We pull in from the Panamericana to a roadside motel in Northern Costa Rica, to break our run to the Nicaraguan border. The hotel has an impressive array of international flags, drooping listlessly, outside on poles twisted by the heat. An officious man at the desk welcomes us with a ‘have a nice day’ before telling us to sit and wait until 2pm to check in.
The hotel is empty but our young receptionist is adhering to the rule book, so we sit,sweating opposite him, and listen to the streamed music. 80’s ballads on panpipes. First The Scorpions’ ‘Down to Gorky Park’ then ‘Lady in Red’and ‘Heaven’.
It is too hot and we are too tired to move. Monday morning, not quite ten o clock , but we have travelled far and seen enough, we’ve been on the move since five,on a bone-shaking bus ride from Monteverde.
The journey was a roller coaster ride, down winding,dirt tracks unfit for vehicles then slowly, slowly chugging to the top again before dropping gradually down the mountain side to the highway junction below.
Our fellow passengers slept soundly. Mainly American college students who had been visiting or volunteering at Monteverde’s wild life attractions. We’d lived among them for a few days , met them by day at the Butterfly Farm, the Serpentarium and the Bat Sanctuary and again by night at the Taco House. They loved Darragh’s excitement at finally seeing an eyelash viper.
We were impressed with them. Bright kids with an interest in biology, just starting out on life’s adventures. Their infectious enthusiasm for the environment and wildlife inspired us,especially Darragh who loved their stories about smuggling beloved bug collections into college dorms and repairing tarantulas’ broken exoskeletons with crazy glue.
Up on the mountain sits a large slice of Americana, with plenty of diners to cater for the American palate with prices aimed at the American wallet. Costa Rica is full of US tourists who enjoy the pristine forests , beautiful quetzal birds and breakfast waffles served with smiles.
The bus eventually reached the main road and the driver, delighted to be back on asphalt, quickly deposited us at the roadside and sped off south, leaving us behind with a belch of fumes. We would have to wait for the next northward bound bus
Darragh left out a shout, he had forgotten his glasses aboard, but it was too late the bus was on its way to San Jose.There was nothing we could do.
Despite the loss of the specs, I felt good to be back on the Panamericana. This 30,000 km network of roads, running from Alaska to Argentina, had been the main setting for most of our American adventure. In Buenos Aires, we travelled the Panamericana every morning to school on Moni’s bus and we’ve been pretty much following it since.
We’re not the only ones. When friends hear about our trip and tell us we’re brave, we tell them about others on amazing adventures, we’ve met along the highway. People like Daniel and Polly ,from the UK,overlanding from Argentina to Alaska ,on a vintage BMW motorbike,who have matched us stride for stride as we’ve travelled from Tierra del Fuego.
Or Jens and Gerda ,from Germany, travelling around Panama and Costa Rica for seven weeks. Both are seventy-seven years old, although Gerda told us she was exactly one month younger. Both are incredibly fit and have been taking the same rattling rides as us, while trekking the National Parks.
They sat with us for hours in the hostel. Jens lean, fit and talkative told us all about their travels around the world. Gerda, quieter, less confident of her English kept grasping Jens hand ‘ Tell them about Nepal, Jens. Tell them about the mountains’
Jens and Gerda have spent their lives climbing mountains and now they tell us that three generations of their family go trekking together each summer.
In the hotel lobby, the pan-pipe classics continue with Elton John’s Nikita when eventually our receptionist relents and checks us in early. The room is clean and comfortable and gives us a chance to relax before tomorrow’s final leg.
I am dreading the trip to Granada, we’ll take a local bus to the border, walk with backpacks through immigration, customs and crowds of hawkers, money changers and crooks that populate the Nicarguan frontier.
Once across, we’re not sure how we will get to Granada. It’s not going to be straightforward , probably squeezing ,with all our bags, onto a local crowded chicken bus or two for the last final stretch of our long road north on the Panamericana.