Monthly Archives: September, 2013

Time Is On My Side

Today we got the ball rolling for shipping the car to Colombia. We met Nate and Sarah at the Balboa Yacht Club around 8:00am. We took some time for taking a picture with the Panama canal in the background. Yesterday we crossed the bridge in the background, but we could not see the canal from there. This morning the weather was nicer, although we did have a lot of rain throughout the day.

We also met other overlanders from Germany and France who will ship on a ferry as they are driving trucks and motorhomes and don’t fit in a container. Our shipping agent arrived fashionably late and we drove behind her to the police inspection station. This inspection usually only takes place between 9 and 10:00am, when it’s not raining and the engine is cold. So we had to wait in the parking lot for a bit – long enough for it to start raining anyhow!
When the police inspector came outside, he didn’t like the rain so he went back inside and we had to sit it out. He came up with the idea of moving the cars in one by one under the small roof – and Rodrigo went first. It had stopped raining at that point, but the inspector had disappeared back inside as well.
When the inspector came back outside half an hour later it had started raining again. Luckily he had a baseball cap on to protect himself from the rain and he looked at the VIN number on the car. Due to the angle in which the car was parked there was a lot of glare on the windshield and the number was not readable. The inspector went back inside for 10 minutes. When he came outside again, he opened the car door and looked at the sticker with the VIN number and signed off the document. This inspection is notorious in the overlanding community for people being sent back to the border to correct mistakes on paperwork, so we were very relieved. Nate and Sarah also passed the test and we drove to a nearby shopping centre as we had to return at 3:00pm to pick up our permit. We did not have breakfast so we had an early lunch (or late brunch..)!
We killed some time wandering through the enormous mall and at 14:00 we took a taxi to the ‘Secretaria General’. After trying to explain to the first taxi driver where it was – even showing our navigation and street names and everything – we took another taxi and it only took 5 minutes to get there. It was on the other side of the street from the inspection area for no apparent reason. Patrick went inside and had to surrender his ID for a visitor badge. Once inside and asking around for the right office, he found the right door… which does not have a door handle.
After waiting for about half an hour inside, we got the permit and we took the taxi back to the shopping centre. There we made some more copies of all our documents and then headed back to the hostel through evening rush hour, keeping us focused at maximum level.
We arrived back at the hostel and warmed up the leftovers of yesterday’s lasagne and after a cold beer we’ll probably call it an early night. Step one of the process completed: we can load the car in a container on Wednesday! We are preparing a big blogpost to detail out everything regarding the shipping and put it on-line when we’ve completed the whole thing!
Time is on my side, yes it is
Now you always say that you want to be free
But you’ll come running back to me

Sleeping In My Car

Today we reached the end of the road in Central America! As you cannot continue to drive from Panana to Colombia, we need to get the car in a container on a boat. The infamous ‘Darien Gap‘ is a large swamp area that you cannot drive through even if you tried. Additionally it is very dangerous there as the FARC rebels tend to hide out there every now and then. The gap in the road is only 160km, but it will take us close to 2 weeks to complete the shipping process.

We woke up this morning on the beach after a broken sleep – apparently the neighbours had planned a late night party still (a sincere thank you from all those who where already sleeping.. not). We left the campsite around 7:00am to complete the drive to Panama City. The road today did not offer a lot of variation – mostly it was a nicely paved highway. We stopped to make some copies of our car documents and e-mailed back and forth with our shipping partners Nate and Sarah, who we look forward to meet tomorrow morning! Prepare yourself for plenty of blog posts about documentations, stamps, delays and frustration over the next days! 🙂


Patrick had been looking forward to seeing the Panama canal for months but unfortunately a few kilometers before we arrived there the rain came pouring down so we didn’t manage to see much (note from the driver: “I did not get to see anything – I only saw the suicide prevention fences across the bridge.”). We’ll go back in a few days to check it out in better weather, once the shipping process has started. The canal is an engineering wonder and has even inspired a beautiful palindrome: “a man, a plan, a canal, Panama!” *We crossed the canal over the ‘Bridge of the Americas‘ which spans 344m across the canal. After the bridge we navigated our way through the flooded streets to our place for the next 5 nights – no more sleeping in the car until the shipping process is over.


Tonight we are staying at the ‘Panama by Luis‘ hostel within Panama City. It took us a while to locate it as the coordinates on where a little off, but luckily the internet at the local McDonald’s and GoogleMaps helped us find the correct location. Once our room was cleaned (the rain had caused some mess inside), we worked up on our laundry and went to the local supermarket to fill up on some food supplies. Let’s see how the hostel oven can manage our lasagna – we have been looking forward to that as well!


