Another Gallo Pinto and we were off to Jaco - the surfing town of the Pacific Coast. The ride was gently undulating and we took our time stopping for lunch on a deserted beach (apart from a bar of course) with sand as far as you could see in both directions. Swarms (is this the right word?) of pelicans were skimming the sea and diving into it. However, there was no swimming due to strong rip tides. Several people per year are drowned in Costa Rica due to these. Jaco turned out to be a fairly large, busy town with not too much to offer although the night's restaurant was fairly posh.

Jaco was the last time we saw the Pacific as the next day we headed inland to Orotina and left civilisation behind. The night was spent in the one bar that did food but it was not bad.

San Ramon was the next destination where the 'cloud forest' began. This was the day which three of us spent as much time walking as cycling. Gradients of 15% to 20% are not much fun with camping gear. The hills descended as much as they climbed so no height was ever gained and there was one after the other. This was when I realised that the cycling sandals that Dave, Nigel and Ben were wearing were a great idea. This will be my next modernisation project. San Ramon was designed on the American block system so there was no square and no town features - it all looked the same. The hotel was grotty but according to the Rough Guide there was one that was worse. This was Saturday night and apparently it is the custom for the local cowboys and their women to get incredibly drunk. The night time bar was packed with drunken cowboys and cowgirls with us 'gringos' sat in the middle.

The next morning there was one restaurant open and it had one thing on the menu - Gallo Pinto. So, off into the cloud forest where the sun never shines. We were cycling through cloud and wet mist for most of the day on our way to Fortuna. There were many aerial walkways on the tops of the trees, which seemed to be a speciality of this area. Fortuna was fairly touristy due to an active volcano which was about five miles from the town and rose to 1300metres, which was what we had come to see. However, we were still in the cloud forest and it continued to rain all afternoon and night - all we saw was cloud.

The next day we set off for Zarcero which was about sixty miles away at a height of 1900m. The climb was quite spectacular and very long since Fortuna was only at about 300metres. Zarcero was a pleasant town that was famous for its topiary gardens. Its one restaurant did a good pizza and we were off to bed at 9.00pm to make an early start for the final day's cycling to Alajuela where the airport was situated. We had the afternoon there and the following day, which allowed a visit to the local zoo which mainly housed tropical birds.

The flight from San Jose to Miami was especially interesting as we flew over Cuba, the Florida Keys, and the Everglades. The flight from Miami to Madrid was as boring as expected and the flight from Madrid to Manchester was lit up by a hostess who was rather attractive and actually remembered us from our original flight from Manchester to Madrid.

Overall we covered about 600 miles and saw the main parts of the country. The best bits were the scenery and volcanoes together with the wildlife, especially the birds.

Next destination - Greece in October.

Terry Crosswell