Sunday, December 5, 2010

Exploring South

Jim came to visit last week!  He has a finca (farm or acreage) in Ojochal that he needed to check on, and invited us along for the ride - what an interesting whirlwind that was!

We met him at the airport, went and got his rental car together, and headed out of town - Friday afternoon traffic struck, as did the rain, but we still got to Ojochal in 4 hours.  Ojochal is on the Pacific coast, a little over an hour South of Quepos.  It's up the hill, about 700 feet, and the sea breeze keeps everything very comfortable (of course, the air conditioned car didn't hurt :-D ).

After all the recent heavy rains, we were lucky that the roads were all open.  Several places had restrictions while the road was being worked on, and we could see the remnants of quite a few mudslides.  We got to Ojochal a little after dark, had dinner, and went on to our hotel.  Diquis del Sur is run by a charming Québécois couple, Renée and Pierre.

The next morning, we relaxed over breakfast and enjoyed the view while Jim met with his property manager.  After a while, we packed up and headed out to the finca.  We drove up a dirt road, pulled to the side, and got out.  Alongside the road was a river, about 25 feet wide and 2 feet deep - and yes, the finca was on the other side!  Fortunately, I had on shorts and water shoes, and the water was simply refreshing :-).  Unfortunately, the water washed off all my bug repellent!  I ended up with about a dozen bites - the fire finally banked after about 5 days.  Aside from that, tramping around the finca was fun - we saw some of the new fruit trees and pineapple plants that had been planted - even brought home a big bunch of bananas (ripening as we speak on my back terraza).

We originally were going to spend the rest of the day at the beach, and another night in Ojochal, but decided to explore a bit farther - we had never been in the area, so *everything* was new!  So, the plan was to go on to San Vito, near the Panama border, stay the night, then drive back to San José through the mountains and San Isidro de El General.  Well, we were all set to drive off, when someone mentioned that the buses to San Vito were coming along the coast road - that could only mean one thing - the inland road between San Isidro and San Vito was closed or very restricted.  Hmmm.  Time for plan B (or is that C now?). 

We decided to spend a little time in San Isidro.  A couple of hours and several road restrictions later, we were hunting for a hotel.  We drove past a few, looked in at one, and ended up at the Hotel Diamante Real (2770-6230 / 2770-6232), a decent, somewhat generic hotel, pretty close to the center of town.  We walked around, had dinner, and found out that San Isidro has a lively music scene!  Our restaurant ("gato" something, near the hotel) turned into a jazz club after 8:00 :-).

The next morning, we walked around a bit more, then took off for San José.  I had heard about this road - horror stories!  It passes over Cerro de los Muertos at about 11,000 feet, and very near Cerro Chirripó, the highest point in Costa Rica at 12,228 feet.  I know now what it looks like above the timber line in Costa Rica - glimpses of shrubs between banks of fog... :-D  BTW, the horror stories are all about the fog, slick roads, and steep drop-offs - don't take the name (los muertos = the dead) to mean that ghosts stalk the unwary traveler :-).

A bit over 3 hours later, we were relaxing at home in San José, eating a late Sunday lunch.  We have a number of places to return to, and a lot of things to do when we do return!

Driving directions from San José (the airport) to Ojochal, Playa Tortuga, South Pacific, Costa Rica:
  1. Head North from the San Jose airport (towards Alajuela-Puntarenas)
  2. Continue driving for 11 kilometers
  3. You should see a sign pointing right (La Garita, Atenas)
  4. Exit the highway to the right and make a left turn (direction Atenas-Quepos)
  5. Continue driving on the main road for 2.5 kilometers
  6. Turn left towards Turrucanes
  7. Continue driving for 3.5 kilometers, passing under the highway, and turn left in downtown Turrucanes.  Maneuver the two rotundas to get onto the highway (autopista) Caldera in the Caldera direction.
  8. Continue driving on the highway until you see the exit for Jaco
  9. Continue driving on the main road, signs are pointing to Quepos 103 kilometers and Jaco 37 kilometers
  10. Continue driving straight; go past Jaco, towards Quepos
  11. Continue driving through Parrita
  12. Before Quepos you should see a sign pointing left (Playa Dominical 43 kilometers)
  13. Continue driving on the main road
  14. Drive straight from the police checkpoint, drive past Dominical on the right
  15. Continue driving on the main road for 34 kilometers
  16. You will see the entrance to Ojochal on your left. The road is not paved.


roni said...

whoever told you the road was closed did not have the latest info - I went down from San Isidro to San Vito on Thursday - everything was back to biz as usual. Next time come to San Vito, and I will take you to MY farm!!!

Julie said...

Thanks Roni!
This was *last* Sunday - road was pretty messed up, and the rain was still hitting hard...

Julie said...

Some info (2nd hand, from Carol) for anyone interested in climbing Chirripó:
URAN hotel and restaurant (27425003, 27425004 - English spoken), at the foot of the mountain rents fleece blankets and sleeping bags.This is a nice local place to stay the night before. Good food, nice folks and just about anything you could want / need to rent( food, propane stoves, etc.)