What a diverse drive!
This morning, we left our beloved Central American pearl, Playa El Tunco (and Hotel Mopelia)…
When we were in La Fortuna, we (the Norwegian mountain goats + the Canuck) were overly keen to check out the famous Arenal volcano. Previously unbeknownst to us, due to past activity, the peak is completely shut for hikers. We drove up to the national park anyway, parked and started on the hike with our backpacks on. About 30 minutes in, we had reached the lava flow from the 1994 eruption and the grand finale of the hike. We snapped some photos, smiled, jumped, hiked around a couple hours and started talking about where to go to really see a volcano!
So what did we do? – Well, we did some research, changed our plan and drove to San Jose, yet again! According to our research, nearby Irazu volcano is Costa Rica’s highest volcano at 3432 meters above sea level. Also, there is a road that takes you all the way to the top with little or no effort other than patting your poor vehicle’s dash every now and then on the way up the hill. We set off early this morning after a 6 am breakfast and made it to the top of Irazu by 8:45 am.
Full score on Irazu volcano! We got up in (fairly) thin air, we got to see some serious volcanic craters and weird landscapes and we had a great day. The drive is pretty steep, but the road is in great condition. After parking, one can hike the summit and do a loop by two craters. We did it all! Half a day later, we had checked the volcano search off the list and were getting ready for another funlovingliving adventure: A classic Latin American football derby. Stay tuned!
The last little drive to La Fortuna was beautiful, as the majestic volcano formed the backdrop of the scenery.
In addition to viewing the volcano, La Fortuna has many activites to offer travelers. Rafting is one of these. I have jumped out of airplanes and off of bridges. I charge down hills on bikes, skis or boards, but I have never been white water rafting. The reason why is that I am scared! Today, that must change, as we are going rafting!!
We packed up and left Caribbean for the last time – on this trip anyways!
Our future fortune was the town of La Fortuna, situated just below the Arenal volcano.
As we drove by banana plantation and the containers that transport them, the scenery changed rapidly as we moved inland.
About an hour away from La Fortuna, it was getting late in the afternoon and we decided to stop for the night. We followed signs to some fairly rustic bungalows with incredible views. At $30 a night, they were not the cheapest accommodation we have ever stayed at, but the nature made up for it.
Early in the morning, Kyler and I woke up, brewed some coffee and watched a wealth of different birds from our stoop. Parrots, small birds, big birds, white birds, black birds and Tucans! Yes, we saw them all!
Team Funlovingliving back on the road – La Fortuna next!
Stoked to discover more of Panama than the city and the canal, we left Monday morning after a run and a hearty breakfast. We considered driving up to Colon on the Caribbean coast, but decided not to, as it is not known to be pretty, nor safe. Instead, we had our eyes set on Playa Venao on the Azuero peninsula. It is a funny feeling officially being on our way back to Canada, but who says it has to be done fast?
On the way to the Azuero peninsula, we saw this sign and the joke of the day came out: “I guess it means the food goes down well!”
As we pulled into Playa Venao, we all agreed we had found our spot! It is small and completely chilled out, while still having a few amenities such as a tiny-tiny supermarket, a couple restaurants and internet. The beach is beautiful, it is lush, sunny and hot. Who knows how long we will stay?
Day one at the mechanics was spent entirely at the VW dealership. We played Sudoku, read, watched, went for lunch and repeat. In the end they decided they needed some external help for the fix. We packed up the essentials, aka. ten kilos of laundry, and went to a hostel in town and did laundry all evening.
We showed up at the VW dealer the next morning at 8 am hoping Honey would be fixed and back on the road in time to greet our friends Ellie and Todd at the airport in Panama City. The clock tick-tocked and we realized that we would not make it in time.
At 2 pm, Honey was fixed! With $90 less in our wallet, we hit the road with the intention of driving as far as possible until it got dark. When it got dark, the roads were so good we decided to keep going all the way!
Our goal for the past few months, the Panama Canal was crossed in the dark.
Around 9 pm we rolled into our designated meeting point, Villa Michelle, our home for the next few days. Ellie and Todd were there, the funlovingliving team just got two new members! Yay!
Rather early on the first day of 2013, we left Bocas del Toro, our home for the past three weeks or so. We were heading to Panama City where our friends, Ellie and Todd are about to fly in, as we speak. Ellie and Todd will be joining our funlovingliving adventures for the next few weeks. Okey, let’s not get ahead of ourselves!
