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HERE for Touring Bikes and Commuting Bicycles
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all 3 book)
Costa Rica #1 Journal
La Cruz to Rancho
Mastatal, Costa Rica
(February 21 - March 14, 2003)
||La Cruz - Liberia. It was hard to get moving today we were pretty
worn out from yesterday's ride. We started riding at about 8:15 am, a late start. It
seemed to heat up quickly. It was definitely nice riding, rolling hills and wide
open spaces. Since it is the dry season hills were covered with tall dry grasses. We
could see volcanic peaks in the distance. We noticed a lack of
local cyclists in this
area. In 60 kilometers, we went through three police check points. They were
not really interested in what we were carrying, I think they were looking for illegals
Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua we usually saw locals riding along the road and there
was a little store every kilometer or so. Here we saw no one on bicycles and we did
see a store for the last 30 kilometers. The sign said Liberia 1 km but we still did
not see any buildings, the traffic had increase but there were no little restaurants on
the side of the road. Tim and I were both really hot, I felt like we were riding in
Phoenix, Arizona in June. Then I saw a Burger King sign and Tim thought that I was
teasing him. There it was on the corner, a huge food court with Burger King,
Church's Chicken and Papa Johns. We walked into the air conditioned building
exhausted. The first thing I said to Tim was, "I think we have just landed in
California". We order the grande (large) everything and sat down to cool off. We
were both very hot, I do not think I could have pedaled another stroke. Later I
found out that it was 39 C at noon.
We stayed at Hotel Liberia. I had a hard time finding a hotel with a bed big
enough for Tim and space for the bikes. We are storing our bikes in the court yard.
We are paying C4000 a night. Tomorrow is a horse show,
parade, and a bull run
(whatever that is). I love parades so I am happy to be in town for this.
||Liberia. I watched the parade of the bulls at around 12:00 today.
The parade started with a band followed by dancing heads (like the ones in
Antigua, Guatemala), a group of horses, the bulls, and then another group of horses. The horses
present were Quarter Horse, Arabian, Andalusian, Thorobred and Tipica (a locally bred
horse). We met Robert and Jonathan from England. We decided to go to the horse
parade and 6:00 PM and then to the running of the bulls at 9:00 PM. The horse parade
did not start until 7:30 PM. At least 1,000 horses were paraded through the
streets. Whole families were riding their own horse with the youngest strapped in on
his or her own horse and tethered to mom or dad. Horse and rider danced down the
street. It seemed that more people were on horses then on the ground. We
walked down to the fair grounds and could not believe the crowd. There were discos
set up, food booths and bars where you could ride up with your horse and have a drink. We
went to the bull ring and bought tickets for the running of the bulls
for C500. Just when the event
was about to begin the electricity went out and the show was cancelled.
||Liberia. We spent a lot of time trying to post the web page today.
We are still having difficulty posting the web page. Again I watched the
parade of the bulls. Tim and I went to the running of the bulls with a couple from
Canada, Carol and Ron. This time the tickets were C1000 for a good seat in the
shade. It was worth it to get out of the sun, the high temp of the day has been 43C.
Men started to gather within the ring. Everyone was waiting for the first
bull to come out. The bull came out with a rider on top, as the rider is trying to
stay on the bull, men on the ground are teasing it and the bull is chasing anyone who got
to close. People would hang near the walls of the ring and climb up into the
bleachers if a bull came running by. I found it exciting to watch the bull chase
someone and then they would barely get away. Then it happen, we knew this was
coming. The bull actually caught someone and grinded him into the ground with his
forehead. I was relieved to see the guy get up and walk away. After this, the
horsemen lassoed the bull and guided him out of the ring. In the mean time more and
more men are showing up and venders are selling beer to these guys. As time when on
and some men obviously became to impaired to be out there thing got a little hairy.
One guy was obviously too drunk and when the bull ran for him he just stood there.
