70. COSTA RICA – Caribbean beaches

Having the steering still hanging above our heads but not having a choice at this point we finally, on the 3rd time attempt were heading to the Caribbean coast.

There is a national park Cahuita National Park, a kilometres long beach hugged by thick tropical forest with exotic animals. There is a small relaxed town bearing with the same name, Cahuita where the park entrance is and last time we heard from Kerstin and Rainer they said they will be in this town at the Siatami Lodge. So we headed here, drove through the small town, asked a couple of friendly local and finally we found the Lodge with our German friends. The owner of the Lodge let us park up overnight outside the property which wasn’t only a dead-end, green and tree filled little driveway but happened to be right next to Kerstin and Rainer’s hut (with super fast wifi access)

Siatami Lodge, Cahuita March 2014

Siatami Lodge, Cahuita
March 2014


Our friends meant to leave the following morning and we were meant to move on to another part of this area so we had this short afternoon and evening to spend together. We visited the Park and had homemade, aka Betti-made pork chops and wine for dindins. It was like meeting long-seen friends, catching up on things and chatting about how and why the world’s spinning.


The following morning Johnny and I were packing up early to back out giving room for Rainer and Kerstin to move out with their rental only to find out (for everyone’s biggest joy) that they decided to stay one more day! That was good news. It didn’t take long for Johnny and I decide the same of course. So now we can relax again, have another coffee and chat for more hours. We popped down to the beach for boogie boarding and surfing, have another of that gorgeous ice-cream and for the afternoon the boys and Kerstin drove to the Panama border to check out the bridge meanwhile I caught up on emails back at home. Pizza and beer for dinner and more endless talks. Really enjoyed these few days and the days back in Caňa Castilla with Rainer and Kerstin, they are good spirit people and I hope to see them again, perhaps in Germany is not somewhere in South America on another holiday. In the morning of the following day we finally said our tearful goodbyes and left the opposite directions.

Johnny and I were heading to another part of this area where there is public beach suitable for camping for a night or two. First we drove through Puerto Viejo, another beach town a lot more vibrant and busy than Cahuita was until we found the spot some 8 km out of town in Punta Uva, with palm trees and plenty of place of parking.

Punta Uva, March 2014

Punta Uva,
March 2014

Met a few travellers, including an Argentinean family who are parked up here for a week and who invited us for their daughter’s 6th birthday bash last night. Shanti, the mum started organising everything months back, they visited a school the other day to invite children and after a few hours of preparation kids and their parents were turning up to buzz up the quiet beach. A super great kids party with lots of games and toys, and colourful drinks and endless cake. It was such a fun experience and, again meeting more inspiring people. Great stuff.

the big moment

the big moment

So here we are, having one more day on this beach and moving on tomorrow to cross the border to Panama our last country in Central America.

Next, Panama…

69. COSTA RICA – San José and Guapiles

After a few weeks of chilling at beaches and volcanoes, it was time to look in to Burt’s sticky steering. It has been a back-of-the-mind thought for a while as during driving, occasionally the steering locked itself for a second. John has already looked at, tightened, greased everything he could, we even have it looked at it at the workshop back in Honduras a month ago but they only did the same what Johnny’s already done.

We knew that there’s a Mercedes service in San José so we were heading there. Sometimes it is a challenge to find places as there, really are no address in Central America so we just had to drive in and ask. Having to have a good feel, which area of the city this service could be and some routine by now, we found Mercedes with no problem.

They were very professionals especially on the customer service department. It was only lunchtime and they were already fully booked for the day but they booked us in first thing in the morning for the following day. They let us park up and stay overnight at the service. We had a few hours to while-away so decided to take the bus in to the centre look around and do some shopping. That’s where finally Johnny found a phone (we drowned his phone on the first week of our journey in Canada and he really wanted one), got a few things we wanted for ages, had some lunch at a brilliant authentic local and visited the market before we headed back to the shop.

The next morning while they were looking in to the problem we were lead to the service’s cafe with wifi and endless supply of refreshments, then at lunchtime Jacky, the attentive administrator took us to the cafeteria for lunch.

