San Rafael de Guatuso -> La Fortuna de Arenal -> Vera Cruz
The only real excitement on the way from San Rafael to Fortuna was a near death experience when my steering locked up on a trajectory into the path of an oncoming truck. Luckily I had replaced my brake pads the previous week and my biggest problem turned out to be how to get the gravel out of my headset.
If you have ever been to Estes Park Colorado, Jackson hole Wyoming or Zermatt Switzerland, you know what Fortuna is like. It is a tourist town in every sense of the phrase. There are more restaurants, bars, hotels and Cabinas, and tour companies per capita than anywhere else in Costa Rica (in fact it is a great place to use as a base of operations instead of San Jose).
It’s a friendly place to hang out and because of the competition, relatively inexpensive for backpackers.
We had a “been there done that,” attitude about the horseback riding, white water rafting, volcano watching, waterfall swimming, wildlife hikes and float trips, wind surfing, fishing, and mountain biking tours that are available there but we figured with such a high concentration of outdoorsy, athletic tourists around someone would have figured out that they could make a colon giving massages.
We found Julia and not only an hour-long full body massage, but a volcanic mud bath and herbal steam bath. We split a bottle of wine, had a nice dinner and went to bed without aches, pains and cramps for the first time all summer. It was a fine way to celebrate our anniversary.
The next day I bought bearings and rebuilt my headset. (The best place to get bike parts is the local ferreteria (hardware store), many people in Costa Rica ride bikes and even in the smallest villages we had no trouble getting parts… they weren’t always exactly genuine name brand replacement parts but we found a way to make them work.
I would say it’s a waste of time to haul a bunch of spares down… you’ll probably pack the wrong thing anyway and parts are much cheaper in Costa Rica. I would however recommend that you know how to take your bike apart and put it back together before you leave because you won’t find anyone there who knows how! See the big screwdriver)
From Fortuna we rode the last leg of our summer 1999 trip to Vera Cruz then packed the bikes back in their boxes and jumped on a bus headed for the beach to take a vacation from our vacation for a few days.