The bull flung him in the air and when he landed he charge him again. The drunk was
pulled out of the ring by a couple of men around him. Brutal. Things went down
hill from there with this particular bull, he took out at least four more men before he
was removed from the field. By this time my stomach is queasy and we elect to leave
before the end of the running of the bulls. It seemed to me that it was more like
running of the men. The only thing you need to get into the ring is a lot of
||Liberia - Playa Tamarindo. We set out today at 6:00 am. We
wanted to beat the heat the best we could. We covered 40 kilometers in the first 2
hours, we were pretty heavily loaded with at least 10 days worth of food. We arrived
in Playa Tamarindo at 11:00 am. We quickly found a few Americans in town and a place
to camp. The beach is beautiful. Finally a beach day. Camping at the
south end of Playa Tamarindo was C2000 per night for two people. We had access to clean
showers and toilets.
Off to the beach for the first time, the water is the perfect
temperature, not to cold, you could spend hours in the water without getting cold.
We met Todd from California and Erin and Shane from Georgia at camp. Todd started
his trip in California at about the same time we did. He has been on the road in his
Eurovan for the last 11 months. The Eurovan is a great traveling vehicle. It
has a refrigerator, stove and a comfortable place to sleep.
||Playa Tamarindo. Found the surfers today, the waves look great.
You can tell the locals from the foreigners. The foreigners are burnt to a
crisp. We tried to post the web page today and ran into more problems.
||Playa Tamarindo. We need to decide whether to go to Montezuma at the end
of the peninsula with Todd, (he offered us a ride). Or ride from here down the coast
along secluded beaches. The real issue is having enough water to camp. We are
oscillating between which way to go. It is not often we get offered a ride. We
decided to ride our bikes down the coast on dirt roads from Playa Tamarindo to Playa
Samara and then on to Nicoya. We decided to keep riding, once my sister arrives from
Alaska on March 11, we plan to put the bikes away for two weeks. So we decided to
ride while we could. We spent the rest of the day packing. We plan on getting
up at 4:00 am and on the road by 6:00 am.
||Playa Tamarindo - Playa Largosta. The road toward Playa Tamarindo
was washboard in places but still relatively flat. We are in a dry tropical forest
and since it is the dry season nearly everything is brown. As we were riding along
Tim saw a bird about 250 meters in front of us. He asked me if I thought it was a
chicken. We were in the middle of nowhere and the bird was pretty large but still I
assumed it was a rooster. As we got closer to the bird we both realized it was not a
rooster but some kind of eagle. He hopped to the side of the road and up on a fence
post. He was beautiful. He had a white head and a short beak. His wings
were white and his underbelly was a light gray. He had yellowish eyes. He was
so close to us we could practically touch him. Of course when Tim pulled out the
camera he flew off.
We missed the turn towards Playa Tamarindo and ended up riding into
Pariso. Just as we got to the soccer field, Tim's front tire blew. The Lempira
note that we used to boot the hole in Tim's front tire had ripped through. We spent
about 20 minutes fixing it and cooling off in the shade. It was starting to get hot.
We asked a local if we could get water in the next town of Venado. He said
yes, so we choose not to carry any extra water. The local man directed us to a short
cut to the road to Playa Tamarindo. We search for the turn and never did find it, so
we backtracked 3 km and found the original turn we missed. The riding was pleasant
and the road was covered in shade. We came to the small town of Venado and stopped
at a house near the soccer field. We went up to the front porch to knock on the
door. We found a very large pig and a very small puppy sleeping together on the
front porch. Of course Tim pulled out his camera and again the two sleepy animals
ran off. Another missed photo. We then went to a store and were told that
their was no water at all in town. The women gave us 5 liters but did not have any
to spare. She suggested that we ride 2 more kilometers to find more water.
Down the road we came across another house and another women gave us 5 more liters of
water. We then started down towards the beach. By this time it 1:00 in the afternoon
and very hot. We finally made it to the beach and asked a local man where we could
camp on the beach. This is when we met Luis Alberto. He invited us up to his
house to camp. His house was just above the water and had a beautiful view of the
ocean. He bought us a couple of beers which really relaxed me and before I knew it I
was in the hammock sleeping. We spoke with Luis and his employee for hours, in
Spanish. The house belonged to Finca Monte Mar, and was a type of guest house on the
beach. They were out of water as well. The pump for the water system in the
area had gone down 3 days earlier. Luckily, they had a well on site so we had water
to take a shower.
