Costa Rica, December 2010

It started in thick snow Heathrow T5. Only transcontinental flights were leaving, so anyone booked for the trip changing in Spain, didn’t get out.

I flew through the US, so despite the hassle in immigration, at least I got there.

This was a journey that started at the Caribbean and took us over the continental divide and down to the Pacific. The continental divide would prove the be a key point of the journey.

I hired a bike, which as with all non-UK bikes has the brakes the wrong way around, Left-Front, Right Rear. A recipe for disaster, if ever there was one.

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The night in the Atlantida Lodge in Cahuita gave us an indication of what to expect as far as electrical safety along the journey.

This image shows the shower head, need I say more.

The first day was a short one that took us along the Caribbean coast from Cahuita to Limon, only 80Km but quite hilly, and as the day progressed, quite wet. Just looking up to see sloths in the trees brought home that you were in a magical place, with extremely diverse wildlife.

Costa Rica 2010 027From Limon we were transferred to Turrialba that evening, Christmas eve. We woke up on Christmas day to spectacular views of the valley below, shrouded in a mist, which would accompany us through the next few days.

Christmas day took us to Orisi, again not a big day at 70Km, but the term “7% is the new flat” was starting to become familiar. Despite the weather, climbing the hills managed to keep you warm.

The next day was due to start with a transfer to Sarchi in order to continue the journey to Agua Zarcas. However, it was shortened slightly due to high winds, as well as rain. The idea was to ride to the top of a climb, then those with good descending skills would ride the 30% descent while the others would get back in the bus. When it came to unloading the bikes not far from the base of the climb, we had trouble hanging on to the bike, which made us wonder what it would be like at the top of the climb, when several of the bikes would need loading on to the roof of the bus. As we didn’t want to see our guides blow away, we all stayed in the bus until we rolled down the descent.

We eventually reached a point where it was safe and we continued the 70Km journey to Agua Zarcas, a spa retreat with a pool and sauna. By this point, however, I had seen enough water and the drying clothes in my room meant I had my own personal sauna going on.

That evening there were strong storms all night making it difficult to sleep and we woke to the news that this was all a result of El Nino passing down the Pacific coast.

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Surprise, the next day was another wet one as we headed to La Fortuna, a town in the shadow of Arenal, a large active volcano. However, low cloud meant that we did not get to see it this time.

The stay in La Fortuna was for two nights, enabling us to get washing and drying done, ready for the next stage over the divide and dropping down on to the Pacific coast.

First, however we took a day trip to a famous café on the edge of the river, where we had some strange companions during lunch, again just a beautiful site.

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Stood in the café with a pool of water at my feet and wringing about a litre of water from my gloves, I made the decision that tomorrow, if it was still raining, I would jump on the bus and take the day off. All I needed to do now was get back to La Fortuna as fast as I could in order to get warm, and that is just what I did.

Costa Rica has a lot of cloud forests and these first five days from Cahuita to crossing the divide were constant rain, which was amazing to see, but sodden shoes and wringing out your gloves became a bit too much at day six. I took the bus to Canas, where we would meet the only three who had braved that day, load them on to the bus and transfer to Liberia, on the Pacific side.

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The day was great, as you were able to take in the views more in the bus. We stopped at an amazing road side cafe, which had the rear wall open, looking out over the valley below and hung in the opening were bird feeders attracting toucans like ours attract blackbirds.

As we dropped in to Canas and parked up waiting for the riders to arrive, the sun came out and we all got articles of cycling kit out and hung them on the bus to dry. The night out in Liberia was stunning, such dark skies were just full of stars and the Milky Way was visible to the naked eye. We walked to out for food in tee shirts…

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We woke up to the warmth and clear skies and were riding from Liberia to Samar on the coast. First thing….where is my sun block?

The day was stunning, 30 plus degrees, enough to dry out my soggy bones. The day was not without its “events”, but generally it went really well, quick, hilly, beautiful, with a stop in Nicoya for lunch.

I say generally, but about midday one of the riders, who had difficulty drinking from a bidon in the usual way, insisted on unscrewing it and drinking from the neck.
This time he had swallowed something that was in the bottle and was struggling to swallow. So our main guide bundled him in to the bus with the local guide and sent them off to hospital.

Once the bus left, the guide realised he had left his helmet on the bus. Not a good place to be, if he fell and bumped his head, none of us would know what to do in this strange land. So we set off carefully, for about 30 minutes, when one of the riders started to have an asthma attack. Yes you guessed it, he had left his inhaler in the bus, well why wouldn’t you, the bus would never be far away, unless it was sent too the local hospital.

David, the guide, took the rest of the gang to Nicoya for lunch, while I accompanied this poor sole at a slower pace. We did have a stop for a couple of ice cold Coca Colas, but we made to lunch, just as the rest of the group were getting their food, and David carried out repairs on the bike of a young local lad. Not sure if that was supposed to be in the soup, or if it had just taken a fancy to it in the kitchen. Onward to Samara and the sea for New Year’s eve.

On New Years Eve we took a ride out from Samar up in to the hills above, but by mid morning the general idea was head for the beach, find a couple of chairs and get ourselves a coconut each, and relax.

The party on Samar beach that evening will stick with me as one of the best New Years I have experienced. I spent a great evening with a couple from California, who I have since visited and spent many a happy hour battling up mountains all over the globe. More of that later.

After New Years day, we headed back to San Jose in the bus, where we would soon say our goodbyes. I had two more days before my return flight, and as the sun was now a daily occurrence, I booked a trip up one of the volcanoes and was joined by two Canadians, who were also having extended time in San Jose. The bus journey up the volcanoes was slow and laboured and it made us realise how tough some of the terrain we had covered over the last 10 days had been. We were rewarded by views of some of the places we had travelled through, but had been unable to see.

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This was an amazing trip with stunning natural beauty, great people and my inspiration to travel the world by bike, a step at a time.

Pura Vida, as they say and I need to add this to my bucket list, go back and hope that the weather is with me next time.

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