So come out tonight

I’ll take you for a ride

This steamy ol’ Wagon

The radio is getting wild

* I once read that the longer version is “A man, a plan, an American attempt to control shipping routes in the Western Hemisphere, Panama!”, but that’s hardly a palindrome

Girl(s) On The Beach

We had an abundance of pineapples at the breakfast table this morning. Damon also thought he could share his pineapple with us. Looks like we’ll be having pineapple tomorrow as well. Over breakfast we met a very friendly Dutch guy named Alex. He’s travelling the opposite direction by bike (!), so his blog might come in useful for us to check out some local information or interesting campgrounds. After sharing some personal info, stories from the road and Dutch books we packed the car again and drove out of the camping area. Alex, if you read this, we wish you all the best and hope you will make it to Alaska in time!

With the car leaving soon on the boat to Colombia we don’t have many exiting visits planned within the coming days. Priority number one is to get into Panama City by Sunday evening. So today we didn’t do more than drive closer towards the capital. We noticed that the roadside shops have raised their game: they are now selling lobsters instead of iguanas! Around midday we arrived at today’s campground ‘Las Lajas Cabinas’ and parked next to the beach.


Since Marijke didn’t sleep very well last night and we arrived early in the afternoon with a beautiful shining sun, we felt too temped. So we put our blanket on the beach and spent the full afternoon lazying in the sun.




Sharon, if you need to catch up on your shell collection, this is really the place to be! You can literally pick up a fully intact shell every 30 cm.


Tomorrow we will try to leave early in the morning because we still have quite some distance to cover before we reach our destination. Most importantly, we will cross the Panama canal, one of the engineering wonders of the modern world!

How we love to lie around

Girls with tan of golden brown

The girls on the beach

Are all within reach

Ain’t No Stopping Now, Panama!

We woke up this morning on the parking lot of ‘Hotel Sierra‘ where we camped for free last night. We made full use of the facilities and went for a morning swim. We had a watermelon for breakfast – as we have learned in the past that they may be confiscated at the border. We booked our hostels for Panama City and Cartagena and also booked a flight for next week Friday (4 October). That should give us enough time to get the car in a container and on the way to Colombia.


We left the hotel around 10:00am and arrived at the border an hour later. It only took us 15 minutes to check out of Costa Rica – very smooth! We drove down to the Panama immigration and customs with high expectations… and we were seriously disappointed. There was an enormous line-up already to park our car. We parked behind a car with licence plates from California – and we quickly figured out that the owner was trying to do the same as us: get into Panama without too much hassle. We were happy to meet Damon from and we had a partner in crime now. We started queueing for immigration in what seemed liked an endless line that was not moving. We got a sticker in our passport from an official and paid 1 USD. We were told to buy vehicle insurance first – so we crossed the street to arrange that. We then went back to the queue but lined up with the truck drivers instead (well, we do drive a truck, don’t we?). When we were first in line, the lady told us we needed to show 500 USD in cash or a bank statement to show that we could afford being in Panama. We discussed a bit back & forth, but in the end we were sent to an internet cafĂ© where we printed a bank statement. With that in hand we went back to the window and got the stamp. We then went to customs for the import documents for the car. It took a bit of time and some more stamps left and right from some people with clipboards… but we made it in the end. It was one of the most crazy border crossings – and with 3 hours in total also the longest.


Fairly unimpressed we drove into Panama behind Damon. We were held back a bit because our car was searched at a military checkpoint – and we caught up with Damon who was pulled over by the police and issued a speeding ticket. We decided to drive together from there on and after refuelling and a supermarket stop, we arrived in Boquete at ‘Pension Topas‘.


We had dinner and a beer with Damon at the common area. This morning we left in 33°C but tonight temperature had dropped to 20°C!


Got the feeling, power steering

Pistons popping, ain’t no stopping now!

Panama, Panama

Great Balls Of Fire

We started off the day with exploring the waterfall ‘La Catarata’, which we were told was easy to get to by car. Unfortunately we hit a dirt road with a lot of muddy tracks, so we parked the car and did the final climb on foot. Another hot day in Costa Rica, so we were covered in sweat by the time we reached the waterfall. It was a very slippery experience. Patrick almost landed on his butt in the waterfall. Marijke mastered her balance much better – the evidence is in the picture below!


_DSC8623 `

After the waterfalls we rejoined Rodrigo, bought some more water and headed towards the south! On the map we could see something marked as ‘stone spheres’ and after asking a local, he offered to lead the way to the place! It’s a good thing he did, because whereas the site itself is full of signs, there is no sign pointing to the archeological site itself! For those in search too and lacking a helpful local, the place to be is Finca 6. We parked outside the gate, walked through the banana plantation and found the mysterious balls!



We had a late lunch at a local ‘soda’ for little money and then continued our drive towards ‘Golfito’, which is a small fisherman town. We found a hotel that let us camp on their parking lot for free. They also have a swimming pool and internet which we volunteered on using – I don’t know what we need more! We were in the hotel restaurant when a tropical thunderstorm passed and we went to sleep in a somewhat cooler tent! Tomorrow we head for the border and the last country in Central America: Panama!