We slept inside the house on the floor, the room with three beds was reserved for three
fisherman. We got up at 5:30 am and were out the door by 7:15 am.
||Playa Largosta - Playa Nosara. The road started up hill
immediately, my legs did not even have a chance to warm up. Up and down the drainage
we road. This was a lot tougher riding the yesterday. The road was filled with
river rock and was very loose in places. At one point we road down a very step hill
crossed a stream and road up the other side. The road was so steep that I could not
ride up it. Tim pedaled on to the top and came back for me. I was exhausted
so we took a break at the top. The day was getting hot again so we had to
keep moving. Again we went down a steep hill crossed over a creek and when I turned
the corner to see the hill we had to go up I wanted to sit down and cry. At this
point I wished we had taken the ride from Todd. I barely could get up the hill and
again Tim pedaled on. This time the hill was to steep and long even for Tim.
He had to stop about 3/4 of the way up too. This is when he came back for me.
I did not know where he got all this energy, I was falling apart. He helped me push
my bike up to the top of the hill and then went back and rode his bike to the top of the
hill. We had to push on because it was getting hotter.
We followed the signs to
Playa Nosara. We stopped at Panchos Restaurant and Market, a new place, and had a
hamburger and fries. We met a couple of Americans who were living down there.
They said they loved the place, then they added that we should not leave our belongings
unattended. We camped at a beautiful beach but I felt so tied to our stuff that we
did not get up and walk around much. We decided to push on to Playa Samara where we
could stay in a campground.
||Playa Nosara - Playa Samara. We got up at 4:30 am and were on the
road by 6:00 am. The road was flat and maintained better. In places it was
actually paved. It was a pleasant flat ride that meandered between small towns and
finca. A big change from yesterday's ride. We made it to Playa Samara in 2.5
hours. We arrived in town and had breakfast on the beach. The beach was already
crowded with Ticos (Costa Ricans). We found a campground called Cocos and paid C2000
for the night. The campground was full of Ticos, they had their tents, cook stoves
and coolers out. This is the first time we have seen locals camping. We met
some local college students who spoke fluent English. They warned us to watch our
belongs. Natalie had a bathing suit stolen off the line by their tent.
in for women and long shorts are in for men. Everyone had the latest fashion.
We went to the internet and met Daryl and Rosario. They also have a mountain
bike rental (Bike Costa Rica). They gave us a T-shirt when they found out we rode
from Arizona. .
||Playa Samara. We spent the day doing laundry and staying out of the
sun. Tim tried to connect at the internet and no luck. Daryl had a full bike shop
and he let Tim clean our dust covered bikes, true our wheels and lube the chains..
While he was there a group of people came in for some bike work, they were doing an
adventure race that started at 3:00 am. One girl forgot her cleats, so Daryl gave
||Playa Samara. Rented a boogie board today. Had a lot of fun
in the surf. Tim was getting the hang of it before we finished. We rented the boogie
board for C500 an hour. We spent the remainder of the evening packing. (the only
thing that gets old when traveling).
||Playa Samara - Nicoya. We were up early and on the road at 6:15 am.
We had a short ride to Nicoya. We climbed and descended numerous steep hills.
In the morning the wildlife is out in full force. We saw monkeys in the trees and
flocks of parrots flying along. We stopped for our early lunch and a puppy from
across the street joined us. He was so cute, I could have taken him home.
10 kilometers to go to Nicoya. We were traveling along at a good pace when all of a
sudden Tim yelled, "Oh Shit!". He then said, "did you see what I just
run over", I looked back, my stomach got queasy when I saw a three foot iguana laying
there. An iguana had jumped out in front of Tim, so fast he did not even have time
to stop or swerve, I was drafting off of him so I did not see him either. We both
ran over him. He was such a big guy, yet I barely felt him under my wheel. We
kept our eyes open the rest of day.
||Nicoya - Playa Naranjo - Puntarenas. We were up early today because
we knew we had a long ride to the ferry terminal and we knew we would be traveling on dirt
roads. We were on the road at 5:30 am, our earliest yet. Again, the animals
were out, monkeys in the trees and birds singing everywhere.
