From Puerto Viejo, the paved road (Hwy-36) continues inland to BRIBRÍ, about 10km southwest, arching over the Talamancan foothills to reveal the green valleys stretching ahead to Panamá. This is banana country, with little to see even in Bribrí itself, which is largely devoted to administering the affairs of indigenous reserves in the Talamanca Mountains. There are several indigenous reserves near Bribrí. You can’t visit them without special permission both from the communities themselves and from the government, but if you’re interested, anthropologist Fernando Cortés (t 2766-6800) leads small groups through the Talamanca Mountains on officially sanctioned visits to Cabécar communities. Trips (lasting around a week) begin near Cartago, from where you walk into the Talamanca region, and cost about $100 per person.

From Bribrí, a dusty gravel road winds for 34km through solid banana fincas to Sixaola. Locals cross the border here to do their shopping in Panamá, where most things are less expensive. The majority of foreigners who cross into Panamá do so simply because their tourist visa for Costa Rica has expired and they have to leave the country for 72 hours, though the pristine Panamanian island of Bocas del Toro just over the border offers an inviting prospect even for those who don’t need an extension.

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