Mercedes Benz, San José Costa Rica March 2014

Mercedes Benz, San José Costa Rica
March 2014

After about 7 cups of cappuccino and 7 hours wait they could find the problem (changed a filter and cleaned up things though) so we decided to move on. John had an idea what the problem might be but they didn’t have the part here, and they recommended to get in touch with Mercedes in Panama City. They did not charge us anything, as they couldn’t fix our problem (not even for the filter or their customer service) which we thought was a very generous and honourable way to treat the situation.

It was after 3PM and we had to move on. We decided to head down to the south-east coast as planned, meet Rainer and Kerstin if they are still there and deal with the steering as we come across with a suitable workshop or wait until we get to Panama City. In the meantime John got in touch with his brother in England as a possibility to order the part to his address then send it on to us. But for now, we just have to wait and see.

We had a stopover along the way and the following day we were heading to the Caribbean. As we were driving on the outskirt of a town, Guapiles Johnny spotted a truck workshop. From there we were directed in to town to a handyman, Fabrizio’s shop. So shortly, we found ourselves at Fabrizio’s where he had zillions of machines and tools for building and creating anything. He even had his beautiful, hand-made chopper not to mention the hundreds of metal pieces he fabricated.





Fabrizio and Jamie

Fabrizio and Jamie


Here we also met Jamie, an American expat who were about to open his family pizza restaurant right next door to Fabrizio’s workshop. Jamie spoke Spanish and was kindly helping us translate between John and Fabrizio. They of course while John and Fabrizio were busy getting their hands dirty, Jamie and I were drinking coffee and chatted all day. By the end of the day there was no solution to our problem, but Fabrizio wanted to do a further test the next day as he didn’t want us to go without some solution.

Jamie and his family invited us to their home -about 20km out of town to have dinner and stay overnight. Burt was mobile as all parts were taken out during the day were put back in so we packed up, and headed to Jamie’s.

We were greeted by the extended family. It was Jamie and his lovely wife, Nati’s (=
herberts) house, then Mummy’s house, then one of Nati’s sisters’ house, than another of Nati’s sisters’ house. Calculate at least three children for each house, one of Nati’s brother somewhere in the middle and you have a picture of an authentic, loving and lively Costa Rican family. It was fabulous to meet the family. After having a little chat with everyone at mummy’s house we were headed to Jamie and Nati’s place where Nati’s brother, who is a top chef in San José cooked for all of us a gorgeous meal. We had a wonderful chatty evening with them and at about 11 we went to bed knowing we have to get up early to go back to Fabrizio’s. But it was very nice to let our hair down a bit.

Fabrizio and John was working all day to find the problem but at the end of the day they only could guess what part of the steering might be the one to change. Then Fabrizio was on the phone to hunt down this part. It was becoming clearer to us that it won’t be fixed right now and we will have to move on without the solution. Although Fabrizio didn’t want to give up and will make a few further calls, meanwhile John keeps the option of sending the part by Robert, his brother.


This was the end of the day on a Friday and as you can imagine, everything was closing for the weekend and we were clueless where to stay. It was clear we wouldn’t make it to the coast before dark, and that’s when Fabrizio offered us to stay at his place not far out of town. This was very nice of him and we took on his offer.

After a quick grocery shopping we headed to his place. Fabrizio lives in his own-built, uniquely furbished house -decorated his hand-made metal pieces and photos of Fabrizio’s visit to Stonehenge and London, with two lovely dogs and with his son a few days a week. His land is large enough to have a spacious feeling and it is surrounded by fields and forest and the back. Of course needless to mention the endless birds and monkeys that they live around. Fabrizio parks his chopper on his cosy back patio where there is the outdoor dining area, a couple of hammocks, flowers in pots as if chopper was his good mate to spend supper and a few cigis with. We parked up at the back and the evening just became a chilled, no-pressure, no-rush, have-a-couple-of-glasses and shared dinner soaked in rock and roll evening. Another perfect example of those wonderful moments where language just doesn’t matter for a conversation. At one point two of Fabrizio’s mates dropped in which just added to the party vibe. It was really a great evening.


