December 31st, 2018 – San Jose, Costa Rica to Monteverde, Costa Rica: ~100 miles
We’re settled in and it’s time to hit the road!
Did you miss Day 1? Vy and I fly in to Costa Rica and check out some bullfighting.
For New Year’s last year, Vy and I went to Cuba. A friend of mine from the UCLA Fully Employed MBA program and her husband were in Cuba the week before, and we missed each other by a day. Coincidentally, we independently decided to go to Costa Rica for New Year’s this year, but this time we had a day of overlap! They were scheduled to fly out today, so we all got breakfast in the morning.
We walked over to Elephant Moto, and I snapped some photos of the shop while Vy started loading the bike up. The shop is a great place to spend some time, and there’s even an area upstairs where you can shower/relax if you need to kill some time before your flight back home. More on that when we return…
I had to add a sticker to the windshield:
Before hitting the road, I got a photo with Juanca (left) and Chris (right).
Chris and Juanca kindly equipped my GS with a RAM mount so I could use Google Maps on my phone as a backup navigator to the relatively clumsy BMW GPS unit. The BMW Navigator (based on a Garmin Zumo) isn’t bad, but Google Maps is much quicker and easier to use. We had a short day in store – our original plan was to head to the coast for New Year’s Eve but Chris had scouted the location a week before and determined that it would be a relative shitshow as he knew that Vy and I prefer solitude over big crowds. So he booked us at El Establo Mountain Hotel, a beautiful resort high in the mountains of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. I popped that location into the GPS and into my phone and we left the city.
One of Vy’s favorite things to explore in different countries is the different flavors of chips that are available. Whenever I travel abroad without her, I bring back a chip flavor that’s not available in the US. The weirdest one so far is probably crab-flavored Lays from the airport in Moscow (or as the Russians call it, “Kраб”).
I checked my phone to see how much longer we’d have to go before we got to the hotel. When I saw 42 kilometers (26 miles), I figured it would be just the blink of an eye. Google Maps had a different idea, cause it thought I would only be averaging 20 mph:
Based on the expected average speed, I assumed the road would be terrible. But it was paved, and the surface was smooth. Still, the behavior of avoiding issues instead of fixing them wasn’t particularly reassuring:
Eventually the road turned into dirt, but it wasn’t a problem for the GS with Michelin Anakee 3 tires. We stopped at a pullout with a view where a rider on a DR650 was looking over his bike. It was very windy and he told us that his bike had just blown over in the wind. He advised to stay away from the open area, but I figured the GS was heavy enough to deal with it.
I was wrong. I inched back towards the dirt road at walking pace and a large gust of wind pushed the bike over to a point that I couldn’t save it. Considering I had just ignored the advice of the DR650 rider, Vy had no sympathy for me but she still helped me pick the GS back up.
We got to El Establo with plenty of time before sunset to explore the property. Vy and I went for a hike but I made sure to check out the rules before we hit the trail.
I recently had bought a used DJI Mavic Air drone from Nathan thinking that it would be a fun tool to bring to Costa Rica. This was my first independent flight with it, and I lost it within 5 minutes due to the same high winds that pushed me over on the bike a couple of hours before. Not my best work.
I spent some time trying to find the drone but I gave up once most of the sunlight has gone away. I caught back up with Vy as we had signed up for a nighttime nature hike on the hotel property.
The nature hike took us through many of the same paths that Vy and I had explored by ourselves, but the evening brings different animals and it’s much easier to spot them when you have a guide with you! There were about 6 of us on the tour, and we were all provided flashlights that were sufficient to see where we were going. The guide had an extremely powerful flashlight that functioned as a mini spotlight throughout the rainforest. He said the easiest way to find animals was to use his light and look for reflections as they usually came from mammal eyes. That’s how he spotted this adorable kinkajou.
Most of the wildlife we saw were insects, and I’ve got way too many photos of them. I’ll just leave you with one photo of what I thought was the most interesting – a fungus. This photo looks like it’s of a vibrant blue bug, but the bug is actually dead and it’s been infected by a fungus that took over the insect’s brain. This is more common in ants with a fungus called Ophiocordyceps, but it’s fascinating (and freaky). Check out this description from a National Geographic article:
“While normal ants rarely deviate from a trail along a tree, zombie ants wander aimlessly, and they suffer convulsions that cause the animals to fall out of the forest canopy.
Once on the ground, the ants remain in the leafy understory, which rests about 9 or 10 inches (25 centimeters) above the soil and so is cooler and moister than the forest canopy—perfect conditions for the fungus to reproduce.
After a few days, the fungus directs the insect to clamp down on a leaf. The multiplying fungal cells in the ant’s head then cause fibers to detach within the muscles that open and close the ant’s mandibles.
This results in “lockjaw,” which makes an infected ant unable to release the leaf, even after death, creating a stable place outside the ant for the fungus to grow. At this stage the fungus uses a poison to kill its host.
A few days later, the fungus grows through the top of the dead ant’s head as a fruiting body, or stroma. Resembling a buck’s antlers, the stroma releases spores to be picked up by another wandering ant.”
Our guide violently shook the leaf, but this dead insect was clamped on tight.
I needed some time to for my appetite to come back, and Vy wanted to goof around with some light painting. She just used her phone’s flashlight and red translucent case in the hotel parking lot.
I enjoyed a delicious lobster New Year’s Eve dinner on the resort’s premises. We were told by the wait staff that the hotel was doing their own fireworks show and that we should come back just before midnight.
We went back to the room to kill a few minutes. I started writing up a post on Bike-urious when Vy turned on the TV. As she scrolled through the channels, she found another episode of Young Sheldon that she was in – twice in two days! The difference is that this episode had been dubbed in Spanish for the Costa Rican market. We decided to wait and see what voice they would give Vy, and I thought it was hysterical:
We made our way back to the center of the hotel property and sure enough, the fireworks started flying. The show was impressively long for something hosted by a hotel, and it was enjoyed by both guests and staff.
Tomorrow, we ring in the new year by heading west to the coast!