I chew my nails and I twiddle my thumbs

I’m real nervous but it sure is fun

C’mon baby, you’re driving me crazy

Goodness gracious great balls of fire!

Sweat ‘Till You Can’t Sweat No More

Our gamble paid off as we had the whole dorm to ourselves during the night. We woke up this morning ready to take on ‘Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio‘. We loaded up on water for the day and headed into the park. We went into the park around 8:00am (the park opens at 7:00am) and we were visitors number 6 & 7!

Whilst we were walking up the main trail we immediately came across a little deer that was not very shy at all!

Further down the path a white-headed capuchin monkey was obviously not having a great day.

Unlike this little Central-American squirrel monkey who was jumping from tree to tree.

Then we continued down another trail which lead us through the deep forest. We had seen the turkey vulture before, but never from this close!

From the Mirador we could see the islands in the Pacific Ocean – and in front of them we saw something that could be a dolphin, a shark or a small whale! It is the migrating season for whales and they can be spotted amongst these shores so we are going to go with ‘whale’ this time!

When we walked back we walked along the beach where we could see a hermit crab. If you made too much noise they would crawl back into their shell.

With a little help from (other people’s) guides we found the brown-throated three-toed sloth! This animal sleeps for up to 18 hours a day! Look closely at the picture to spot the furry thing hanging upside down.
We spotted two juvenile bright green iguanas hanging out in the shrubbery.

Walking back to the exit we saw this American white ibis taking a bath in the river.

Patrick was also almost hit on the head by this funny looking insect.

Next to all the wildlife, there is an abundance of plants and trees!


We probably did not get all the names of the animals correct – but believe us it was an impressive gathering!
After the visit to the park, we went for late breakfast at another hostel, ‘Costa Linda‘, where we were served delicious pineapple, papaya, watermelon, pancakes, bread, pinto (rice with beans), bacon and eggs, coffee and tea all for the price of only 2000 colones each (about € 3,5). The electricity in the street was down but thankfully they have a gas stove!
Patrick took another dive in the swimming pool before we drove off towards Uvita. Although Manuel Antonio is really beautiful and unique it is packed with tourists. When we left the park around 11:00am, there were groups of 15-20 people every 100m on the trail. It’s been really hot and humid all day and we may have set a record for the most sweat in a day!
We are camping at the ‘Flutterby House‘ tonight, just 200m from the beach. We went for a bit of grocery shopping (more water!) and then went to the beach to spot the crabs digging holes.

Tomorrow we have another day in Costa Rica before we cross the border to Panama on Friday!
I’ve got this to say to you
Girl I want to make you sweat
Sweat ’till you can’t sweat no more

Smoke On The Water

Today we were ready for some action! We were told to visit the volcano early in the morning to have a better view so as soon as we were awake, we left our camping spot and headed for the park. When we left the campground (well, restaurant parking), the owner came to wish us a good journey and gave us a flag of Costa Rica! We were absolutely speechless after this nice gesture! We arrived as the third car at the ‘Parque Nacional Volcan Poas’ gates and had to wait for the janitor to arrive with the key. Then we paid our tickets at first booth, paid for parking at the second booth, parked the car and immediately headed to the volcano crater where we got this amazing view…



Right … some amazing view! Pfff :s We waited a little bit but the only improved vision we got was with a little bit more stone and plants. A little bit disappointed we went looking for the lagoon ‘Lake Botos’ which was also located on the same trail. The trail lead us through dark and compact cloud forest (which spooked Marijke a little bit). Luckily there was a well maintained path to follow. But when we got there we had the same results: a big white canvas of fog. And then … the sky cleared up just a little bit and we could see the shores from the other side.



So with new hopes we headed back to the volcano crater and wished for the clouds to go away. It seems our wishes were heard as all of a sudden the sky opened and we could see this 300m below our feet. The crater is 1,3km across in total!


Now, THAT’S the view that we had been expecting to see first time around! And the clouds that you are still spotting there in the middle … those are active volcano fumes!! It was incredibly cool standing there on the border of the crater seeing it being silently alive. Satisfied with our very first volcano crater experience, we headed back down and indulged ourselves with some local fresh strawberries.


Then we drove all the way west towards the Pacific Ocean, destination ‘Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio‘. When we arrived it was clear that this is a very touristic area: English in every corner, helpers to park your car, helpers to find you a hotel (“no thank you very much”) and expensive rates. With not that many options we decided to overnight in the hostel closest to the National Park. Once parked and all checked-in we walked over to the beach in a sweltering 32°! We sacrificed our privacy to save $10 and we are sleeping in a dorm tonight. Maybe we are lucky and the other 12 beds will be empty!




