We’re in Costa Rica. Yeah, life’s tough.
Many of you have heard of or have been to Costa Rica. The name evokes tropical rainforests full of monkeys and parrots, gorgeous beaches and amazing coffee. Yes, it’s all true. Costa Rica is a very nice country.
Costa Rica hasn’t had an army since the 40’s. We haven’t seen a machine gun or shotgun for over 5 days – a record since crossing into Mexico in late December. The quality of life for most Costa Ricans (or Ticos/Ticas) is considerably higher than in other parts of Latin America we’ve been through. It’s odd – the palpable tension and near-desperation of grinding poverty had become a constant for me, much like the smell of burning garbage, especially through El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. (There’s no trash collection in most areas, so people burn what they throw out, usually right by the side of the road.) For the first time in a long while, I’m just soaking up scenery on the bike. It’s relaxing. One guy we met on the road yesterday said “Welcome – I hope you enjoy our tranquilo country.” Tranquilo has no equivalent in English as far as I know – it means relaxed, safe, hassle-free. And that’s exactly what Costa Rica is shaping up to be thus far.
People here seem very into what Lucie and I are doing. We’re getting far more honks of encouragement than we have in months – probably since the Yukon. People have stopped their cars on the busy Pan-American Highway to ask us about our trip and see if we need any help. On the way into Heredia (near the capital of San Jose), a woman thrust her hand out the passenger window and insisted on giving us 2000 colones – about $4! This was our first anonymous drive-by donation, and it made an impression.
Cyclists we’ve seen have been on stylish cruisers or nice mountain bikes, many wearing helmets. There’s a law requiring cyclists to ride with reflectors at night. This is huge. Safety laws are non-existent in countries north of here, where we’ve seen real live people getting from A to B by riding on top of semi trailers at 80 km/h like they were in the frickn’ Matrix or something. Although Nicaragua’s EcoSouth gives helmets away, we didn’t see a single brain bucket in use from El Salvador to the Costa Rican border.
We’re staying with erudite, easy-going and bilingual environmentalist Eduardo and partner Natalie in Heredia. He’s our first official warm showers host since Baja California! He did a tour from Ecuador to Buenos Aires, Argentina a couple of years back, and it took him… 6 months! We now have less than 4 months to go and are finally realizing we’re a little behind. Lucie’s little sister’s wedding at the end of August and the absolute certainty (!) of my landing a teaching position for the Fall mean that we need to fly home around August 15. We want to believe it’s possible to finish our mission, but the clock – and the Andes – would seem to be against us. Even though we’ve come away with strong impressions of every place we’ve been to, we already feel we’re skimming over parts of our route. To be in a hurry on a bike tour sort of defeats the purpose of pedal-powered travel. Our plan, therefore, is to carry on as we have been and hope that everyone is lying about the size of South America. We’ll let you know how that goes.