The next morning we woke to gorgeous sunshine and lovely morning piano music by a Costa Rican artist, Manuel Obregón. After taking a few photos, swapping facebook names we left for the Caribbean with a slight chance we might return if Fabrizio finds a part on Monday. Otherwise we’ll be heading on.

This was a brilliant, effortless-living experience with wonderful people.

Next, Caribbean beaches…

68. COSTA RICA – Lago Arenal and Vulcán Poás

We were heading east from Caňa Castilla to birding spot, but rattling on dirt road for over an hour (only 15-20km), after a point I couldn’t face another 80km and we agreed to change plans and turn off to Lake Arenal.

Which turned out to be a good decision actually. We knew of a good spot to camp right by the lake. After a beautiful drive (the last 20 km was dirt) We arrived to Nuevo Arenal a small friendly (fair amount of expats) town with some good shops, bars, cafes and the famous German Bakery. First we parked up at the finest spot in the town’s public, lush green park on the lake….

Lago Arenal

Lago Arenal

….then walked back to the bakery for a couple of sarnies we were longing for months (no good bread in Central America) However I got to say, Agi’s homemade bread, she gave me this morning was the winner. Our pleasant surprise the French Family turned up here too. Felt like a little private members’ party again.

Lago Arenal

Lago Arenal

It was raining all night (strangely, in the dry season) which meant by the morning we weren’t so sure that it was a good idea parking on the grassy down-hill slope that became slimy and now an up-hill. Old memories of digging in slippery mud were coming up to the surface. But, thank goodness it was fine and Burt made it up with reasonably cold engine just fine. Had a morning chat with the French Family, filled up with some water and headed south to Volcán Poás.

We were still driving by the lake, which was stunning (getting a bit more and more touristy as we were approaching Arenal Volcano but we found the hot spring Andreas (French Family’s Austrian dad) mentioned this morning. There was an inauthentic, fancy and expensive spa hotel that takes a fair bit of the hot-water river, though as Andreas said just about 50 meters below the hotel, under the bridge is the real deal for bathing in the same river with the locals for free. It was Sunday so there were just enough people, families to have a nice atmosphere, and just like us a few gringos found the spot too so it was very nice, surrounded by lush jungle, exotic birds and butterflies flying around the warm moist air.


After the lovely soaking we were a bit behind but with a no-stop drive we made it up to the 2500 m Poás. It was actually a gorgeous drive and as we were elevating the scenery changed from tropical to highland with pines forests in thick fog, strawberry fields hugging the small villages and sheep herds replaced the grazing cows.

We missed the opening hours of the volcano (it is a national park) but we knew that it is OK to park up overnight either by the entrance or just by a dirt, forest road that leads to nowhere from the entrance. We decided to drive up on this dirt road and in about 4-5 km’s we were at a beautiful open area, a perfect spot with a gorgeous view of the cloud-filled crater and the valley where San José (capital of Costa Rica) and other towns lie. We just caught the magical sunset and soon the lights came on in the city and the towns providing with a stunning night view of the valley.

Volcán Poás

Volcán Poás

The temperature was very refreshing and it dropped to 6C over night, then warmed up to 22-25C during the day. We did a 7 km hike the next morning (before 9 as the clouds are coming in to the crater at 9AM every day) in the hope to see the crater but no clear view really, although the hike was very nice (one of our favourites) We decided to stay one more night and enjoy the chilled air and silence of this peaceful place. And this way, we could see the sunset again.

Volcán Poás

Volcán Poás

On the third day morning we were ready to move on and hunt down the Mercedes service in the capital for checking up on Burt’s steering.

Next, San José and Guapiles…

67. COSTA RICA – Caňa Castilla a Swiss paradise

Costa Rica as Christopher Columbus named it The Rich Coast. In Central America Costa Rica has the most to offer as far as landscape, environment and wildlife are concerned . Volcanoes, cloud forests, rainforests, white and black sandy beaches, Caribbean tropics, Pacific surf and offshore islands. Costa Rica has over 615 species per 10.000 sq km which is extraordinary compare to the USA’s 104 species. We were looking forward to see some of these.

