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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
905 days a wanderin'

Groove is in the Heart, Costa Rica

Jul 10, 2017
by John

Sometimes a slow start is the best way to get back our mojo. Once we retrieved the van from storage we soon found ourselves in a stall. Our tentative plans with the Iveco shop fell through and while the Ford dealer was willing to gouge us on ordering parts, they told us they couldn't work on our van because it was older than 2007. No problem, iOverlander came though with a solid recommendation even though the earliest appointment was for the coming Monday, giving us four days to kill.

The extra time proved to be useful since I returned to Costa Rica deep in the throes of the worst gout attack of my life and we weren't as prepared as we had thought to continue with our explorations. Reacquainting ourselves with the van and our life on the road was definitely better served by easing in slowly, even if not by choice. Settling down and taking it one day at a time is quintessential to how we travel. Ironically, keeping things simple and having a relaxed approach just happens to be the essence of Costa Rica.

What We Did

Finca Los Maestros, Cartago

We didn't want to wander far from San Jose so we chose to get our shit together at Finca Los Maestros, just outside of Orosi, before our appointment at the mechanic's. Although the camping is in the parking lot with a steep ascent to the restaurant and bathrooms, it is a quaint place that is very reasonably priced at 5,000C per night ($9). Most of our time was spent roughing out our route and chatting with the wonderful owner, getting to practice our rustier than usual Spanish. The three nights we spent camped there would probably be too long for most, it was exactly what we needed.

Finca Los Maestros, Cartago, Costa Rica

And then

Finca Los Maestros, Cartago, Costa Rica

A little leakage never stopped her before

Finca Los Maestros, Cartago, Costa Rica

Technically, it's a river crossing

Automotores Vargas, San Jose

Fabian and his crew welcomed us to his garage and immediately started working on the van. Over the course of a couple days they installed our new steering pump, high pressure line, and glow plug relay, changed our oil, fixed a broken clamp on our dog house, and tightened everything that had come loose in our engine and suspension. The holdup was the machine shop, but since we got to camp for free in their lot and use their WiFi it was easy to keep ourselves occupied. They are a great group of hard working young men for whom we hope nothing but success.

Automotores Vargas, San Jose, Costa Rica

It's not a downtown flat, but it'll do

Automotores Vargas, San Jose, Costa Rica

How to properly tip your mechanics

Frog's Heaven, Heredia

Our first foray back into the wilds of overland travel was free camping in a crappy parking lot next to an unusually loud road in the middle of nowhere. The following morning we started our tour at 6:30am, $25 per person, having the woes from our sleepless night washed away by the awe of nature. While the frogs are the main attraction, the food forest they live in is as equally breathtaking. The love and devotion to creatures and land was nothing less than inspirational. Five stars, sleep be damned!

Frog's Heaven, Heredia, Costa Rica

He's got froggy eyes, what can you do?

Frog's Heaven, Heredia, Costa Rica

We can still see you

Frog's Heaven, Heredia, Costa Rica

Now you party people know what Embryonic means...

Frog's Heaven, Heredia, Costa Rica

You lick it

Frog's Heaven, Heredia, Costa Rica

Amphibians don't have hair

Frog's Heaven, Heredia, Costa Rica

It's not easy being green, and yellow

Frog's Heaven, Heredia, Costa Rica

Pouty face will get you nowhere

Frog's Heaven, Heredia, Costa Rica

What's a bird gotta do to get some attention around here

Frog's Heaven, Heredia, Costa Rica

Where there's coffee, there's gringos

Frog's Heaven, Heredia, Costa Rica

O.B. Original Banana

Termales Los Laureles, Alajuela

It was too hot to sit in a warm pool but we were in dire need of a shower. Termales Los Laureles was in a perfect spot on our route towards Lake Arenal. We had brought a piece of mail for Pete & Natasha back from the States, so we figured we better clean up a bit before we delivered it (by this point we all deal with each other's stink but most of us still try...a little). At 4,000C ($7.27), it was a great deal even though it took us a while to find a spot where we could get the van level. Entry to the pools was 6,000C per person per day but we didn't visit them. The view of Volcan Arenal was exceptional.

Termales Los Laureles, Alajuela, Costa Rica

Not like Spock, think hot lava

Termales Los Laureles, Alajuela, Costa Rica

Somethin' ain't right with that chicken

Termales Los Laureles, Alajuela, Costa Rica

Yeah, we have an ax

Essence Arenal, Alajuela

Our first stop on our tour around the lake and the place Pete & Natasha happened to be. Not the cheapest at $16 per night to camp in a parking lot but the access to facilities easily offsets the cost. It was great to spend two days catching up with friends, road friends are like no other, and making new ones while achieving absolutely nothing. The scalding shower was a real treat and the owner started building some new spots specific to overlanders when we were there. The upgrades should be completed at this writing, so it is a place open to vehicle dwellers even though many other places on the lake aren't anymore.

