Costa Rica Dispatches: Driving Back Up North

It is 4:30 am and we are up before the howler monkeys, slight dawn in the sky. Packing the truck. A quick bowl of cereal sitting on the porch listening to nature waking up. Amazing ! And sure enough the howlers come on right on at 5:20 am. I am ready to ride the bull back to pavement and wonder how many more years it will take for the paved roads to arrive in Pavones. For now this place is still of the beaten trail.

Costa Rica Dispatches: Jungle Cabina

The roof of our cabin is teaming with all sorts of life. The gecko’s are permanent residents and the bats fly in and out while making their high pitched calls way above us. Abundant wildlife is all around us, even though downtown Pavones and the surf break are only a 5 minute walk. Mira Olas, Jungle deLuxe Cabina is well positioned on a slope allowing to look straight into several different trees providing a food source for large groups of squirrel monkeys, the occasional white headed Capuchin and the impressive howler monkeys. Many birds like the beautiful Toucan as well as the Blue Morpho butterfly are amazingly close for great viewing.

It is hardly dawn, 5:20 am and the howler monkeys make their point starting out the day with some serious hollering, which when heard close up for the first time can be intimidating. End of the rainy season, no tourists. Besides a Canadian couple driving their 4×4 Isuzu thru Central America and an out of place looking Irish guy, there are only the real locals. Even most of the resident foreigners are still gone visiting their home countries.

Costa Rica Dispatches: 1977 Land Rover Series 3

There is something sexy about this truck. The proportions of tire to body, visually, call me weird, but I think it is sexy.
Diesel, 62hp, so what. This engine has torque! The way it pulls uphill on uneven rocky surfaces, it is in touch with the ground and grinds forward. The 4×4 is solid, probably the best of its time and at all times made us feel we could rely on it.

Driving in the case of this Land Rover is more like working the truck, if you know what I mean. There is a laboring part. One has to purposefully steer especially off road or on rough dirt roads with plenty potholes it is via the arms that I put my whole body into moving the truck. No power steering. The leaf springs on this 88 inch wheelbase make us feel like we are riding a bull at times. And then there is the shifting, which due to the low gear ratio happens often and never simple, since, yes, double throttling works, but I still have to be sensitive and listen for the transmission not to make this painful grinding sound. Once in the groove, it flows naturally and it becomes an engaging dance, tightly embraced we move forward.


The sound of the 2.25L diesel, the rattling body and clinkering valves add to the experience. The decibel level is definitely not from these times. Though conversations become challenging and we had given up trying to listen to the radio, we did not mind it. Doing days and days like some people have done driving around the world in this truck, I can see how you become a different person. The unusually shaped windows create a fitting frame for the passing landscape of the the rural and remote areas.

On the last early morning, dawn was just opening up, in low light things seem so much more vibrant at times. Putting the key into the back door lock of the truck became an experience. The wiggling to make the key turn, the rough turn in the old mechanism. Then the forceful push up on the sturdy door handle. This truck is so beautifully rough, solid and real, I am again, as I was as a young man, in love with the classic Land Rover.

Costa Rica Dispatches: Ofelina

We met Ofelina, an indigenous from the nearby Guaymie Reserve, walking along one of the rare and short (1 to 2 miles) ‘public’ roads in this area that extend away from the coast into the rainforest. She is coming for a visit to Pavones bringing her favorite chicken and peeling an orange she picked of a tree on the way.

Costa Rica Dispatches: Rainforest Walk

The Green is stunning. Nature is abundant around here. The direct opposite to New York City, the sounds of the city get washed out of our ears and filled with the concert of birds, monkeys and so many other animals of the rainforest. Every refreshingly cool breeze creates a different sound in the vast variety of foliage and at times it is just peacefully quiet.

A recent strong storm brought down a couple of big trees. Giants laid to sleep. Part of the cycle of Nature, which is clearly visible in every step we take, after vigorous growth the ground reclaims rapidly. Picking a coconut fresh off a palm tree, our guide serves what locals use for hydration and has by now become the hottest drink up north.