No better way to close off the day then relaxing at the pool in our hostel. The only bad news is that we will have to eat the canned spaghetti that we left in the car yesterday!


Rain jacket in the morning and bikini in the evening… what a difference a day makes!

No matter what we get out of this

I know I know we will never forget

Smoke on the water and fire in the sky

(Get Out Of My Dreams) Get Into My Car

Today we got to pick up Rodrigo from the Toyota dealer! With everything fully repaired and the free courtesy carwash on top, we got in and got back on the road. Destination for today was a campground near the ‘Poas‘ volcano. The maintenance was not as cheap as we hoped (about 3/4 of what we paid in Canada), but we did get a bit of a discount.


The first campground which we were looking for, ‘Alajuela Campground’, no longer existed. The second one ‘Lagunillas Lodge’ was divided from us by a steep dirt road which we didn’t want Rodrigo to get stuck in. The ‘Altura Hotel’ which we came across along the way was closed and didn’t take any campers. With our options strongly decreasing, we requested a nice restaurant ‘La Casona de Dona Julia‘ if we could stay for the night at their parking lot and luckily they said it was okay. So in order to show our gratitude, we skipped the canned spaghetti meal from the cooler and ordered ourselves some late lunch.



Turns out the food here is delicious! It’s the best meal we’ve had in a while. Simply everything on the plate tasted fantastic! If you are every near the Poas volcano, you should stop there for breakfast or lunch!

To burn off the new extra calories – and to compensate for our lazy day yesterday – we went for a little walk. With all the hills here that’s easier said then done. As we were heading on a one-way trail and we were going all the way down, we returned quite quickly. We will save our energy for tomorrow.


We spent the rest of the evening watching the sun go down, reading in our books and talking about the general facts of life.

Who’s that lady walking down the road

Who’s that lady

Who’s that woman walking through my door

What’s the score?

Today I Don’t Feel Like Doing Anything

When we woke up this morning the rain was pouring down in San JosĂ©, so we decided to turn our day into a lazy Sunday (seems like a recurring theme on this trip). We filled most of it with watching new episodes of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ (thank you high speed internet!) and reading the new books which we bought earlier this week (in English, our Spanish is not that great, yet :)).


After watching for 4 hours straight, we were getting a bit hungry and as it had stopped raining we went outside. Patrick had spotted a nice restaurant during our walk across San JosĂ© the other day and that’s where we were going to go to. Although the scenery of the restaurant was really nice, the food at the place didn’t really overwhelm us. However, it did serve its purpose: stop making us feel hungry.



On the way over we stopped at the local shopping centre in ‘San Pedro’. Costa Rica doesn’t seem to be having a problem at all with selling kids’ toys next to marijuana pipes and adult stores… We also spotted a lot of cell phone stores (about 60% of the shopping centre) as well as beauty salons (about 30%).


Tonight will be our last night in San JosĂ©. Tomorrow morning we go to pick up the car and we are driving off to more volcanoes and beaches! Don’t be alarmed, dear blog reader, more action-packed adventures coming your way!

Today I don’t feel like doing anything

I just wanna lay in my bed

Don’t feel like picking up the phone

So leave a message at the tone

Bus Stop, Bus Goes

When Cato the Elder said that in his opinion Carthago should be destroyed, we can safely assume he was not talking about Cartago in Costa Rica. Whereas the Romans finally did destroy Carthago and rebuilt it afterwards, the Cartago we visited today has only one enemy: earthquakes.

As the car is still in the workshop, we headed out on public transport. The route between San JosĂ© and Cartago (about 45 minutes) is operated by several bus companies – and there is no such thing as a national public transport provider. You just go to the bus stop, hope it to be the correct one and wait for a bus to turn up. We hopped on the bus to Cartago and paid €1,50 for both of us (one way).


We arrived in Cartago and went for a walk in the small town. We started off by visiting the ‘Ruinas de la Parroquia de Santiago Apostol‘. Many attempts have been made to build a church here, but frequent earthquakes have finally put an end to these efforts. What is currently standing are not ruins of an old church but the first part of constructing a new church which was stopped in 1910. According to local legends you can see a headless priest wander around on foggy nights.



The ‘Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles‘ is the main attraction in town. In August, it attracts 2,5 million people who come here on a pilgrimage. It was significantly quieter today! At the back of the church there is a small fountain where locals queue up to fill their bottles with water from the rock where a statue of the Virgin Mary mysteriously reappeared (or so they say).


We had lunch in town and enjoyed the sunshine on the main square. We then headed back to a bus stop and returned to San José for an afternoon of reading, relaxing and planning the next days. Unfortunately Costa Rica is quite expensive and we may have to limit our stay here to stay on budget.

Bus stop, wet day, she’s there, I say

Please share my umbrella

Bus stop, bus goes, she stays, love grows

Under my umbrella