* Auntie paid some of her share of the trip and that isn’t included in our Out of Pocket total.
Day 7 – Water Water Everywhere
Today marked our last day at the ranch. We wanted to get a short hike in before sitting in the car for four hours so we followed the monkey trail to try and see some of the resident howler monkeys. A small ranch cat came along with us as we descended into the jungle.
We didn’t see any monkeys and the trail just kept going so we eventually turned back.
I finally met the owner of the ranch, Charlie. He is quite the character and made a strong impression as he walked out of his bedroom with a parrot on his shoulder. He kind of reminded me of “The Dude” Lebowski from the cult movie The Big Lebowski. I spoke with him for some time asking about the area and the road construction. He was a wealth of information and confirmed that the trucks were improving the inside road and had made a wet crossing over the Rio Caño Negro, the biggest obstacle to taking the shortcut between Monteverde and Arenal. He talked about how all of the studies and surveys had been completed for building a bridge over the river, but the funding got pulled at the last minute to help with earthquake relief. All of the plans are still valid, so sometime in the next ten years, I would expect a bridge to be in place. He also talked about how the president of Costa Rica had visited the area and in no uncertain terms stated that the road would never be paved. The government does not want commercial traffic through this eco sensitive area.
I was eager to try the river crossing and to take the inside road, if for no other reason, that it would be far more scenic and adventurous that the long winding outside road that we had taken to get to Arenal. The plan was to drive from El Castillo to Playas del Cocos on the Pacific ocean.
Charlie sent his son Eduardo with us on his motorbike in case we got stuck and needed a tractor to come pull us out. When we got to the bank of the river, I was both impressed by the size of the river and relieved to see the road construction crew hanging out on the other side. If they made it across, surely we could too and if we got stuck, they should be able to help us out between their laughter.
I took Charlie’s suggestion and walked it first to get an idea of what I was about to get us into. Then I popped it into 4 low and trucked it across. Wheeee!!
It’s worth noting that our rental agreement says not to do this, so I cannot condone my behavior. When I walked it, the water was below my knee, so while the river looked very big, it was also quite shallow.
The road on the other side was in excellent condition, no doubt because of the recent construction. While it was still gravel, it drove like asphalt. It was only when we turned west and headed into the mountains that the road got worse. There was one bridge that we ended up crossing amongst a handful of smaller streams. It sure didn’t look very safe with its height and lack of guard rails but we made it across just fine.
The volcano faded into the rearview mirror as we drove farther up into the mountains. Along the way we passed numerous turismo buses. The inside road seems to be the preferred route between Monteverde and Arenal by people familiar with the area.
After a four hour long ride, most of that in the bumpy mountain roads, we made it to Playas del Cocos. I had reserved an Airbnb condo that was hosted by an ex-pat named Robert and his native wife Marie. We met Robert in his bike rental shop and he was another character I won’t soon forget. Just think YMCA locker room, and you’ll get the right image in your head.
After getting a strange driving tour of the beach town where we followed Robert in his truck and he gave us hand signals for different sights and destinations we arrived at the condo. It was a nice unit with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Where were you second bathroom for the rest of the trip!
I picked this particular condo because it was only two blocks away from the Pacific ocean. Frugal Boy was delighted to go play on the beach.
Playas del Cocos has a thriving tourist strip selling all the usual trinkets. You could buy $10 keychains or $20 t-shirts. Smarter tourists would haggle the shop owners down a bit. We skipped all of that and bought some souvenir t-shirts at the end of the trip from MaxiPali, a Walmart subsidiary supermarket in Liberia, for $8.
Now that we were at sea level, the temperature had really picked up. Up in the mountains it was pleasantly cool, but down by the ocean it was hot. We stopped at a gelato shop and got a few scoops of ice cream. That made everyone quite happy.
That night we ate at a little burger/seafood soda. It was essentially a towed trailer with a griddle and deep fryer. The food was good and cheap so that made us all happy. On the walk back to the condo we were treated to a rare sight during the rainy season, a sunset!