Made it to Panama, eighth country on this trip.
Once again started early. First 18km to the border was on a reasonable though occasionally bumpy road. Once again, nice to have the cool morning air.
Many of the houses in Costa Rica have these boxes out front. Sometimes they will have an empty bottle or two or other debris. Always on a post out of the ground, but otherwise vary in construction. I assume these are garbage but not 100% sure.
I cycled past the Costa Rica immigration building. Asked some police and they directed me back to what I thought was a bus station. First step was to go across the street and pay $8 ($7 exit tax and $1 fee). Next had to fill out the exit form. Otherwise, was quick and easy to get my stamp to exit Costa Rica.
Next stop back to the Panama immigration building. This went even easier. They looked through my passport. Next took a photo and scanned my fingerprints. After that a stamp and I was ready to go. I had read a variety of things on the internet and was prepared to document my exit (plane ticket from Panama City back to US) and prepared otherwise answer questions – but it all went easier than expected.
The road in Panama started very nicely and gradually became worse as I neared David.
Initially it was a four lane concrete highway with a good asphalt shoulder.
About half way, the shoulder deteriorated and disappeared in many places. Hence, I was riding on the concrete. Unfortunately, the traffic also increased – though vehicles generally gave me room. The last 10km into David, the adjoining cement slabs had shifted and now there was often a 1cm (1/2″) sharp drop from one slab to the next. Bump, bump, bump. Not the best to ride but not much alternative.
We climbed slowly to 250m and after that a majority of the riding was downhill into David.
Saw some of these housing developments along the way. Signs are in Spanish, though wonder if they are directed to expat communities, as I know Panama is a popular destination.
There is a big festival in town: Feria de David, from the 16th to the 26th of March. Many of the streets were blocked off. I had made a hotel reservation via Expedia to make sure I had a room, though availability was low. Saw quite a few people on horseback including these riders.
Overall, nice to get into David and reach Panama. Plan is to cycle from here to Panama City and then fly from there to Colombia with a short intermission in Colorado in between. I bought the ticket a bit ago, and hence have some extra time I’ll spend either along the way or in Panama City when I arrive there. Given the warm afternoons, also nice if I can make some shorter (cool) morning rides.
Welcome to the jungle. As I’ve ridden east through Costa Rica, landscapes have gradually become more lush and green. Even in the dry season, the rivers flow under the bridge crossings. Seems like just off the road is a thicket of vegetation.
Forecast called for chance of showers and saw a thunderhead starting to build even in morning as I left. It pretty well stayed dry until after I arrived and even then only a few sprinkles.
The first two hours of the day are my favorite. Not only is it cooler, but there seem to be a lot more noises out in the vegetation. Squeaks, whistles, caws and other insect and animal sounds. Sometimes I listen twice to think, “is that squeak my bike?” but then realize it is some bird. On flat terrain, I will have covered 30km in those first two hours all before it gets very warm. After that still noises, but quieter. Also traffic starts to pick up.
Passed a number of these covered bus stops today and stopped for snack at 26km at one of them. There was a town at 32km and one at 60km and otherwise mostly rural areas. Parts of the road were newly done smooth asphalt and last 15km was a bit bumpier. It wasn’t wide, but traffic generally waited to pass.
A few palm groves, though not as large plantations as the other day. You can see the vegetation that climbs up on the trunks of these trees.
This guy was busy painting the roof blue and still had a ways to go.
At 60km I came to Rio Claro and made a stop here at the Pali to for a few things for a snack.
After this cycled the remaining 16km into town of Ciudad Neily. I am about 19km from the border and plan is to cross into Panama tomorrow.
Back to riding by myself. We reached the point where David goes inland towards friends in Costa Rica and I continue down the coast headed towards Panama. I’ve enjoyed these past six weeks cycling together and have two to problem solve has made a lot of things easier. Will miss having him on the road.
The first 48km looked a bit like the photo above. The road was not particularly wide. It climbed and descended over short little hills. Traffic came in spurts. Sometimes a truck would pass along with 15-20 other vehicles following. At other spots, it might become quiet with no traffic at all.
Sometimes when traffic was coming both directions and we were climbing a slow hill – it was unpleasant. However, overall it wasn’t as bad as I suspected reading other blogs.
It also became warm today. Overnight at 23C and by mid-morning my bike computer was reading 37 or 38C. Nice to get out on the road earlier in such heat.
We stopped once near 22km. Had a can of fruit cocktail here. We’ll often drop by store to get breakfast foods and occasionally also carry things for underway. I had been a bit full at breakfast, so fruit cocktail came for my stop.
After this it was decidedly warm and by 39km, we were ready for another stop. The restaurant had table cloths. Never a good sign for an economical place. Had scrambled eggs here.