The road was hilly but not
steep, we covered 20 kilometers in the first hour. We meandered through farm land and
tropical jungle. This time of year it looks more like fall, the huge leaves on some
of the trees have turned brown and fallen to the ground. Except for about 15
kilometers of dirt, the ride was pleasant all the way. We arrived at the ferry
terminal at 9:30am and had to wait until the 12:50 ferry. Since we were on bikes we
were charged C1300 each rather than C650 for adults, We rode our bikes to the front
of the ferry. This boat was very similar to the ferries we road around the San Juan
Islands (northwestern US) during our honeymoon. The ferry ride was smooth and we even had an air conditioned
room to sit in. This is our sixth boat ride on our trip so far.
We arrived in Puntarenas at about 2:30 PM. Puntarenas is a rough and tumble port
town. We looked at least 7 places to stay before we chose a room. The cheap hotels were sleazy and
pretty dirty, while the more expensive ones were clean and always up stairs. We
settled on Pension Montemar for C4000 for the night. We stored our bicycles in a
15 km dirt
||Puntarenas. We are in search of FrontPage XP today. We think
that an upgrade in software may alleviate our problem with posting the web page.
Funny, Costa Rica has not embraced the internet like other Latin American countries. The
only place we have found internet is in the tourist areas. In
Puntarenas, a regular
town, we had to search high and low to find an internet cafe. We looked for
FrontPage XP and only found the Spanish version. We are off to Jaco tomorrow
||Puntarenas - Jaco. We left our hotel at 5:45 this morning the first
15 km were flat. I am glad that it is early because the road off the peninsula is
narrow. We met up with a local biker as we left the peninsula and he rode with us
for a while. He warned us of a long uphill climb into Jaco. The roads are in
terrible shape, pot holes, large drop offs, and narrow roads.
In my opinion, Costa Rica
has the most vehicles and the worst roads in Central America. The
drivers do not have the
patience that we have seen in other parts of Latin America. More than one driver has
dusted us with dirt as they peeled out in front of us rather than wait for us to go by.
We even had a tractor trailer pull out in front of us and try to turn, only to get
hung up on our side of the road. He could of easily picked another route, through a
big parking lot, that did not impede our travel and stop traffic in both directions.
Once we got on the main road to Jaco the road improved greatly. The pavement was
new and there was enough room for us to ride. After climbing for the morning we
descended into a valley and crossed a river, full of crocodiles, large crocodiles.
Yikes. I am not camping just anywhere anymore. As we were leaving the
area, I saw two scarlet macaws fly by, they were huge. I was waiting for them to
land but they never did. The vegetation changed when we crossed the river, the seems
more humid and the hills are greener than on the Nicoya Peninsula. Another 5 minutes
down the road we saw another pair of scarlet macaws, Tim tried to take a picture, but they
only look like a dot, not the brilliant red they are.
The climb just before Jaco was awful. It was 9:00 am but we were very very hot.
I had to stop about half way up because I was over heating, our water was getting
low and the top of the hill was no where in sight. After a good rest we made it to
the top and into the town of Jaco. Jaco is a typical beach town with a lot of
English speaking people. We could even find the New York Times. At first
glance it seems that Jaco is a mix of surfers, retirees, and spring breakers.
We are staying in Camping Hicaco, the place is a bit of a dump, I hate to be negative
but the bathrooms are scary. We are paying C1300 per person. The only
redeeming value of this place is that there is a place to lock up our belongs.
||Jaco. Checked out town and the beach today. This is
definitely a surfer town and since it is the weekend people are pouring into town.
We hung out in camp today. We really do not like to get into the sun when we do not
need to. We have been biking for almost 11 months now and I have what I would call a
biker tan. When I wear a bathing suit I get the funniest looks, Yes my thighs
are white. Went for a sunset swim. We met a Dutch cyclist today, he
is riding down the
coast towards Panama.
||Manual Antonio. We caught the 6:30 bus for Quepos, we stopped at
every little bus stop along the way. It cost C500 per person the 1.5 hour ride.
We arrived in Quepos at 8:00 am and caught the 8:30 bus to Manual Antonio it cost
C90 per person. We paid US $7.00 to get in the National Park. We did a small
loop around a peninsula and really did not see much wild life, it was 9:00 am and it was
already hot. We hiked over to the 4th beach, and sat and had lunch. We sat
amongst the hermit crabs, they were everywhere. As we walked towards the other side
of the beach we saw at least three large iguanas, all doing the male territorial dance
(they pump their heads up and down real fast, similar to the way a lizard does). We
met up with some American tourists who had their own guide, he was showing them a group of
bats that were hanging from a near by tree, I would have walked right past them. I
asked them if they had seen a sloth, they said no, I said I was hoping we would get lucky
and see one. We walked another 10 feet and the guide said look here and there was a
sloth hanging from a tree. He was barely moving. The guide identified him as
male from the black streak on his back. He also said that the sloth can hang from
the same branch for 5-7 hours.