Essence Arenal, Alajuela, Costa Rica

Looked bigger in the blogs

Essence Arenal, Alajuela, Costa Rica

Worst game of musical chairs ever

Hotel Los Heroes, Guanacaste

Parting ways with Pete & Natasha we continued around the lake to Hotel Los Heroes. Truth be told, we have a thing for Swiss and German cuisine so it should come as no surprise that we patroned the restaurant 3 times in under 24 hours. Fortunately, they let overlanders camp for free in the lower paved lot in front of the restaurant after eating. Everything was delicious with our meals averaging about $21 for the two of us. Hotel Los Heroes, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

We don't need another hero

Hotel Los Heroes, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Well that won't fit in my pocket

Hotel Los Heroes, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Sure it's pretty but where's the schnitzel?

Hotel Los Heroes, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Swiss people sure do know how to pick em

Restaurante & Camping Turin, Guanacaste

We finished our route around Lake Arenal, stopping to take a couple photos and to get some German food and supplies in Nueva Arenal, before deciding to head to Monteverde. While not the closest to the parks, Restaurante & Camping Turin sounded the nicest, so we gave it a try and plopped down the 8,950C ($16.13) for one night. Surprise, surprise, Pete & Natasha were already there with plans to zipline the following morning. We mulled it over while eating the last of our German delicacies before accepting their invitation to join their canopy adventure. The camping area at Turin is quite beautiful, a large grassy lot, it would be perfect if it had a closer bathhouse instead of having to walk down to the restaurant.

Lake Arenal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Getting there

Nueva Arenal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

We could camp here but there's German food to buy

Lake Arenal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

That grass really is greener

Restaurante & Camping Turin, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

We lowered it to make Jose feel taller

100% Aventura, Guanacaste

Caravaning to 100% Aventura, something we hadn't done in a long while, was fun and a great segue to the day's activities. While we had ziplined on many occasions before, nothing came close to the thrill of 100% Aventura. At $50 per person it seemed a bit pricey, but it was worth every penny by the end of the 9 zips, 2 of them being superman style, and the exhilarating Mega Tarzan Swing. Experiencing the tour with wonderful friends makes it priceless.

100% Aventura, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

There until here

100% Aventura, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Peter, Peternator, The Great Petowski

100% Aventura, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Just don't look down

100% Aventura, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Tuck the chin and suck it in

100% Aventura, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Nice shoes!

The 100% Aventura website lists their longest superman at 1 mile and also at 2 kilometers, the guide I spoke with said it was 1,800 meters. 1,800 meters is longer than a mile and obviously shorter than 2 kilometers so we're going with that, it's a safe split between the two and it's regarded as the longest superman in Latin America anyway. Regardless, it's effing long at over a minute and a half to traverse. We recorded our tour with our GoPro, using the provided helmet with mount, and exported a video of the longest superman which we sped up to 160%. That particular zip has two lines that enable two people to go at the same time, almost side by side. Mandi was sent off before me and I passed her just before reaching the end. Her legs appear briefly in the upper left corner at the start and just before the end of the video. We need more practice at filming, but this should provide an idea of how much fun the tour was.

The other big claim made by 100% Aventura is about their Mega Tarzan Swing. We can't remember how high it is but it was the highest jump we've ever made. This was my favorite and something I was for sure Mandi wasn't going to do. Wonder Woman has been on the tip of everyone's tongues lately and Mandi earned her card without doubt. I guess that's one way to tackle a slight fear of heights!

Bosque Nuboso Monteverde, Puntarenas

We all decided to checkout Finca Santa Maria after the ziplining tour since it's in closer proximity to the Monteverde and Santa Elena parks. First impression was of a soccer field with bathrooms that costs 5,000C ($9) per night to camp. Once settled, it became apparent that the quiet jungle setting, private bathhouse, potable water, and electricity made the place ideal. Pete & Natasha headed out to Santa Elena after one night but we ended up spending 3, ultimately deciding to visit Monteverde as it's trails were easier for someone still suffering from gout.

We were expecting large crowds at Bosque Nuboso Monteverde, $20 per person, but were surprised to mostly have our selected trail all to ourselves. The cost of admission was instantly offset 100 meters into our hike when we heard the familiar call of a Quetzal. For over fifteen minutes we hung out with a male, then a female, all by ourselves. They were slightly out of reach of our camera but randomly seeing Quetzals is beyond words. Our hike ended in a downpour, but those birds stole our hearts.

Bosque Nuboso Monteverde, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

You just been clockin' me. Now, I know I'm pretty, but I ain't as pretty as a couple of...

Bosque Nuboso Monteverde, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Are her babies yellow or cyan?

