologica Lomas Bardudal rangers house and in the next day, early morning, we hiked through the jungle. During the hike we meet a family of Capuchin monkeys. At first they looked distrustful and did threaten us by grinning, but over time they lost interest on us and got back to their most important task, looking for food.
Costa Rica is rich in nature, in national parks and reserves. Most are paid for, so we skip them, but one can find gems for free. Like the big reptiles under the bridge. Crocodiles were lying on the river bank. There were about a dozen of them. Through binoculars you could see them accurately, even the small movements of their nostrils. The great reptiles are impressive. We were unable to reach our friend Joanie in time for Christmas dinner so, for the night, we set camp at the parking lot of the restaurant Mar y Sol, just in front of the beach with the same name. It’s Christmas Eve. There is also internet, so we could talk to our loved ones, although the time difference is not favourable. Next morning, we drove to Joanie’s. She was at the Rafiki camp ground, just a little North of Quepos. We took the opportunity to enjoy breakfast on the lodge with a stunning view of the area.
Costa Rica, together with Belize, are the most expensive countries of Central America through which we have traveled so far. In order not to ruin our budget (already in ruin), we headed towards Panama quite fast. In Costa Rica we stay only 3 days, also because we agreed with Joanie, with whom we would share a container, the 9th of January, to ship our cars.
Panama. The last country in North America on our way South. Although connected to Colombia, and therefore to South America, there is no road that you can drive on. Separating the two continents is the Darian Gap. There is really no road there and it seems there will never be one. This is mainly related to environment reasons and drug traffic. The only way for our car to get to South America was by ship. For safety reasons, we choose to do it by using a 40’ sea container, sharing it with another car. The crossing price is similar, and perhaps higher than the seven-day transport from Liverpool to Halifax in Canada. Here it is only 1 day. We could fly or cross in sail boats. We decided to fly. Our friends, Asia and Michał, whom we met in Mexico, went by boat. Magical views, 5 days on the sea, an unforgettable experience. However, 5 days were to much and the cost too high. But before it comes to shipping, we had almost two weeks, and one New Year Eve, to get acquainted with Panama.
We start with … a volcano, of course. The chosen one was Barú. This time we went up the mountain with our beloved UMM, hiking the rain forest only from the point where cars are no allowed.
Here we had our first failure, that would immobilize us for a couple of days. Problems in the front leaf springs. The ones on the right broke completely, all four of them! On the left side things were a little bit better, only two broke. We had to drive 50 km down to David, to a workshop capable of making leaf springs. Two days later and with a severe blow to our budget, we got back to the road. And that it was already December 30, we had to find a place for New Year’s Eve. Ended up bumping into Johnny Fiestas bar, in Las Lajas. Stayed here 4 days. Beach bar, hammocks, board games, internet, bear. And two lovely dogs. We’ve settled in for good. Sergio was in heaven, splashing like a little seal in the sea water witch temperature was close to be that of warm soup. Marzena went out to the beach only at sunset, vampire style. We met a Canadian family, living in Vancouver Island and, who knows, we just might visit BC again.
Everything good ends quickly. We had to leave paradise beach and drive towards Colon, where the car would be load into a container. On the way, we probably had the biggest attraction of Panama – Panama Canal.
The first time we crossed the canal was through the Bridge Of The Americas, as we were entering Panama City. Then we went to the Miraflores lock, were you can almost touch the passing mammoth ships. We crossed the canal two more times – with the ferry at Colon and through the locks of Gatun and Agua Clara to get to Fort Lorenzo.
Fort Lorenzo was the one protecting the entering of Chagres river. Attacked repeatedly and destroyed almost completely. The ruins are well preserved and described in detail on the boards during the visit. Unfortunately, we got there at noon, and the heat was unbearable.
And the day arrived when we had to be separated from our UMM. Loaded into a container and left at the port of Colon, he waited for a ship to take him to Cartagena, Colombia. At least he was not alone. He had for company Joanie’s rig, the Beast! We returned to Panama City and waited for our flight.
On Friday, January 11, we flew to our next continent. See you in South America.