Tiffani's Yamaha FZ-07 Tour: Monkeys in Costa Rica

Chapter 3, Part 17.

Costa Rica map
An extended stay in Costa Rica takes us all the way across the country to the shores of the Caribbean.Google Maps

Our two weeks in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, went by quickly. In my quest to see a monkey in its natural habitat, we hiked up Cerro Chato volcano, took numerous day trips around the area, crossed hanging bridges that put us level with treetops, swung off rope swings into crystal clear pools, and hung out in natural hot-spring rivers and under giant waterfalls. Nothing. Well, I shouldn’t say we saw nothing, because the forest and volcanoes were thick with strange and colorful birds and insects and plant life, but we didn’t find anything on the monkey front. I’m starting to think monkeys are a myth, much like all the alleged moose I never saw on my ride to Alaska!

Cerro Chato
Cerro Chato was maybe a little more than I had bargained for when it went from a simple gravel road to a full-blown scramble up roots and rocks and washed-out mud. Fortunately we got back to the bottom just in time to beat the daily rainstorm.David Hayward

So while my wildlife ventures were not terribly successful, there was a lot of good that did come out of making an extended stop. The owner of the hostel we were staying at, a lovely woman named Annes, began to treat us like family while we were there. On some days she invited us to join her family for traditional Costa Rican dinners and breakfasts with a range of fresh vegetables and flavorful meats. She taught us to make tortillas and also introduced us to the difference between ripe and unripe plantains—the greener examples taste identical to potatoes, which got me sorta confused. She was also an artist, so we painted together on an old table top.

At the end of our stay, she presented us with some clothing she made for us as a parting gift. I was blown away. We couldn’t really afford to do many of the tour activities in Costa Rica, as the prices of everything in this country are incredibly high, even when compared to the United States. But this made for every bit of an irreplaceable experience.

Costa Rican waterfall
Well, now you’re just showing off, Costa Rica.Tiffani Burkett

But once Hollywood's passport finally showed up, it was time to say goodbye and head back to the capital, San José. While the passport was being processed, I also had some new Shinko 705 tires sent down thanks to Shinko USA, as after about 9,000 miles, a patch and two tire plugs, my rear tire was pretty smoked. After going to a number of dealers, I finally found a shop that said they could receive the shipped packages. Getting care packages on the road is one of the most challenging parts of not having an address or any idea where I'll be on any given day. Also, fun fact: Addresses in Central America are literally things like "100 meters west of the Taco Bell, across the street from the Musa market," as there are rarely street names or house numbers. Despite the hassles, a local BMW dealer with employees who spoke surprisingly great English told me I could both have the tires delivered there, and they would be able to mount them for me. Perfect!

Annes was an artist herself, and was happy to let us paint on her table that she had turned into an always-evolving canvas. It felt so good to get to use a paintbrush again! She even asked me to show her some of my techniques!David Hayward

Or so I thought. Apparently, despite talking to people on the phone, in person, and having direct contact with the shop prior to delivery, someone at the BMW dealership rejected my package, throwing everything back into customs hell. So yet another week's delay in San José, one made oddly much more tolerable by staying in a super-affordable, yet upbeat and colorful, gay resort near the embassy. We finally got the new set of tires and had them mounted at a small, local shop. Fortunately, my bent rim caused by the potholes of Honduras didn't create problems with mounting a new tire, and now my bike feels like a whole new vehicle again! Time to finally get the hell out of Costa Rica!

Shinko 705s
Locked and loaded! Not even the customs headache was enough to take away from how satisfying it feels to get a new set of tires. I still can’t believe I got 9,000 miles out of these twice-plugged and patched Shinko 705s. Fist bump, Shinko USA!Tiffani Burkett

Just kidding! Again. Sigh

Costa Rica seemed determined to keep us in-country, as one roadblock, pounding rainstorm, and broken-down semi after another had us averaging maybe 30 kilometers an hour. We had only planned to go 250 kilometers that first day, but a late start and the aggravating traffic had us calling it early. The next day was all sunshine, however, so near the border we opted to stay one last day in Costa Rica in a town called Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the eastern side of the country, right on the shores of the Caribbean. Talamanca serves as the final destination in a book called In Search of Captain Zero that a friend had given us to read while we were riding down Baja, so it only seemed proper that we see this surf town for ourselves.

Costa Rican jungle
Welcome to the jungle! I was bummed we couldn’t find a proper camp, but the bellowing roars of howler monkeys, the rocks, and the puddles definitely made our last day in Costa Rica a proper adventure.David Hayward

Arriving bright and early, we got to watch surfers carving Salsa Brava, a legendary surf spot with sharp reefs and massive barrels. We continued to the end of the road before veering off to find a spot to camp on our last night in the country. Unfortunately, the only campground we could find appeared to be closed. Howler monkeys bellowed in the background with a call that sounded about as eloquent as a yeti giving birth. Meanwhile, a neighboring villager attempted to contact the campground owner for us. All this and I still haven’t spotted monkeys yet! Turned out, the owner was on holiday in Nicaragua, so we made our way back over the rocky dirt road into town and ended up pitching a tent at a nearby hostel. It was guaranteed to be hot, humid, loud, and miserable, but I was determined to stay at least one night in the tent before leaving this country.

It wasn’t very rugged, and I don’t think I got any sleep between the loud partying and spending the whole night drenched in sweat, but at least we went camping!Tiffani Burkett

Now, the beaches in Talamanca are teeming with wildlife. Small crabs scuttled around all over the beach, and, more importantly, as we were walking to the market for dinner supplies, I found myself dodging some manner of fruit raining down out of the trees. Sure enough, I looked up and there was a whole family of probably 15, maybe 20 spider monkeys climbing from branch to branch. Monkeys actually exist! I’ve never been so excited to have some animal throw fruit at me!

I found monkeys! I mean, aside from the one I travel with every day, of course. They probably could have given me a concussion with all the fruit they almost hit me with, but I’ll forgive them because they’re so cute.Tiffani Burkett

When I think about it, if we hadn’t gotten kicked back at the border weeks ago, stuck in traffic, and shuttled over to this spot at this time, I may have still never seen monkeys. So I’m going to chalk this up to “everything happens for a reason” and call this whole trip to Costa Rica officially successful. With that, there’s just one more country to go: onward to Panama!