At six months it was time for Astrid to get a bit of a facelift before we were to hit the road again. Since we had the weekend before going to the mechanic, we took the time to wander where the road would take us and stay where people were kind enough to let us. And at times the kindness extended into meal times as a neighbor brought dinner and breakfast to the van. It was also a time of rehabilitation as my back had given out in Nosara while we were visiting with Myranda and Manu. Brett made up some yoga classes and I quickly enrolled and just as quickly derolled.
Sunday night we settled out front the mechanic shop where we spent the next two nights. At the end of it we walked away with a sealed exhaust leak, new axel seal, fuel+air filters and a solved idling problem.
So after two months of arriving to Costa Rica, we headed south again. Soon enough we were reminded of the border process as we waited for 6 hours to cross into Panama. The hold up being our canine companion, who needed to wait for the vet to come from somewhere, clearly not anywhere near the border. Her inspection, which seemed to be more of a pat down for drugs then infections, lasted a whole 20 seconds and after a hefty fee we were finally done. Considering it was now dark, we stopped in the first place (David) to look for a spot to park. We settled into a hostel, where the atmosphere steamed with travel stories and our tired border selves were soon rejuvenated. With prices more suited for our budget again, we scraped up our leftover satarash and headed to restaurant for a $3.50 fish and chips and $1 beers.
With a restricted time in Panama, as we had to coordinate the Darien Gap crossing, we were limited to a week before heading to the capital. We headed to the Peninsula de Azure and a small surf village of Playa Venao. Twice a week a food truck with fresh fish, fruits and veggies would pull in and we would have a feast. Actually the entire hostel feasted on fish that night (truck # 2 came with fish). I wrestled a 15 kg red snapper, well a quarter of it anyway and it wasn’t really alive I guess, but the scales were the size of quarters. Luckily (for me, not the fish), fish is sill part or my vegetarian diet (sorry fish). So while Brett worked on his surfing figure I worked on my eating figure. I figured I wasn’t strong enough to swim out if he needed rescuing due to a rip current, but potentially I could float out more easily, plop him on my belly and sail back in.
As beach life came to an end we headed to the capital, which was an impressive assortment of grand skyscrapers along with some incredibly decrepit buildings not too far off. Next few days were spent organizing the shipping of the car and ourselves. Finally it was time to stop planning and venture out to see what Panama city had to offer, before we skipped over to a new continent . We had the last dinner with our overlanding companions Daniela and Pascal as we parted ways after meeting up in Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama. The following night we picked up my uncle Zarko who was joining in for some van adventures in Panama and Columbia, with a stop in Aruba.
Fully loaded, Astrid once again made its way over the mountains and cloud forests to reach the central Pacific coast. There we would bask in the sun, waves and sand (definitely sand), bidding farewell to the old year. Hidden under the trees in front of the beach we set up the sleeping quarters (tent and van), dining room (newly acquired table with the old chairs) and the lounge room (two hammocks). However since this was holiday season everyone else had the same idea and so the neighbours were plentiful and the beach teamed with activity from dusk till dawn. After 5 days of beach life we headed back to the hills of volcano Arenal. The winding drive was stunning, but our expectations of seeing lava spill from a volcano were soon shattered as we approached the cloud enveloped volcano. However, it was not the clouds but an outdated guidebook that was to blame for this. Considering we were met by rains and clouds and lack of lava there was no real need to stay any longer. Our camp was also getting flooded as the man made lake was about to overspill into our living arrangements, so we bought a postcard and left. Instead, we figured we would explore the diversity of Monteverde cloud forest. Whether it was the Balkan indoor voices or the fact the wildlife has learned to migrate away from the human intruders, deeper into the forest, our only wildlife sighting was a dead centipede. As the end of the family shenanigans approached we headed to Nicoya. There we would enjoy the last meals by our gourmet chef, the end of royal British accents adopted by Jan and myself and the defeat of swimmers ear by Brett, Jan and Goran. Following is a random compilation of carefully chosen pictures from the past few weeks.
It was the day before the day before Christmas and our camp was set for up for our first visitor, but due to canceled flights it was not until two days later that my dad finally arrived. None the less we had a few local visitors from the ranch who came by to hang out after dinner.
The next day my brother was on his way and having three connecting flights with United, we closely followed his progress towards Costa Rica. The plan was in place, get food, car stuff, dog stuff and go to airport. However, Astrid did not cooperate. Two hours before we were to pick up Jan the car pulled the old no idle trick. Brett tinkered and tinkered until disaster was averted. Within two days we have gathered the family members. We settled in a cabin above Cartago, the old capital. Hovering at 2000 m the temperature was much more chilly than we were used to (13-18 Degrees Celsius).
We stayed at the cabin for five days, eating exciting meals that came with the presence of fridge and oven. In the next few days we ventured around the area of Cartago including Volcano Irazu and Orosi valley. The temperatures were perfect for hiking.
With the new year just around the corner it was time to shed the long sleeves and hit the beach.