We then walked on to the mirador (look out). On the
way there we met up with some other tourists who had spotted another sloth, she was
obviously female because she did not have a black streak down her back. She moved
around a lot more. It is hard to describe a sloth, in this case a photo is
worth 1,000 words.
Near the fourth beach we also saw white faced monkeys who obviously are use to human.
At the end of the day we took a swim in the water. The water was much warmer
then other areas we have swam in. Overall I think this is a good park to visit, we
saw wildlife, swam at the beach and did some hiking. If you have the money I think a
guide would be helpful at pointing out wildlife or you could just walk right by it.
Went back to Jaco and went for a sunset swim. We met a French-Canadian cyclist
today, he road 140 km today in the heat, impressive.
||Jaco. We tried to do laundry but our cloths did not come out as
clean as I would have liked. We were going to rent a boogie board today but they
wanted C2000 for just an hour. A bit expensive. We started packing in the evening.
Our plans for the next two weeks are to meet my sister Cherie and
nephew James from Alaska, and tour parts of Costa Rica we would not
normally go to on our bikes. After my sister leaves we intend to
start riding again towards Panama, we still have not picked the route we
||Jaco - Rancho Mastatal. We left Jaco at 5:30 am. Immediately
we discovered that we did not have enough water, we stopped at a resort and filled up our
bottles. Luckily, the tap water is potable in Costa Rica. It makes times like
this a lot easier. It was 35 kilometers to the turnoff to the ranch. I
originally thought that it was only 23 kilometer. We turned onto a dirt road, took a
wrong turn, rode around for an hour, Tim had to come and help me up a
steep hill, found out we
were on the wrong road, started down the right road, and then we rode for 10 minutes
and Tim got a flat. The day was starting to look challenging. As we (more like
Tim) were fixing the flat a truck drove by and we flagged him down. I thought that
we only had 30 kilometers to go to the ranch and it turned out to be closer to 50.
The two guys who picked us up were not from this area so we asked where the ranch was at
every little store. It was interesting to see that they got the same crazy
directions that we get. Bad directions are a common occurrence here
in Latin America. The
scenery to Rancho Mastatal was beautiful, it would have not been as beautiful if we had to
ride. The hills were constant and the road rocky. We picked
up a young boy on his bike and dropped him off at his house further down
the road. The two Costa Ricans who
drove us to the ranch were extremely friendly and even gave us a couple of
when they left. We gave them a tip for gas money and they were off down the road.
Today I think that our flat tire actually helped us along more than it hurt.
We arrived at Rancho Mastatal at around 11:00 am and lunch was at 12:30.
Before we arrived at the ranch Tim (one of the owners) told us that the
ranch was full because they were running a building work shop. We
really did not know what that was but we thought we could work around
it. The building workshop was with a group from an alternative
building school in Vermont. The students were from all over the
United States. A greet bunch of people working as architects or
soon to be architects. There were also volunteers at the ranch who
assisted in building other parts of the ranch and also helped with
feeding the massive crew of approximately 31 people. The place was
like a busy bee hive with the sounds of construction everywhere.
We can not say we were not warned, we were.
Cherie and James are suppose to arrive at 1:00 am. So I am setting my alarm to
get up and meet them.
50 km ride.
||Rancho Mastatal. Cherie and James were suppose to
arrive at 1:00 am. I woke up at 12:30 am and heard
a car drive up the road and I knew it was them. I was still half
asleep when I started up the trail towards the front gate and the truck, I rubbed my
and out popped my contact. Now I was running down the path half
blind and half asleep. Stumbling all the way, hoping their were
not any snakes in my path. They arrived in a huge commotion and I had
to quiet everyone down before we went back to the camp site because
other people were camping with us. It took us some time to calm
down from all the excitement, we had not seen each other in a year.
