Costa Rica 3: Puerto Viejo

Early the next morning, the team received their next clue and departed the pit stop.  With a pre-purchased bus ticket, the team was driven down the mountain to San José.  Three hours later, the team arrived in capital of Costa Rica.  There they walked to another bus station where they changed to the twelve noon bus to Puerto Viejo De Talamanca.

The journey to Puerto Viejo began badly for the Australian team.  The team’s bus took one hour to leave San José due to excessive traffic.  Eventually the bus made its way through the central highlands and on to the banana plantations around Puerto Límon.  Being the banana growing capital of the world, home to brands such as Dole and Chiquita, there was excessive truck traffic that caused another major traffic jam.  This further delayed Simon and Ang.

San José traffic jam Armed San José carpark attendant
Sad Santa The banana plantation traffic jam

The bus eventually wove its way through the trucks and containers and plantations and arrived at the Límon bus station in time to see the later 2.30pm bus pull into the adjacent parking spot.  Team combined Belgium and New Zealand were on this bus.  They told Team Australia that they had been told the major delay was caused by a landslide.  Simon and Ang were not amused, and hoped that this disastrous day would not cause them to be eliminated when they finally got to the pit stop.

After the break at Límon, the bus continued the remaining 60km south to the small beach town of Puerto Viejo.  Ignoring the Rocking J’s guy, Simon and Ang located quieter accommodation and met up with half of Team Belgium.  That night they ate at Stashu’s fusion, a restaurant that was run by a friendly Guyanian called Stashu, where they had fantastic fare.  This completed the first eating challenge of this leg of the race.

Good fusion

Receiving their next clue, Ang and Simon hired some bikes and then rode to the Manzanillo national park and Punta Uva to search for the elusive toucan. Despite having a fun day on the beach they had no luck seeing a toucan, but did see a troop of monkeys.  On their return to Puerto Viejo, the team stopped off on the pretty ride back to drink some chocolate and then again to have fish tacos.  After returning the hire bikes and receiving their next clue, the team headed out to dinner for some typical Costa Rican casado and whole red snapper fare.

Dive panga near Punta Uva Barge, dog and birds near Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo beach
Panorama of a beach in the Manzanillo reserve
Panorama of the stormy sea and beach in the Manzanillo reserve
Racers pose for a photo Manzanillo beach, drying clothes
Tico beach goers View of beach through jungle
On a tree On a bike
Hot chocolate break Near Puerto Viejo
Monkey in the trees More monkeys
Jungle stream near Puerto Viejo

Completing these challenges, the team raced to the pit stop for this leg of the race where they were once again the first to arrive.


Costa Rica 2: Monteverde

As the first team to arrive at the pit stop, Ang and Simon departed the next day at 4am.  They boarded a San José bus bound for La Irma.  Ang was annoyed that they had to keep changing seats, as other passengers had pre-booked, which until now had been unusual for Central America.

Two hours later, passing back through Nicoya, the team were deposited at La Irma, a petrol station and small restaurant located at a T junction on the Panamericana highway.  There the team ate a tipical local breakfast of rice, eggs and toasted cheese and awaited for three hours until their next bus came from San José to Monteverde.  Whilst the team was waiting they met Team Belgium/New Zealand, who were on their own exclusive race and who had previously met Team Ireland.

The team waits for the last bus of the day

Boarding the next bus, the team bumped its way up the hills, in and out of clouds to the small town of Monteverde.  The town of Monteverde is a mountain village located close to the Monteverde cloud forest preserve.  The preserve was established in the 1950s and is home to an array of plant and animal life, including toucans and sloths. This area would be the setting for this leg of the race.

Climbing to Monteverde

Arriving into the town the team was almost overwhelmed with sheer number of touts looking to get the team to their accommodation.  The team ignored all and said they were going to meet friends.  They then headed off to El Golfo Vista, where they checked in and meet the owner, who was one of the touts they previously had ignored.  Here, Simon and Ang once again met up with Team Ireland.

Talented local playing the piano in department/hardware store Arrmadillo for riding

The major task for this leg of the race was for the team to see a sloth and a tucan.  In order to complete this task, the team booked two tours.  The first was a guided night walk through primary forest.  The team’s group was joined by an energetic, over enthusiastic and strongly hypo active guide.  They were lead from a to b looking at a sloth and baby, racoons, various insects, an armadillos, glowing wood and a second sloth.  With Ren’s sloth challenge, completed the team was very excited and given their next clue.

