A broken Rohloff hub. An angry, biting dog. Daily drenchings as the rainy season switched up a gear. Roads blocked by landslides. A doubling of our daily costs with a return to US prices. To borrow a phrase from our good friend Lee, Costa Rica was, at times, something of a shit show.

It may just have been our run of bad luck, but Costa Rica didn’t quite charm us in the way its northerly Central American neighbours had. With its saturation of “eco-resorts”, zip lines (I’m pretty sure you could zip line across the whole country if someone just joined them up) and “exclusive” gated retirement communities, at times it all just felt a little too clinical and characterless for our tastes.

Yet as always, once we got off the beaten track, we found the tropical paradise of the tour brochures, but refreshingly free from the drawl of American retirees.  We were slowly seduced by secluded, postcard-perfect Caribbean beaches and sunsets; remote backroads snaking through lush rainforest where monkeys, sloths and toucans lurked above our heads; and the warmth of Tico hospitality.

James

After our planned route down the Nicoya Peninsula was cut short by Sarah's wobbling Rohloff hub, we were forced to plot a more direct route towards the Caribbean. From Liberia we headed north-east up into Rincón de la Vieja National Park, through tunnels of blinding white rock.

Daily soakings became the norm in Costa Rica as we climbed into the cloud forests, leaving us running for the nearest shelter - in this case an enormous tree strangled by incredible vines.

After an impromptu overnight stay with Vicente in Guayabo, we cut across towards Laguna Arenal via a network of tracks and the villages of San Bernardo and Santa Fé - through lush fincas...

...over fast flowing rivers popular with white water rafters...

...and up through a series of wind farms towards Tierras Morenas. It was at one of these that I met my canine friend, who decided to take a chunk out of my thigh before I could say "rabies" - and certainly before I could judge whether he was foaming at the mouth or not.

A dash to nearby Tilarán through a beautiful sunset, some hurried medical advice (thanks Steve!), and soon we were on a bus to the capital San José for the jab. Rabies was pretty unlikely, but for the sake of a few dollars, I didn't fancy taking the risk.

With another rabies jab due in a week's time and neither of us charmed by the concrete and fumes of San José, we decided to push on towards the Caribbean. We climbed up and out of the capital past thousands of pilgrims on their way to visit La Negrita (Costa Rica's patron saint) at the cathedral in Cartago, and into the beautiful Orosi Valley. Even by wet season standards, the rain was severe, with flooding rivers and landslides across the country.

Not fancying being swept away ourselves in the tent, it didn't take much to tempt us into the Montana Linda hostel in Orosi. We dried out and warmed up in cosy bunks while the rain hammered outside.

The next morning revealed the damage: roadblocks and landslides on the route to Siquirres, forcing us onto a muddy but beautiful detour up through coffee plantations and tiny villages.

Costa Rican hospitality strikes again: Jami and her family spotted us scouting for somewhere to camp amongst the banana plantations on the road to Puerto Limón, and invited us to spend the night with them.

Finally we hit the Caribbean coast, and headed for Cahuita - a small, laid back hippy town with a string of beautiful beaches. Arriving on a severe sugar low after 100km in sweat-drenching humidity, we headed straight for refuelling at the local supermarket. There we met Daryl - and we must have presented a pitiful sight - because before long...

...we were collapsed on the terrace of his cool timber house just a few km up the road, toasting Bradley Wiggins' victory in Tour mugs, and with an invitation to stay and relax for a few days.

From New York City, Daryl is a former bike messenger turned tour guide who spends four months working flat out in the city, followed by two months decompressing in his Costa Rican jungle hideaway. To us, it looked like he had the perfect balance...

...and so we did our best to fit in. Apart from a day on the bus back to San José for my second jab, we relaxed on his shaded veranda, listened to the monkeys...

...tucked into the plentiful bananas...

...and enjoyed the beautiful beaches. Thank you Daryl - you were the perfect host.

Eventually we dragged ourselves away, but only made it as far as the end-of-the-road village of Manzanillo before we were seduced into stopping again by the incredible sunsets...

...and pristine, bath-water warm Caribbean.

A final dash through the banana plantations (where ironically it proved impossible to buy a single banana) led us to the border town of Sixaola. From here it was just a short hop over the river into Panamá, and the final leg of our Central American journey.

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