We got on the boat from Bocas to mainland Panama at Almirante, where our van, Honey, had been parked. We found her just like we left her – A big relief (when your van is like your baby)!
Full of excitement of being reunited with our baby and with new adventures ahead of us, we hit the road! The roads were smooth, the tunes were good and life seemed all good.
After about an hour and a half drive, we decided to stop for a quick refreshing drink before embarking on the rather steep mountain pass over to the Pacific side and the Pan-American highway leading to Panama City. When we went to start Honey, she is not keen. Not at all. Our beloved van is completely dead and we are somewhere in random Panama where we do not want to be very long. Some friendly passer-byes come to help us. We all believe it is our starter that has given in. We have had some minor troubles starting earlier and took the van in to the mechanic in San Jose, Costa Rica, for this reason. They said all is good and we took their word for it. As we were now stopped, we regretted it! The friendly passer-byes got ahold of a local police officer who took up the job of finding a tow truck for us. We decided we wanted to go to David (on the Pacific side) rather than being stuck on the Caribbean side, where there really is not much and what is there is is sort-of shady. It started pouring rain and went from really, really sweaty hot to really quite cold in a matter of minutes. It rained like it only does in the tropics. Buckets and buckets at a time. Not quite the start of 2013 we had hoped for.
We waited and waited and waited some more. As it was starting to get dark, the truck was still not there and I was starting to get worried. What do we do if it doesn’t show up??
Luckily, we didn’t have to find out. The truck came just a little later, after having struggled across the mountain from David to us. Now he would have to do the drive back.
The drive we had ahead of us was, well, horrible. More than once did I think we could die, right now, right here, in Panama. The tow truck didn’t have much for headlights and what it did have were looking different ways. It was extremely foggy to the point where we couldn’t see anything ahead of us. It felt like we were driving in a bubble, except we weren’t! We were on a rather skinny road. I squeezed Kyler’s hand so hard I must have stopped the circulation. As we hit pot holes I let out little sounds, while trying not to, at the same time. In the side view mirror, we could see the van shifting it’s position. It was sketchy, scary, hot, cold and terrifying, all the same time. After a four hour drive, we finally made it to David! Ahhh, what a relief! After another hour or so of unloading the van off the truck, packing some essentials, looking for a place to sleep and unwind, we went to bed exhausted. Unfortunately, Ellie and Todd will have to do without us for the next day or so, as we sort out the van and eventually make our way down to Panama City.
Alright, it’s 7:00 am, we will make some breakfast before day two at the mechanic shop. Let’s hope we get this show back on the road!
A short drive from David, Panama’s second largest city, we found Playa las Lajas. Unlike Costa Rica, the road leading there was a dream to drive on! The scenery was beautiful, the cattle along the road was well fed and due to rain it was green and lush. The town of Playa las Lajas is actually situated 8 km away from the beach. In an attempt to really pump up the beach feel on your way to the ocean, they have invested in some highly decorative bus stops. Best bus stop I have ever seen!
As we arrived at the beach area, we realize there really is not much there. Appearently crowds come in on the weekends, but we did not see a single person, it being mid-week. We made a left turn at the T-intersection by the beach and eventually came to a property with some colorful cabins on it. Some people were sitting under a palapa roof, not doing much. The cabins must have been wonderful, a long time ago. They could have needed some attention five years ago, are are still longing for the upkeep they did not receive. Imagine how incredibly cute the little cabins could have been if they did not pose a danger to stay in! We payed $5 to park Honey on their property and camped there overnight. The weather was somewhat gloomy and some rain would come and go. We played frisbee on the beach, went for a swim and a surf, followed by a fish dinner.
We had a good time, but somehow we both ached to move on and look for something else. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the humidity and heat, maybe it was the general lack of energy, maybe it was us just not quite figuring the place out. Either way, we decided on a massive change in plans and changed coasts! More on that in the next post!
The last border crossing going South – We have reached Panama!
Pavones had no cash machines and not many places accepted cards. Since we were buying Popsicles and lollipops at the local store, our stack of cash diminished and our stay came to an end. Monday morning we hit the road and headed for the Costa Rica/Panama border.
Compared to other border crossings we have made in the past, this was easy breezy! Only an hour and a half to figure out the usual game of “which office where and what papers there.” A quick evil eye and anybody trying to take advantage of us were gone. Easy!
We are now in David, Panama’s second largest city. Honey is safely parked for the night, a massive load of laundry is in the dryer and we are getting ready for dinner! We will be moving on tomorrow morning, full of excitement to check out a country we have heard many great things about!