Hello to everyone from an Internet cafe in Panama City
For those of you who have our itinerary you will be surprised we are writing from Panama City some three days before we should be here. What follows is our Costa Rica progress, which we believe will explain our plight.
The first day of riding in Costa Rica following a much-needed three-day layover was to say the least interesting. The bike finally arrived at about 1AM on the morning we were to begin (compliments of a Russian cargo plane). Got up at 4:30AM to off load get the bike ready only to find out it was still buried in the back of a truck. After much work get it off, pumped up the tires, checked for damage (minimal) loaded the bike and away we went.
From the hotel we began a climb through San Jose and up what turned out to be the mountain from hell!!!. After about 30 minutes it began to rain, then blow then as we climbed it got colder and more miserable. By 3:00PM we had covered approximately 67 km of an 80 km climb and had been pushing the pedals for 7+ hours. When we got to a roadside restaurant some 13 kms from the top the fog rolled in and Mary along with others was suffering the onset of hypothermia, being the intelligent cyclists we are we decided enough was enough and called a halt to our climb, now the problem was how do we get some forty plus riders over the top and 50kmīs to camp. Stopped a transport pulling an empty flatbed and negotiated to lay the bikes onto the truck, also negotiated with an empty bus to carry the riders and off we went, a sight to behold.
Finally got to the camping area (a wet, damp field with plenty of long grass) and experienced setting up a tent in the dark, oh so much fun. Then we went for dinner but no food was to be found we were advised they would have some ready by 9:30PM so off we went for a cold shower in one of nine designated rooms (hypothermia and cold showers do not blend). Got some food by 9:45 and crawled into a wet, damp tent and sleeping bag only to listen to a rock band, a barking dog and a rooster that thinks any hour of the night is fair game for weary bikers.
The next morning found us packing a wet tent, wet clothing. The breakfast line was super slow and after one hour we got food. The food went down super quick and we were off. Today saw the reverse of the previous day as we began riding through tough rolling terrain, in the sun, to the cheers and well wishes of the friendly Costa Ricans that lined the route. The temperature began to soar and by the time we reached the start of a 3200-foot climb we were seeing 30C (90F) temperatures, with no cloud cover or shade for this grueling climb. We finally had to call it quits after 2000+ feet as Mary's core temperature was such that she was suffering heat exhaustion. The locals were great as they rounded up a truck carrying bananas and palm leaves to carry this crazy lady lying on the ground in the shade with her feet up to the camp some 40 kms away, as luck would have it also ended up with 9 other suffering riders sharing the truck. Mary was so bad that we had to take her to the local infirmary for a four hour stay as they pumped electrolytes into her and did a complete work up to ensure she was safe to go on. Got Mary to a hotel room (decided sleeping in another soccer field complete with rain was not a good idea) by midnight where she collapsed into bed.
Once again sanity prevailed and we decided enough was enough and we would jump ahead to Panama City and await the groups arrival on Thursday. This sounds simple but in fact was an exercise in patience building. For those of you who think crossing the Canadian/USA border is a pain try getting out of Costa Rica and into Panama a four-hour ordeal. Got on a bus at 4:00PM, tandem and baggage tucked in underneath and 8 hours later we were in Panama City trying to commander a large enough taxi to get us to the hotel. We were successful and will enjoy our few days off.
We were really bummed that failed to meet the challenge of the mountains and the heat but as we keep telling ourselves this is supposed to be challenging and fun, not challenging and torture. It is also interesting to note a high percentage of the riders have been using alternate transport every day, and the hearty racers and hard-core cyclists are complaining about the riding. This is the toughest riding we have ever undertaken I take back everything I said about missing the hills of PA; those Florida hills are looking great.
Mary had a great sleep last night and is feeling 100% better, the remaining few days will be spent getting her fully recovered before we fly off to Santiago, Chile and our climb over the Andes.
We are still having a great time and while more challenging than we would have ever envisioned believe we will be stronger for the experience and have plenty of stories to tell. The new friends we have made are super people.
Will close for now.
Dave & Mary
PS. For those who keep asking yes our a$%īs are sore but getting tougher, thank god for BagBalm and Desitin cream.
PPS. On our way out of San Jose Costa Rica passed a McDonalds with about 7 computers set up in their McDonalds cyber cafe.