6/16/10 High Mountain Road Trip – Introduction
Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
Cerro de la Muerte - (Mountain of Death): this is the name of the highest point in the Costa Rican part of the Pan American Highway.The Pan American Highway runs from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska down to the bottom tip of South America. Just knowing of the existence of such a highway gets me excited. Imagine traveling the whole length of it! I plan to cover some of the Costa Rican section. When I heard about the 11,000 foot, Cerro de la Muerte and found out that I don’t have to die to take this road (cars, buses and trucks do it daily), I was fascinated. It is called “Mountain of Death” not because cars fall off the side, like I envisioned. It’s called that because many years ago when it was still a footpath and a main travel route across the country, people died from exposure to the elements. It gets cold up there.
Ever since I heard about this place, I’ve been toying with the idea of driving down into Panama, south to the Pacific side and then back up into Costa Rica via the Pan Am Highway. Then I’d proceed further into the mountains, north to the city of Cartago, through verdurous farmland to Turrialba and then on back to Limon and home. I’d make a big circle (about 600 miles), like you see on the map above.
I mentioned my idea to my Tica friend, Katty, and she said, vehemently, “You’ve got to go to La Zona del Los Santos! It’s so beautiful there, you won’t believe it!” The “saints zone”: San Pablo de León Cortés, Santa María de Dota, San Marcos de Tarrazú, San Cristóbal Sur, San Gerardo de Dota is region of highland villages surrounded by coffee plantations. Coffee from Tarrazú, with its rich volcanic soil, cool climate and high-altitude, is said to be some of the best in the world. And what’s more, Katty said she knew lots of nice people there who would show me around.
The conversation with Katty could not have happened at a more opportune moment. It was almost time for my ninety day exit and I was wondering where I would go. (In Costa Rica, non residents must leave the country every ninety days. Then they may return for ninety more.) This was it! I’d go to La Zona de los Santos, Cerro de la Muerte and everything else I could come up with along the way. Turns out there is lots more. I’ll be eating gourmet meals cooked by Silvana from Slovenia in San Vito. I’ll be horseback riding through the mountains with Caballera Linda Gray at Rancho Tranquilo. And I will be staying over night in a cave behind the second largest waterfall in Costa Rica – “Diamante”. I can’t tell you how jazzed I am about this trip!
And guess what? You can come along with me, vicariously, at least. I am going to keep a photographic and written account of this adventure, right here. I’ll post new segments every day or so, as they happen. I’ll give myself two weeks or more, with an extremely flexible itinerary. AND…… I’m leaving bright and early, tomorrow morning. See you then!