We all got up
late and had breakfast at the ranch. We had fresh made yogurt, papaya,
watermelon and fresh home made bread. James met a local girl who's name
is Anya. Anya and her family live next door to Rancho Mastatal and all
are employed at the Rancho one way or the other.
We went down to the swimming hole and saw a group of three Grisons,
an animal that is shaped like a weasel and has the markings of a skunk,
it is also a rare creature to see. Cherie and James saw a peccary,
while swimming and a cane toad and a common anole at the ranch. In the evening Cherie and I went birding and we saw a
White-fronted Parrot and Chestnut-mandibled Toucan. My first toucan. We scheduled a guided hike
for the next day.
||Rancho Mastatal. We got up early and went
on a guided hike around the Rancho Mastatal property our local guides
name was Chepo. The first
thing the guide showed us was a Black and Green Dart Frog. We also saw
a beautiful Morpho
butterfly. On the way back to the big house we stopped at the
swimming hole for a much needed swim. James was not feeling well.
He arrived with a slight case of eczema. It seemed that it was
getting worse, the heat was not helping. By late afternoon James
was suffering from heat stress, the humidity and heat were very high.
By early evening he was feeling a bit better. We set up a
horseback ride for the next morning.
||Rancho Mastatal. We started our horseback ride for 8:00
am. This was James first ride. The horses were working
horses, not the usual plugs that you get at the run of the mill stables
at home. Tim (ranch owner) gave James a great demonstration on how
to ride a horse. As soon as he related steering a horse to
operating a joy stick James understood the concept immediately. My
horse wanted to run and so did I, I had all I could do to keep my horse
at a walk and trot. James was controlling his horse within 20
We really enjoyed our stay at the Ranch but decided to leave early
because everyone was busy working and building and we really did not
feel like we fit in because our main objective was to go on wildlife
walks, horseback riding and in general lounging. James was not
feeling well either, we thought that it might be good to get him to a
doctor. I am sure the
ranch will be a great place to visit next year when the bulk of their
construction will be finished. Tim and Robin are very much into
alternative building so I think that they will always be building
Cindie crossing the border into Costa Rica.
Our camp at Playa Tamarindo.
Young cowboy in the parade.
The bull singles out one person.
Female three-toed sloth, Manual Antonio.
White faced monkey, Manual Antonio.
Green and Black Poison Dart Frog held by our guide, Chepo.
Cindie, Cherie, James and Chepo at the swimming hole.
Sunrise at Playa Nosara.
Sunset at Playa Nosara.
North and Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03
(July 18 - Aug 22, 2002)
The State of
Guanajuato to Toluca, Mexico
Other essays by Tim
Into the Mist State
of Michoacan, Mexico
Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Michoacan,
Full size Picture
- Guanajuato to
Penjamillo to Patzcuaro, Mexico
Patzcuaro to Cuidad Hidalgo, Michoacan,
Into the Mist Mexican highway 15
Cuidad Hidalgo, Michoacan, to Toluca, Mexico
The Velodrome in Toluca, Mexico
(Oct. 12 - Nov. 8, 2002)
The States of Tabasco and Chiapas,
Villahermosa, Tabasco to Cuauhtemoc Chiapas, Mexico
Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Tabasco and
Chiapas, Mexico Pictures
Full size Picture
- Museum La Venta and the
Olmec Heads Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico
Villahermosa, Tabasco to Ocosingo,
Palenque #1 Photo Picture Page
Palenque #2 Photo Picture Page
Misol-Ha Waterfall Chiapas, Mexico
Agua Azul Chiapas, Mexico
Tonina Mayan Ruins Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico
Mexico's Day of the Dead Ocosingo, Chiapas,
Ocosingo to Cuauhtemoc Chiapas, Mexico
(March 15 - April 10, 2003)
Costa Rica #2
Manual Antonio to Monteverde
Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Tim's Emailed Newsletters
Costa Rica #2 (incomplete)
Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Costa Rica #2 Pictures
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Parque National Manuel Antonio, #2
City of Santa Elena
Santa Elena, Monteverde
Frog Pond (Ranario), Santa
Santa Elena, Cloud
Forest, National Park
Sky Walk, Suspension
Bridge, Canopy Tour
Sky Trek Zip Line,
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Preventing Flat Tires
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Have Learned On The Road
Injustice of Poverty
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