I believe this sign is a promotion to win a bicycle by renewing your phone service. Speaking of which, my phone internet seems to have stopped working earlier than expected. Will need to check on renewing some time. Otherwise a handy backup when wifi isn’t reliable.
At 48km we came to the junction in the road. I headed right and David continued straight.
A selfie for the road.
I cycled another 6km. Past an expensive all-inclusive Hilton resort and to a hotel that looks like it came from the twilight zone. However, price is reasonable and air conditioning appears to work. I’m expecting to encounter a blend of expensive/in-expensive hotels as I now travel along the more touristy Pacific Coast.
Fork in the road. There are (at least) two choices from Liberia to start heading down the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
The “scenic route” goes out the Nicoya Peninsula and then across by ferry to Puentarenas. Depending on how scenic one wants to go is how many of the little roads you follow along the coast.
The “quick route” continues on the Pan American Highway and then turns right just after Puentarenas. Past reports told us this road started as a wide concrete highway but after Canas became narrow and sometimes busy. As a result, many cyclists end up taking the scenic route across.
We decided to try the quick route. How bad can it be? Canas was a little soon, but local friends of David were able to find and book a hotel 24km past Canas.
We set off and fairly quickly were on the major highway. It had a reasonable shoulder and was good travels. We did see several of these “No Ciclistas” signs.
We also saw at least three sections of “Ruta de bicicletas” where the shoulder of the road would turn into a bike path for a kilometer or two. We rode carefully and nobody came past to tell us not to be on the road.
We weren’t quite sure what these things were, but had to stop and take a photo.
There were several of these stands selling sandia (watermelon), pipa de coco (coconut juice) and vino de coyol (Coyol wine). Otherwise there were fewer small stores or comedors or similar places than in Honduras/Guatemala/Mexico. We kept an eye out for them, particularly as it became warmer. We did have a good stop at Bagaces at 24km and lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Canas at 48km.
A little before Canas we crossed over a larger river as well as this establishment telling us the Adventure Starts Here! This area we also noticed headwind more than elsewhere. Fortunately, it quieted down as we got further.
At 50km, just past Canas, our road narrowed. It was a smooth surface. There was a moderate amount of traffic. Expect more on the road tomorrow as we get closer to San Jose, but so far this road hasn’t been too bad.
It became more of an exercise of watching the heat. My bike computer read up to 39C before coming a little lower. We drank lots of liquids and stopped at a small pulperia we found. At 70km was a road intersection and not much further was the reserved hotel. Nice place and particularly happy it had air conditioning.
Tomorrow I expect we’ll get close to the coast. David will turn left roughly to San Jose and I’ll continue along the road slowly heading towards Panama.
Welcome to Costa Rica. Today crossed the border to reach the seventh country on this journey.
Enjoyed my time in Nicaragua, despite the shortest time of all countries we’ve traveled. Where we entered was more rugged and remote. Where we exited was much more touristy. Several beach resorts and a lot more English signs. At the Pali grocery store yesterday we even saw some tourists paying with US dollars. Prices of some hotels and similar were also quoted with both dollars and Cordoba.
We left before 7am, despite having a shorter ride. However, we expected the afternoon to be hot and also had a border to cross.
We had a cross wind starting out. Giant windmills told us this was a common phenomenon here.
There were several different wind parks of windmills, here was sign for one of them.
We came briefly along shores of Lake Nicaragua. We still had occasional trucks and buses, though after was passed some of the beach turnoffs and last towns, seemed like it was lighter crossing the actual border.
Sapoa was last little store before the border. We stopped here and I got rid of my last Nicaraguan coins.
After this we cycled last 5km to the border. Some trucks stopped on the Nicaraguan side, but a much longer line was waiting on the Costa Rican side. The procedures on crossing were simple, though we spent some time waiting in line:
- Nicaraguan side: Paid one US dollar, got a slip. Got the passport stamped and paid two more US dollars.
- Costa Rican side: Waiting in long line. Got to head and were told needed to fill out an immigration form. Filled out the form. Cut back in line and got things stamped.
There were quite a few people at the border. I got the sense that buses would take you to the border. You crossed by yourself and then found a different bus on the other side to continue your journey.
The booth on left was start of a several kilometer long line of trucks waiting at the border.
Not much further, we found small comedor and had lunch. Lunch was slightly more expensive than other Central American countries we’ve traveled.
Hard to have many impressions yet, but first impression was a lot of lush growth and hot steamy temperature on the 20km we cycled from the border to La Cruz. In La Cruz we checked out several hotels before finding a reasonable one not far from center of town. Over next few days will see if I can find a SIM card, get some money and otherwise travel through Costa Rica.