A sloth Another sloth, with mold growing on its fur
The final sloth photograph to complete the challenge

Waking up at 8am, the team was driven to the privately owned Selvatura park adjacent to the Monteverde preserve.  Hoping to see a toucan, the team paid the $30 to walk through a rainforest over a series of suspension bridges.  Both Simon and Ang thought it was nice rainforest, but should have been less than $10 each to enter and complete the 3km walk as it was way overpriced.  They slowly walked around the loop, carefully scanning in the trees, but no toucans were spotted on account of the cold, raining weather.  The team raced back to the town and then to the pit stop.

Cloud forest Suspension bridge into the clouds
More cloud forest

Because they did not complete the spot a toucan challenge, the team was required to wait out a 30 minute time penalty.  The team used this time to prepare a delicious curry, enjoy a glass of red  and dry off from the wet dreary day.  With the penalty completed, the team checked into the pit stop for this leg of the race.

The view from the team’s accommodation

Costa Rica 1: Playa Sámara

Leaving the pit stop at 5.30 am, they boarded the first chicken bus and were soon squashed in with the other Ometepe commuters.  Racing around the island, the bus deposited them at San José del Sur, where the team boarded the largest ferry, the Rey del Cocibolca for the crossing back to the mainland.

Panorama of Ometepe Island

The ferry ride was again slow, but much more comfortable than the ride to over to Ometepe.  On the boat, the team received a delicious hot local Nicaraguan breakfast of gallo pinto, eggs, avocado, tortillas and coffee.  Ang was very impressed with the restaurant service on the boat and said “I wish you could get this  on ferries back home.  You’d be lucky to get a quality meat pie”.

Soon the ferry arrived in San Jorge, where they joined some volunteers to share a taxi to back to Rivas.  Ignoring other taxi drivers persuit for the teams business, they jumped onto a waiting chicken bus and sped to the frontier.  The drive to the border was interesting for Simon and Ang as the road hugs the lake, making for some spectacular views of Ometepe Island.  After the 45 minute ride, the team arrived at what Ang called “a hell of a messy border”.

They paid their $1 to the local municipality to enter the border area then completed customs formalities and paid their $2 to exit Nicaragua.  Racing out of the departures kiosk, they were briefly confused as to which direction to head in as the large numbers of parked trucks all over the place like a dogs breakfast made seeing which way to walk difficult.  A helpful map was quickly located and the team set off through the muddy truck lot, along with two Americans who were also making the crossing.

Showing their passports a few more times to Nicaragua authorities, they walked down what looked like, minus the parked trucks, a normal road for this part of the world.  Eventually they arrived at a construction site and noticed a large queue.  There was no signage, but it was obviously Costa Rian immigration.

Passports were soon stamped and the team headed once again into a muddy carpark.  They eventually located the most local looking bus and were soon on their way to Liberia.

After almost two hours of driving, including a stop for Costa Rican authorities to check passports, the team arrived at the Liberia bus station.  Tickets were purchased for the next leg and the team joined the queue of people waiting. Unfortunately the front part of the queue completely filled the first bus so the team had to wait another 20 minutes for the second.

The advantage of this was the team was able to get a seat and were soon on their way 90 km further south.  Simon said halfway through this 2 hour bus ride that he thought that he ‘would never say that he missed chicken buses’ as while the bus was relatively modern, the seats were hard plastic benches. The other advantage to taking the second bus was that it stopped fewer times, which meant towards the end of the journey they caught up with the first bus.  After a painful 2 hours the bus arrived in Nicoya.

Getting some directions from the driver before getting off, the team walked over to the next bus station and waited for their final bus to Playa Sámara.  Some supplies were purchased and the team were soon on the final bus of the day. This bus was the most ultra modern that they had taken yet on the Amazing Exclusive Race and was even air-conditioned.  Both Ang and Simon were amazed.

The drive to Playa Sámara was incredibly beautiful, particularly the stretch through Valle Verde, and was very comfortable for the team.  They pulled into Sámara after an epic 12 hours of travel and there the team found their accommodation, the pit stop for this leg of the race.

During the day long rest period the team took advantage of the spectacular surrounds to explore the beaches and headlands.  Refreshed, they had an early night ready for the next day’s travel.

Man on a horse, Playa Sámara Two horses and a beach
Ang climbing around the headland
Panorama of Playa Sámara
Towards the setting sun HDR image taken near Playa Sámara
Life is indeed awesome
Sunset Horses on Playa Sámara