Day 13/23


It has rained all night. I did not have a lot of luck with Arenal and the other volcanoes here. The east side of the central mountains seems to be rainy and foggy all the time. If it becomes lighter Volcan Arenal is completely obscured again. I quickly eat my breakfast en start driving towards Cerro de la Muerte, a high altitude nature area south of San Jose.

Again, I go astray a couple of times. This happens in particular in small villages where the roads splits and it is not completely clear which of the two is the main route. Most of the time you can choose the right one based on small hints: the road seems to be a bit wider, there is some more traffic or the road looks a bit better. Sometimes, these hints work against you as well. One time I have to choose one and select the road where a bus is coming from, but this one ends up in a bus station (-;

The highway ends in San Jose and you have to pick it up again on the other side of the city. Before going, I selected two routes that I should be able to find easily. By pure luck I end up on one of them. It is an endless queue of cars with red traffic lights on every crossing, honking taxis that cut you of and one-way streets. Soon I am completely lost in this city jungle.

On the GPS-map I can see that I am going in around the right direction to pick up highway 2 on the other side. Suddenly I notice that I arrived accidentally (again) on my second route. After a while, I see a sign for Cartago, which is in the right direction. this road forks and I have to make a decision: left or right. There are nog signs. I choose right. This one proceeds via a couple of one-way streets in a dead end. Wrong choice.

I return to the place where I went wrong and pick a somewhat wider road. After a while there is again a sign for Cartago, which is the right direction. On the GPS-map I see that I am very close to highway 2. The road forks again I have to decide fast: left or right. The GPS is not zoomed in far enough to help and there is no time left. I choose right based on my guts….and again this is wrong.

I end up in a suburb of San Jose and can pick up a road that turns slowly in the direction of highway 2. Again traffic jam and traffic lights. After a while I am finally back on the highway. I really hate driving like this. Cities are nice to visit by foot, but driving them really sucks.

Originally I wanted to circumvent the city via Braulio Carrillo National Park on the east side. But this is no option, with my two new southern destinations. This would have taken much longer. I will return via the west coast and this should take me close to the airport and back to my hotel. I am not going to take this road again. It has taken me more than 1.5 hours to plough through San Jose.


Around 13:00 I arrive at Mirador de Quetzales. In the end it has taken 5 hours to get here, much longer than I had in mind. It is much colder here. Barely 17 degrees instead of the 28 in San Jose. Friendly people here. One night sleeping + dinner + guided walk looking for Quetzals + breakfast is only 50 dollars, unbelievable. Jason, the guide, shows me a Colibri nest carrying two baby birds.

There is a trail of around 4 kilometer, but Jason constantly points backwards to the trees when he talks about the birds. That route is reserved for the guide walked tomorrow morning at 06:00. Then I know enough. I can walk those 4 kilometer through the mud and see most probably not a single bird. Birds are most active in the early morning. Better to read something. I am in the middle of an exciting Stephen King at the moment.

In the middle of the afternoon, clouds come down and soon we are completely surrounded by them. I take a nap for a couple of hours and read some more until dinner at 18:00.


When it is almost dark, I hear the whistles of the Quetzals that Jason demonstrated earlier. The other guests are Swiss. We talk for a short while but these are clearly not my type of people. They are with three of them, two men and a woman. When I ask what there relationship is, one of them asks immediately why I do need to know. ‘Well just out of interest’.

They appear to be brother and sister and couple. Nice people but if I am right, they are here primarily to party. They have been in Cahuita in the east coast for a while and will continue to Golfito after this. Smoking, drinking and what else. The food is good: tomatosoup and trout with rice and vegetables. After dinner (we had to dine all together) I keep a friendly distance.

Later in the evening I show my colibri photographs to Jason. He is quite impressed and can find them all on his bird card. Some appear to be male (the big blue one) and female (one of the greens) and even a juvenile (smalle one with orange chest). He also show me a couple of Quetzal photographs. Beautiful bird, sometimes it even looks a bit fake. Now lets hope that the weather will be good enough. When I leave for my cottage, that has been quite cold this afternoon, he gives me a warm water bottle. This will become a necessity tonight, I am afraid. The nights are very cold here on this altitude.

Maps, Charts & Downloads

GPS Map with color coded altitude information

Color coded distance/altitude chart

Color coded distance/altitude chart, Costa Rica Dry Season 2011, Day 13

Download the original gpx file here.