Palmar Norte -> Neily -> San Vito -> San José
After the tropical roaster of the open boat in the Mangroves we were worried about getting sun stroke when we started riding again. It turned out that we didn’t need to worry about the sun because it started raining as we pulled into Palmar.
We had a perfect day for riding. A little rain, but mostly just clouds.
We rode the 80 km to Ciudad Neily in a couple of hours on the flat newly repaved road and then stopped for lunch. We filled up on sopa negra (soup made with chicken broth, vegetables, poached eggs, and the juice leftover from cooking the black beans ubiquitous in Tico cuisine) which was doubtlessly our favorite on cool days.
It’s always hard to ride on a full stomach, the sun was coming out, and our day’s destination, San Vito, was still 20 km away atop a 1,200 meter (4,000 foot) mountain. We decided to end the day as we had started it, in a bus.
San Vito is a wonderful little town with European mountain village flair. There are excellent Italian restaurants, bakeries seem to occupy every fourth shop space and deforested peaks all around have been turned into pastures that look like they fell off a postcard from Switzerland.
West of town about 8 km there is one small patch of virgin forest remaining which is home to the Jardin Botanico Las Cruces (the crosses botanical garden). After the death of Robert and Catherine Wilson, the gardens and the small patch of forest they abut were donated to the National Parks system and now represent one of the most important repositories of rainforest plants in the world – the Wilson Botanical Gardens.
The garden and the forest are also both incredibly beautiful and we walked for hours learning the names, natural history and habits of hundreds of the plants we had seen in the wild. Las Cruces is also a haven for birds and we saw several toucans, acaris, motmots, a rare tinamou and others that we couldn’t identify.
We didn’t want to ride the Cerro de la Muerte (peak of death) highway back to San Jose, so we loaded our bikes onto another bus.