Saturday, April 23, 2011

4/22/11, Broken Bikes and Holdups: Puerto Viejo - Cartago, CR. 150 miles, 6 hours.

So I wake up in Puerto Viejo all good and ready to go to the Jaguar rescue center and get my baby monkey on. Half asleep, I step outside my door and meet this Swedish girl, who is so stereotypically Swedish. In a good way. She asks if I am getting breakfast and being slow in the morning and stupid as hell I say "Probably, after I go mail this postcard." Which is the truth. And so very very lame. I am kicking myself on the way to the post office, which is closed, haha, and I see the girl when I get back, but she is packing up and leaving, hitting the road, so I don't fell so bad. Plus my thoughts are slightly preoccupied with Maria, who should be working at the monkey place this morning. It takes me a while to find the spot, but I do. She is working, and I take the tour, which is super cool, lots of venomous snakes, a margay, hawks, caimans, and yes, baby monkeys, the littlest (Coco) taking quite a shine to me and jumping all over me. I speak with Maria in the middle of the tour and I tell her I plan to head down the road to the beach at Manzanillo to snorkel and swim. She wants to go to the beach there as well and I suggest we ride two -up on the bike there. She is also being extremely touchy-feely, which is always a good sign, but I think its just her personality. We tentatively agree to meet up, and I kind of get the feeling its not gonna happen, I give it 50-50.

So long story short, I never see her again, which is too bad. I end up riding the 13 kms to Manzanillo, stopping to pull over at various points and walk a couple of hundred feet through the jungle at any given point to check out the hidden beaches and coves. Manzanillo is super packed, everyone is out and celebrating the holiday. I spend a bit of time there, and then back at the hostel, I end up hanging with a group of folks from an international university in San Jose, eating chicken and playing spades. The first real thunderstorm of the season hits (that I have seen) and the sound of the rain pummeling the tin roof is deafening, and the streets clear out pretty quickly. My tired ass goes to bed early, again, preparing for a long day tomorrow. The goal is to see both Volcanoes Irazu and Poas, on my way to La Fortuna in the north where I will spend a couple of days at the foot of the very active Volcano Arenal.

Leaving Purto Viejo and riding through rainforest with many one lane bridges over river crossings, I take one last look at the Caribbean in Puerto Limon before turning left and heading west. Im enjoying a beautiful day riding up and down the mountains through the vats green wonderland that is Costa Rica when I try to downshift going downhill and nothing happens. I go through all the gears and still nothing. I coast to a stop at the base of a bridge overlooking a river a long way down. The bike is permanently in neutral and wont move at all, the engine just keeps idling away while the shifter just clicks loosely up and down through the gears, with or without the clutch lever engaged. Its 1:00 and I realize I an definitely not going to be seeing 2 volcanoes and reaching La Fortuna tonight. I am tired, tired, tired of dealing with even the slightest difficulties at this point, and the steps that need to be taken at this point seem overwhelming.

A guy on a bike pulls up. He makes some calls for me but its Good Friday and everything and everyone is on hiatus. I get the bad news that I probably need a new clutch, and this has to come from San Jose, which means my bike will be fixed by Tuesday at the earliest. I really dont want to spend a few days n the town of Turriaba, and I am already planning on bussing around to different places until then. A buddy of my new friend pulls up with a truck, and we hitch a rope to my bike and he pulls me into town. We end up at his friends house, who is a mechanic and I pull the bike around back. Its an awesome setup, a few Suzuki Samurai's all expeditioned- out, and a few other vehicles he is working on. The mechanic, Gerard, pops of the countershaft sprocket cover and looks at the sprocket which was just replaced in San Jose a couple of weeks ago. There is no nut holding it in place. This is not allowing the shifter to depress an disengage the clutch. This is great news. All I need is a nut. A very specific style and type of nut. I am pretty sure something can be jerry-rigged, rather than Having to wait a few days for a nut from the Yamaha dealer. I hope, at least. Gerard's wife leaves and 15 minutes later comes back with a little Yamaha factory plastic bag with a nut in it. Gerard pops it on. Bike fires up and shifts. Problem solved. I go to pay and he says "$2000." This is 4 bucks. I give him a 10 and insist he take it, which he reluctantly does. Plus I give $8 to the guy who towed me. So, 90 minutes after the problem originated, it is solved, and I am on my way.

I find out from my new friends that Volcan Irazu is closed today, and closes at 3:30pm every day. So I am not even seeing that. I decide to spend the night in Cartago, the first capital of Costa Rica and close to Volcano Irazu, where I will make a fresh start tomorrow. I stop my bike at a bridge on my way out of Turriaba to take a pic of the river and the surrounding landscape (this is the hottest spot in CR for whitewater rafting, BTW.) I park the bike and pull out my camera and the bike starts tipping over. This has been an ongoing problem, the kickstand is too long and the bike is top heavy, so on less than perfect ground, it can tip. As I lunge to stop the bike from falling over, I drop my nice ass camera. I turn it on and there is a black mark across the screen, as if something inside the camera has shaken loose and is partly blocking the lens. So, just as one problem was solved, another one starts. I have a backup point and shoot, but I am super bummed out. The Pentax with the 26x zoom has been on my hip for 12,000 miles, and it feels weird not having it with me. Of course, I ride the short 30 miles to Cartago through more amazing mountains with picture-worthy shots around every bend. In Cartago, I roam the streets for a while trying to find a room. The town is completely dead and shut down, because of Good Friday. I park my bike in front of a hotel I had checked out earlier, but not liked that much. Everything else was closed though, so I took a room for 16 bucks. As I am paying, a lady comes by and tells me my bike is on its side. I go outside, curse the long kickstand to high heaven (I really need to get that shit chopped down by a few inches, I keep saying, but never do) and pick up the bike. The right side mirror is broken and the pannier rack is cracked in 4 places. So this means I will be making yet ANOTHER trip to a welder, specifically one who can do aluminum, before I go anywhere. Tomorrow is looking like a day of taking care of a ton more bullshit, and I get that overwhelming feeling of wanting this shit to be done. Its to the point now where I get no satisfaction from solving any problems like this, they just seem to keep relentlessly piling on. I am sure I will fell differently once the bullshit stops for a minute though, if I can hope to be so lucky. I head into town and there is a massive Good Friday procession taking place, with the whole town in attendance and at least a couple of hundred men dressed up like Roman soldiers, with the body of Christ being carried in the middle of it all. I take some mediocre pictures with the point and shoot of the procession and the surprisingly nice cathedral as the sun goes down. Some food and all that, and then back to the hotel where I figure I will wake up early, get my bike welded, try to get my camera looked at, and maybe hit the local gym if I have enough time. Then I will head to Volcan Irazu (finally) and then north to Volcan Poas and hopefully, La Fortuna for a couple of days to see the lava flows at Volcan Arenal.

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