Approximately 20 km’s crossing the border from Nicaragua we knew of a nice sounding place. Caňa Castilla, a Swiss owned piece of paradise. It is conveniently located a few km’s off the highway on a dirt road, through a tiny village crossing two rivers till you arrive to a wonderful, lush forest-like place with lovely cabanas with hammocks on the riverbank, a little restaurant/ cafe and all facilities a camper need.

Here we bumped into the lovely French Family (as we, travellers like to call them, although Andreas, the husband, is actually Austrian and the children (3) are super multi lingual little cosmopolitans and could fit in any countries in the world) It was very nice seeing them again after 2 months meeting them briefly in Antigua, Guatemala.

We parked up on a grassy patch surrounded by enormous gorgeous trees inhabited by spider and howler monkeys who gave concerts of roaring every sunset and sunrise. There were also endless species of birds and butterflies and crocodiles in the river.

Cana Castilla, Costa Rica February 2014

Cana Castilla,
Costa Rica
February 2014

Guido and Agi the owners are also happy surrogate parents to a 10 months old orphaned two-toes sloth, Linda. Linda was found on the ground in the bush, exposed to all sorts of danger, her mummy rejected her (i.e. it is common that sloth mums, when they have twins rejects one of them) Guido and Agi took her in and now Linda is part of the family. She loves hanging (haha) out on the mango trees that happened to be right next to Burt so we had our personal little sloth amazes us every day.






We liked it here so much that we actually stayed 6 days. Partly because we really needed to recharge our batteries (our own ones, not Burt’s!) Didn’t realised how exhausted we were till we got here, let our guards down and slept for two days and Caňa Castilla was just the place for this. Partly because we met a holidayer couple from Germany, Kerstin and Rainer. We met one evening, when we decided to have dinner at the restaurant (we heard that Agi’s cook really worth a try) We were seated next to Rainer and Kerstin. The rest is history. They were here for 3 weeks and just flew in. we stuck together for the rest of our time here and we were visiting the beaches and went for little walks together with their rental. They were wonderful companions and liked to spend and after-dinner drinks with them (note: try Guido’s passion fruit wine!)

At one point The Dutchies ran in but sadly they left the following day. Then Mire and Alex arrived and stayed two nights which added to the party-like buzz at Caňa Castilla.

Here there were several holidayers like Rainer and Kerstin who were staying at the cabanas, also there was one German/Canadian gentleman, Achim a wildlife enthusiast and amateur photographer who stays here every year for 6 months. He knew every hidden little gem places in this area. On his recommendation the four of us one day drove to a river to watch crazy wildlife of birds and crocodiles munching on unlucky fish pushed in by the tide. It was a fantastic place to just hang out and watch.

Every morning John and I, then found out Rainer and Kerstin too kept deciding to stay one more day. Until it was really time to move on and discover other beautiful places in Costa Rica, although easily could’ve stayed a few more days here. With our new friends we decided to meet up again, perhaps. We both wanted to check out the southern Caribbean side at some point so that seemed like a good place to meet up again if all goes well.

On our leaving morning we said our goodbyes to Guido, Agi (who gave me a loaf of her gorgeous home baked bread as a leaving present) and Linda and moved further in to Costa Rica.

Next, Lago Arenal and Vulcán Poás…


After two long days of driving in Honduras from Trujillo to the border we finally crossed to Nicaragua.

Perhaps we were exhausted from a few long days drive and, I suppose from a week-long worrying about Burt, time, finances and keeping up with all, our impressions of Nicaraguan people, at first might have not been as accurate as it would have if we are in a more…. tranquil state.

Straight at the border we felt a huge difference between Honduran people and Nicaraguan people’s attitude. They seem to be rather unfriendly and unhelpful, almost looking out for problems so they can enjoy a bit of “fun” with dumb tourists. It might sound a quick judgement but as we refused them spraying lethal chemicals inside our truck (outside had to be done regardless) they let us go with no problem but they reported us at the police. The transport police, of course couldn’t wait to grill us a little and have a few “inside” jokes on our account. So this didn’t go down too well as a “welcome to Nicaragua”.

As usual, John did his homework and looked up areas and places to visit in the country so we headed to a national park. We knew there were much to see there. Volcanoes, hot springs, national parks, lakes and so on. We were looking forward to visiting a few of these.

