(March 26 – written by Dave)
Nothing special happened today. Our ride was nice but not overly scenic. We rode along the strip of land between the Costa Rican mountains and sea. The central part of Costa Rica is pretty hilly but we’ve been basically skirting the west coast. We had a few side ridges to climb today but they weren’t bad.
So, with not a lot to report from the road, I thought it would be fun to post a little “ordinary” life from Costa Rica. I know that I covered the per-capita GDP levels of various countries the other day. As a reminder, Costa Rica sits at about $17k and ranks number 76th, or middle of the pack. Costa Rica is better off than most of Central America but is not rich.
Over the past few days I’ve tried to capture a few house photos. Not fancy houses, rather just ordinary houses that we see on the side of the road. There are some common themes in what we see out in the country side. For starters, almost every home has a corrugated iron roof and most of the time there is some good rust development. The second constant is at least one satellite dish – some of them also pretty rusty. Planning standards are mostly loose or perhaps not enforced (or maybe don’t exist!). Many homes have additions with different building material, paint and roofing. I hate feeling invasive with photos so I try to snap the photos of houses that don’t have folks out front.
Speaking of houses, we learned an interesting fact about toucan birds yesterday. They have a clever nest building technique. It turns out that they don’t make their own nests. Instead, they find a “hole in tree” nest pre-built by one of the many woodpeckers found in the mangroves and they simply eject the woodpeckers. The fuzzy photo below is of a toucan coming out of a “stolen” nest. The second interesting part of this photo is that the toucan entered the nest beak first, somehow got that beak turned around in the nest and came back out beak first. Clever housing solutions.
Back to the Costa Rica ordinary life theme. Food has changed a lot since Mexico. In Mexico the salsa and bean row in the grocery store was massive. And the salsa was almost all blazingly hot. Here in Costa Rica, they eat beans but now they are mostly red or black beans and hardly any are refried. The salsa row here is much smaller and I’ve yet to find a Costa Rican salsa that I can’t eat. Nearly all of the Mexican salsas were no-go for me.
Rice is also another change. Mexico had rice but not nearly the number of varieties. Rice in Costa Rica takes up almost a full row in the grocery stores. Red or black beans and rice is a common side dish with almost every traditional meals served in Costa Rica. We like red and black beans better than mashed refired Mexican beans, so we are happy.
So far every Central America country has their own local mega-beer. By mega-beer I mean Budweiser/Victoria Bitter pilsner-like brews that are sold everywhere. We don’t tend to drink these beers other than an obligatory bottle just to try it out. We are always slightly disappointed. Well today, when we went to the grocery store, there was a young gal sampling Costa Rican micro beers. We tried a couple and purchased an IPA which turned out to be pretty good.
I enjoyed talking to the gal. She had a T-shirt on that advertised Costa Rica craft beers – even using the words “craft beer”. She had never heard of “craft beer”. It was clearly a case cool English words to give the sampling a marketing buzz. I told her all about Oregon and the fine micro beers made there. I think she was happy to have me leave – haha. If the shirt wasn’t funny enough the beer stocking was even funnier. She had 6 bottles of each type beer for sale – total – yes, that is not a typo. Only 6 bottles – it’s a growth market. She was serving samples from an open bottle of Irish beer and Red beer. That meant that she only had 5 bottles each of those two styles to sell.
We rolled into Ciudad Neily pretty early, well before 11AM. It was already getting hot so we are sticking with the early starts for the foreseeable future. Ciudad Neily is another sort of blue collar town – there is not much in the way of tourists and we had no luck finding a Pops Icecream when we arrived – sad. We ended up settling for cold drinks at what turned out to be a liquor store that was selling shots of white liquid something to every other customer. Luckily, I had an even number and didn’t have to partake.
After drinks we made our way to the Hotel Andrea – where other cyclists had stayed. We were early but they had a room ready. It’s a nice hotel, better than last night and costs less – proving again that what you pay is not what you get when it comes to traveller hotels.
Tomorrow we have about 25k to ride to reach the Panama border. We are now working through how many Panama somethings we get for our Costa Rica Colones. The Panama currency is pegged to the US dollar and we’ve heard that you can spend either (Senior editor’s note – actually, it looks like they might not have their own bills but just use US paper money – I guess we’ll see when we get to the border). We’ll see how that works out. Nancy is already looking at where we can find money changers at the border. Every border is different, we’re ready for everything!