The Costa Rica Climb

Last year during Bob’s solo trip to Costa Rica, he had emailed me a description of the mountain road between Quepos and San Jose. It was the first time he had ridden it and commented that he would never take me up that road. Here is my post about that: A Road I Will Never Get to Bike-pack

During this year’s trip, Bob asked me if I wanted to have a taste of what he experienced. Of course I did! He decided that a 3 km climb to a little soda (restaurant) for lunch would suffice. Only 3 km? Really? My body agreed with that before we reached our destination.

Intense heat pierced the extensive shady stretches, making the ride brutal. Sweat poured out like rain. Lucky for me there were a couple spots we stopped at to take a breather. Somewhere before reaching the soda, I had to push my bike up the rest of the way. I sure know how to disappoint myself.

Going back down from the little soda to Quepos.

The road is a bit steeper than what the photo indicates. Bob and I had to ride the brakes down all the way to prevent from going too fast. At any rate, that road is a steady 22 km climb. Now I understand why Bob would never take me up the full distance.


Pavones, Costa Rica

Pavones, a popular destination for surfers, is on the southern end of Costa Rica, about 16 km from the Panama border. There have been many changes since Bob and I were there in 2011.

Back then, it was about half the size and had no police department. We were originally going to camp along the shores of the Pacific. A woman spotted us and walked down to invite us to camp in her yard. She was concerned for our safety as there was a recent attack on a tourist along the same area we were about to camp.

During this trip, we were trying to find the spot we wanted to camp years before. The shoreline was so over-grown that we could not locate the spot. The house was recognizable enough, but now there is a road along side of it. We saw a new small grocery store and a small restaurant. The restaurant, Tico Mex, has great food.

We guess that Pavones will quickly turn into more than a popular destination for surfers. Within the past year a condominium was built. We learned there are plans for more. Bob and I also guess that the gravel mountainous road into Pavones will soon be blacktopped.

Fortunately there is still a camping area for people like us.

Maybe some of authentic Costa Rica will remain in the future, like occasionally having to share the beach with cows.

Playa Pavones (Pavones Beach)



Technology Advancement in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has made some dramatic changes within the past three years. Actually, the past year, because Bob was surprised at the sudden change since his solo trip in 2018.

Some people might call it improvement, but I have to wonder about the impact these changes will have on the natural environment as well as the people who live there.

One difference we noticed right away is the sudden increase of cell phones. Cell phones were still almost non-existent last year. Now, everyone from preteen through the elderly has one. No matter what they were doing, they were glued to a cell phone.

What happened to just sitting or visiting with friends and relaxing while you are at a restaurant? When Bob and I walked past restaurants, almost everyone was on a phone.

Does a person really need to be on the phone while walking on the sidewalk? Especially ones in Costa Rica. They are not the most even things to walk on.

In an article titled “Depression Among Gen Z is Skyrocketing“, Jean Twenge believes that a decrease in social interaction among young people are a main factor behind the spiking depression rates.

The extra time away from friends and peers is eaten up by screens, Twenge said. Her findings suggest that as teens spend more time alone on their devices, they’re getting lonelier and feeling more left out.

“Face-to-face social interaction among teens has declined during the digital age, and that has mental-health implications,” Twenge said. “Face-to-face social interaction tends to protect against depression in a way that digital interaction does not.”

Costa Rica has been labeled among the happiest countries in the world. With the explosion of cell phone use, will they be able to remain a happy country?

Another change is the increase in black topped roads. Formerly gravel roads are now blacktopped. Some previously blacktopped roads are wider. In one area, the exits are not simply going onto the other roads. It is a four-leaf clover exchange for all the roads in that one area like you would see in a major metropolitan city.

Some people might think, “what is the problem with road improvement?” Well, the animals trying to cross the “improved” roads are not used to the higher speeds now. Animals miscalculate and get hit. Most don’t survive.

While at El Chontal Ecolodge in Rincon, I read a book on Costa Rica that was published in 1999. Within it was a comment that avid birders have noticed a decline in the number of birds over the years. Note: This was in 1999! There have been major changes since. How much more of a decline has there been since then?

Another problem is that the mountain roads are sharp switchbacks. Motorcyclists go too fast around the curves, resulting in increased deaths.

Costa Rica is known for trying to preserve its natural beauty. With increase of cell phone towers and black topped roads, I have to wonder if Costa Rica’s natural beauty will eventually be destroyed. I also wonder about the future impact on the people. What are your thoughts?

Miguel’s Paradise in Costa Rica

Miguel is a fortunate person to have grown up in an area and stay there to be grandfathered into the Las Tablas Protected Zone, which was established in 1981. Las Tablas Protected Zone, in South Puntarenas area, covers about 70,000 acres.

From San Vito, Bob and I bicycled through Sabalito and a couple villages before reaching LaLucha, where pavement ended. It was Sunday so Bob and I were lucky to find one small store open. Muffins and water was all they had. Not much fuel for what was ahead of us, but it was something. We carried energy bars which we ended up using about half way up that mountain.

It was a brutal four hours to climb 15 km (9 mi). Bob and I ended up pushing our bikes part of the way. Within a mile of our destination, we crossed a mountain stream so we took a minute to cool off. It was just what we needed on a hot, dusty road.
Mountain stream that Bob and I cooled off in

Miguel and his family are among the most welcoming people we have ever met. We were fed an abundance of homemade food. Perfect for a couple of ravenous bike-packers.

An excellent carpenter, Miguel built the waterwheel that houses a generator to supply electricity for the house.

Waterwheel that Miguel built

Here is another glimpse of his property:

The exterior of the house, which Miguel built, looked like a typical Tico house, but the inside is stunning. The house was handcrafted with care. Bob and I were seated in the dining room but we could see the kitchen. The cabinets, table, chairs, floor, ceiling – everything. Unfortunately, I did not take photos of the inside.

Bob and I spent only one night at Miguel’s. We could have easily spent more time up there to hike around. Maybe someday we will.