At first glance Reserva Natural Tisey Estanzuela didn’t look much to me. It had a lovely waterfall though, which we had a chance to have a quick dip (well, I did. John decided to stay away from the water) before headed up the top for the famous 360 view. We found a couple of rather grumpy people at the gate. No matter how much we tried being friendly and smiley, it didn’t do it. So after a slightly disappointing and only 160 degree view we jumped back into the truck and headed back to the little village we drove through earlier. There we found a friendly (!) lady who let us stay at her property which was great and we thought, “OK the unfriendly people are behind us”.

The next day we drove hundreds of km’s visiting places we looked up but just couldn’t connect with the people. Somehow everyone seemed quite sad or uninterested and somewhat bothered. So we kept moving on and on until we found ourselves in the south (where we meant to be at least 5 days later) But we were here, found a place to stay for the night. The following day we visited Masaya a bigger town in hope to find a few necessities but it was hopeless.

Another place we wanted to stay was at the Masaya Volcano where, we heard from our friends, we could park and camp right at the rim of the crater. It was the No.1 thing we were looking forward to in Nicaragua. As we arrived at the park entrance and found out the ridiculous various fees, which adds up to be way over than a US national park entrance is, we also found out that parking overnight at the volcano is no longer allowed.

I believe up to a point that “what I get from the world is a reflection how I am with the world” But we were trying very hard to be very friendly, possibly even more than in other countries but all we got was a “couldn’t be bothered” attitude almost everywhere we went.

After one more try to get to a place we wanted to but didn’t get anywhere, Johnny and I decided to pack up, head down to the beach for a night and cross the border to Costa Rica the following day.

It was getting late in the day, trying to get to places coming across difficult people we were tired and all we wanted is to get to the beach, get some breeze a couple of cold beers at the end of the day and an early night.

There were a couple of choices of beaches to stay. First we drove to the further one which sounded remote and very nice. When we arrived, it was sure lovely but the lady who meant to own a cabanas/campground was downright rude to us so we didn’t have a choice but leave. We also asked a couple of more cabana/ camp places to stay but they just could not be bothered. So we left for the other beach another 10-13 km back.

Finally arrived at this beach just as the sun gone down. It was a small perhaps a bit more lively beach with a couple of palapa restaurants, a surf rental and just enough surfer dudes to create good vibration. One guy ran up to us as we rolled up, and asked if we were “…with them?” pointing at the direction of the beach where we saw campers on the beach; The Overlander Family, The Dutchies and Mire and Alex -who we met in Antigua, Guatemala -they picked up a backpacker Sharon in El Salvador a month ago so now they were travelling as a threesome.

Now this was great news! Just what we needed. I ran up to them, while John drove around and parked up as the 4th vehicle next to Panda (the Dutchies rig) right on the beach. We were very happy to see old and new friends. They were just getting ready for dinner so we joined them and it was brilliant.

We ended up staying for 3 nights and so did the Overlander Family who meant to leave the day after we arrived but decided to stay 2 more days. It was brilliant to catch up with he Dutchies to see Dunya, also catching up with Mire and Alex and making friends with Sharon -sassy Brit with excellent sense of humour. We had a wonderful couple of days having a bit of fun, relaxing and recharging.

Playa Maderas, Nicaragua February 2014

Playa Maderas, Nicaragua
February 2014


On the third day morning we were ready to move on and cross the border. As a farewell to us, the Nicaraguan border authorities made our exit, once again and for the last time, a long and unpleasant experience being as disorganized and miserable as it was on the way in. Once we were done and crossed to the Costa Rican side for entry the sun came out and we couldn’t have received more polite and friendlier welcome from the Costa Rican people. The entry was busy and involved a lot of walking back and forth between offices but everyone was very helpful and all went smooth.

Next, Costa Rica…

65. HONDURAS -in a nutshell

Our impression of Honduras and its people was very good. Possibly our favourite country so far. We had a chance to boon dock a lot, always finding local villagers, farmers to get permission and we always got gentle curiosity, a nice welcome and friendliness from them.

Honduras’ nature or point of interest (apart from a few obvious ones) isn’t as exciting as its neighbours’ but its people’s kindness certainly makes up for the plainer vista.