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ABOUT THIS BLOG

In the summer of 2009, Nicolas Rapp decided to take a break from his Art Director job at The Associated Press to attempt a one-year overland travel around the world in a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser. He was back in New York in February 2011 after traveling 15 months and 37,000 miles.

Visited countries

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THE ROUTE

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  • Reaching the Pan-American Highway

    Posted on January 15th, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    In the mountains of Costa Rica
    In the mountains of Costa Rica

    The contrast was surprising between the in-land rainy weather and the light we found as soon as we passed the last mountain. We were back on the sunny side, and happy to be. We drove south-west to the coast, and followed it south.

    Back on the sunny side

    Back on the sunny side

    An astonishing aspect of Costa Rica is that even if the country is the most advanced of Central America – with Panama – there are less road signs than any other country, making navigation difficult. I have a GPS in the car, but maps are very difficult to find, so I’m back to paper maps since Guatemala.

    A stop for lunch and checking out crocodiles

    A stop for lunch and checking out crocodiles

    Anyhow, late in the day we were in Quepos, trying to locate a place to sleep. We heard that the beach just in front of the National Park Manuel Antonio was a good place to camp. It was perfect for us, because it was now close to 5:30 p.m., the time when light begin to dim, which we also consider the time we need to have found a spot.

    Another obstacle for the Trans World Expedition

    Another obstacle for the Trans World Expedition

    But of course, things are not so simple at the Trans World. As we were driving down to the beach, cars in front of us came to a quick stop. A tree, victim of strong winds, just came down on the road and made it impassable.
    I was grateful it didn’t collapse on us, I have to say. As it felt, the tree also crushed the electricity lines, and we had no choice now but wait for the electricity company to come cut and clean the obstacle.
    We sat down to drink beers and smoke cigarettes until it was done, two hours later.

    The Costa Rica electrical company in action

    The Costa Rica electrical company in action

    We were back on the road in pitch black, and made it to the beach.
    Costa Rica is great for campers, as apparently, you can just settle down anywhere you want. And in no hotel room you would be closer to the beach in the morning. Preparing Nicaraguan coffee at six a.m., on the sand as the sun rise has no price either.

    Camping on the beach

    Camping on the beach

    Around noon, we let the car to go visit Manuel Antonio, and spent few hours there checking out multiple animal species and walking in the jungle. It was nice, but packed with tourist. Also, the animals come really close to you, which make me think they lost the fear of the human.

    As soon as you enter the park, you can witness wildlife

    As soon as you enter the park, you can witness wildlife

    I would think there are better parks to visit in Costa Rica, so if someone read these lines, please make suggestions for other travelers.

    Monkey

    Monkey

    There are good beach in Manuel Antonio though, I have to add, and most tourist stop there, so you would not meet many people once in the jungle.

    One of the park beaches

    One of the park beaches

    In the afternoon, we left and continued south. What used to be a dust road few year back when I went through the country became a brand new road, which was at the same time nice and a bit deceiving.

    The road to Playa Tortuga still have some old bridges

    The road to Playa Tortuga still have some old bridges

    Close to Playa Tortuga, we went back up inland to meet Fred, an American fellow from Washington State who now owns a hotel – Club Fred – on the coast. If you are around one day, you should check it out. The ambience was family oriented, and Fred invited us to join them for a tuna diner, along with ten other people, mostly Wisconsin residents taking refuge from the harsh winter.

    The view from Club Fred

    The view from Club Fred

    He also insisted we take a room to get a good night of sleep (thanks Fred!), which was great after all the drinks we had.
    The day after, we left early in the morning after filling up our reserves of drinking water to try to reach the border with Panama. Costa Rica is one of the only place you can drink the tap water.

    Back on the Pan-American highway

    Back on the Pan-American highway

    Few miles after leaving, we reached the Pan-American Highway we would follow until Panama City.

  • In the sun and clouds of Costa Rica

    Posted on January 11th, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    Playa Conchal

    Playa Conchal

    The side gear

    The side gear

    Our stay at Steve and Jocelyn, originally planned to last for two days finally grew to six. Steve was able to locate an additional problem in the transmission, and we had to take it down and replace a part that broke in the accident. He spent a lot of time driving me back and forth to Liberia for frequent visits to the Toyota dealership, and I hope one day I will be able to help him as much as he helped me.
    An iguana takes the sun along the swimming pool

    An iguana takes the sun along the swimming pool

    Meanwhile, Jocelyn was cooking us delicious food that gave us a break from Central America meals.
    Conchal beach

    Conchal beach

    On Sunday we stopped at Playa Conchal before saying goodbye. After a few hours brake, we took the road to the highlands, in direction of the Arenal volcano. Quickly, as we were going up, we realized the weather on the other side of the mountain was really bad.
    The Arenal Lagoon

    The Arenal Lagoon

    What a contrast with the hot and windy weather we had previously. As we entered the rain forest it was – guess what – raining really hard. The visibility was low as well. To admire the Laguna Arenal, it was not a problem as the fog was adding to the dramatic splendor of the lake and the jungle. But we had to forget about seeing the active volcano.
    Through the jungle

    Through the jungle

    We could not even see the base of it, in fact. Sad story, but I shall survive, since I already saw the monster in action a few years back.
    At the end of the day, we passed the town of La Fortuna, and as the night was falling, we reached our destination.
    One of the three tree houses

    One of the three tree houses

    Inside the house

    Inside the house

    Lucy and Mark invited us few days back to spend a night on the ground of their unusual hotel. Mark, another refugee from journalism, used to be a sports writer in a newspaper in Hawaii. He is now on a sabbatical leave with his wife, and together, they manage the tree house hotel. Guests rent a cabana built on trees and can enjoy fully the rain forest.

    The rain forest

    The rain forest

    We had diner with the couple, and decided to go explore the vast forest behind the hotel the following day. I stayed few more hours with Mark drinking a bottle of red wine, and watching the rainfall. It continued all night and we got somewhat wet, which is not really a big deal, since last time we saw heavy rain was back in the U.S.
    Hummingbirds

    Hummingbirds

    We woke up at 5:30 a.m. to go for a two-hours walk in the forest. There we got drenched. The rain hadn’t stop all night, and it looked like it will not stop for the next 200 years.
    Lemon tree

    Lemon tree

    We found a lot of orange, banana and lemon trees in the jungle, as well as a lot of other fruits I could not identify. There was a cascade down the road, as well as a river, which brown water was flowing intensely.
    Our camp site

    Our camp site

    Back on our campsite, I folded back the tent and we had breakfast with our hosts.
    We are now back on the road driving south, toward the Pacific Ocean. Two more days in Costa Rica, and we will – hopefully – be in Panama.
    View from a tree house

    View from a tree house