Bosque Nuboso Monteverde, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Of course succulants hold water doofus

Bosque Nuboso Monteverde, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

If that gets in your ear you are screwed

Bosque Nuboso Monteverde, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Yup, almost rain thirty

Bosque Nuboso Monteverde, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Either grandmother's house or the temple of doom

Bosque Nuboso Monteverde, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

The most elusive headless Quetzal

Honorable Mentions

While we don't list every place and thing we do there are some that stick in our minds. Weeks later we catch ourselves mentioning them to others or just savoring the memory of the exquisite cuisine we consumed. Here are a few standouts.

German Bakery, Guanacaste

A small spot of infamy, especially after seeing all of the overlander stickers and cards taped to the windows, and rightfully so. We bought the special which was a lunch for two including 4 sausages, sauerkraut, potato salad, and fresh bread along with two pieces of chocolate cake (both of which were for Mandi after I made an ordering error). The $30 it cost will not be missed, yum!

Farmacia Organica, Guanacaste

A quaint little health food store located in Nueva Arenal that has a decent selection including fermented beverages and raw nuts. While pricey, locating a kilo of raw macadamia nuts and a kilo of raw walnuts for about $30 each made our day.

Monteverde Whole Foods, Puntarenas

Wonderful organic produce at reasonable prices, not much else needs to be said.


Say what? (15)
George
Jul 10, 2017 at 09:10 AM
glad the mechanical stuff worked out....................that could have been a real financial disaster!
Jul 10, 2017 at 02:46 PM
Thanks George. Bringing the parts back from the states definitely saved us some money.
Jul 10, 2017 at 10:14 AM
Schnitzel are from Austria, in Switzerland we've Fondue !! :))))
Happy travel, take care of yourself friends
Jul 10, 2017 at 02:49 PM
Ha! We had schnitzel at a German and now Swiss place. We skipped the fondue and overendulged with roesti!
Jul 11, 2017 at 03:10 AM
Ah ah, roesti are great too, right? Not sure you can get a real Swiss cheese fondue in Costa Rica... ;)
Douglas
Jul 10, 2017 at 10:38 AM
G'day John & Mandi,
Great pictures & thrills of wild cable and giant swing!
I have a Gout problem too. My Urologist told me to have half a large lemon juiced with pith, twice daily, and after a few days, No Gout. I have been juicing lemons now for 14 months and a side also has been fungal left foot big toe, has gone, had toenail infection previously for over 2-3 years. Try it. Good Luck. Doug
Jul 10, 2017 at 02:52 PM
Great reminder about lemons. I usually use apple cider vinegar and baking soda but this particular attack has been quite stubborn.
Jul 10, 2017 at 11:53 AM
Looks fantastic and a good intro back into overlanding after time away. I know that it will be an adjustment for us too.. even though we're living in the camper, at camp, it's different being on the move. Amazing FROGS!!!!
Jul 10, 2017 at 02:59 PM
Thanks Rhonda! Planning, wifi, showers...the logistics of it all. We miss the ease of US campgrounds.
Jul 11, 2017 at 10:13 AM
Ease? Sure.. but not nearly as much fun!
Randall
Jul 10, 2017 at 12:50 PM
Wow, amazing frog photos and zipline videos.

Ahem, now that you are out of the states - couldn't you have a gout attack in the US? Look for something called Colchicine. Supposed to dissolve those nasty crystals. Otherwise Allopurinol helps reduce uric acid and prevent flair-ups.

Good luck.
Jul 10, 2017 at 03:03 PM
Thanks Randall. My attack started in the states and joyfully travelled back to CR with me. I control my condition with diet so obviously I had been cheating way too much over the past two years. Nothing like a friendly reminder of searing pain to snap my sorry self back into order.
Randall
Jul 10, 2017 at 06:50 PM
Knowing you just flew back, I also try to avoid the window/middle seats. I get the aisle seat and stand up every 20 minutes. Allowing my feet to get no exercise and just dangle with no blood flow is a run-up to pain. Even driving the van, one hour before a mandatory stop and walk. Makes for slow travel times, I know. My doctor and research says avoid alcohol and caffeine - say what??? Hard to avoid when we are on a constant vacation. Anyway, I'm blathering. Good luck on the trip south!
Jul 10, 2017 at 07:09 PM
Right! I think too many cocktails is what led to my recent attack. Back in the US I started eating really clean with everything organic and pasture raised. Did a cleanse followed by even cleaner eating and BAM, 3am sheet weight pain. It had been four years since my last attack. I had a couple inklings while on the road that were easily adverted but really they were signs that I was breaking the rules and just biding my time. I know better. I'm ok with black coffee and the occasion glass of red wine as long as my eating is kept clean, not an easy thing to do when tempted with local dishes at every turn. To forsake coffee while in Costa Rica, not mentioning Colombia, would be offensive and appalling. Sugar is my biggest enemy, grains next, so only time will tell the strength of my resolve.
Jul 11, 2017 at 03:13 AM
Hope it wont last too long. Cheer up!
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