Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 1: High Mountain Passes and Landslides

Destination: Dominical

I left early this morning so that I could arrive in the Dominical area before late afternoon. Although it is nearing the end of the rainy season here, afternoon clouds still move in and it often rains in the afternoons, so, I thought it best to get an early start. By the time I actually got on the road after running several last minute errands, it was 10 am.

I followed Route 2 out of San Jose towards Cartago and then south towards San Isidro. In between these two towns is a long, long climb. The road rises to 10,800 feet at the Cerro de la Muerte, as it crosses the Talamanca Mountain range before it begins to slowly descend into San Isidro.

The road is in relatively good condition and is well marked. I passed through a cloud forest where tree ferns, abundant vines and other vegetation graced the road side. It was actually cold in the higher elevations and I had to close my windows, but by the time I descended into San Isidro, it warmed up and there were blue skies.

In San Isidro, I turned west toward Dominical (the turn is well marked) and went over another mountain pass and through more cloud forest, where the blue skies disappeared and clouds and mist dominated. Finally, after a short delay from an earlier landslide, I arrived in Dominical.

Dominical is a small surf town with dirt roads and quaint shops and plenty of cheap places to stay, including several camping facilities. I think there are more surf shops in the small town of Dominical than in San Jose all together. Obviously, the surfing must be good.

I stopped at the most local-looking restaurant I could find, Coco's Bar and Restaurant, where I enjoyed a delicious casado with grilled chicken and a fresh mango drink for 2600CRC, about $5. Usually, when not in a tourist town, casados are no more than 1500CRC, but hey, what can you do? Good food is worth the money.

The paved road leading south from Dominical is one of the best roads in all of Costa Rica, and I made excellent time arriving at the Hotel Cristal Ballena, located on a knoll overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean. One of the ranger stations for the Ballena Marine National Park is directly across the road from the entrance to the Cristal Ballena. I had heard many nice things about this hotel and was excited to finally be able to visit.

All of their rooms are tastefully decorated, very comfortable and perfectly clean. Most offer sweeping views of the ocean and all have their own private balcony. They offer 15 different tours. To name a few: guided hikes in Corcovado, mangrove tours in kayaks, horseback riding to waterfalls and dolphin/whale watching excursions.

After settling into my room and taking a short nap, I awake to find that we have lost electricity. It really started to pour right after I arrived (thank goodness I left this morning!) and apparently a fallen tree has taken out some of the electric lines.

They are working right now to repair the lines, as I type (on limited battery power).

The office staff is working very hard to make sure everyone has a flash light, plenty of candles, matches and an umbrella.

It is really pouring. My dinner reservations are for 7 pm. Looks like we will all be dining by candle light. How cozy! For some reason I love it when the power goes out.

Despite the electrical problems, dinner went well. While at the bar, I made some new friends from Switzerland -- Walter and Crazy George (that's how he introduced himself). We enjoyed a few drinks at the bar by candle light and then the three of us enjoyed a candlelit dinner at the hotel's restaurant. A refreshingly cool breeze blew through the windows as the absolute darkness surrounding us offered both comfort and mystery as to what exactly might out there.

Day 1: High Mountain Passes and Landslides in Pictures