You know you’ve been on a solid adventure when you spend the entire 8 hour daytime flight back to Canada passed out in a self induced coma.
Following the Vuelta De Costa Rica it took 5 days of rest at my friends Angela and Ronalds oasis to reboot the system. Angela cooked us some killer local meals highlighted by Olla de Carne, Ronald and I went on a couple short hikes and the rest of the days were spent in holiday mode enjoying the festive season with my Costa Rican family.
In the past I have toured my bike down to Panama a couple times on a cool loop into the mountains. I had some ambitions to reenact this journey but time was a factor as I would only have 11 days to do it vs the 3-4 weeks I had in the past. On New Years Eve the mind and body we’re back on line and ready to roll.
Not wanting to waist anytime I loaded up my Kona Zone road bike with some new lightweight touring bags from Apidura and headed south. Looking for a good New Years party on the beach I set the radar towards Jaco, Costa Rican’s beach party destination and legendary for its New Years Parties.
Showing up mid afternoon it was quickly determined the entire city was booked up. It was a hiccup in the plans but after sniffing around, a new hostel on the beach was located offering to rent a mattress to put on there roof for the night. Hell yeah a bed and free star gazing! From there on it unfolded into a New Years for all time. Running into the right group of travellers, some homemade cider, a party on the beach and fireworks going on for hours it was the perfect storm to cap off 2015 in grand style.
New Years day had write off written all over it but my head can be pretty stubborn sometimes and defused this idea. Not wanting to lose a day of the bike trip I set off at high noon after spending the morning relaxing by the pool and eating fresh tropical fruits to try and knock off the night. The ride wasn’t sweet as the flat highway was buzzing with traffic as it traveled between palm plantations in the scorching heat. The 130 km journey was slowed down by a flat tire and having to stop every hour to refill the water bottles. It was a long ride but the last part was brilliant with the sun setting against the Dominical beach and then a refreshing and sketchy 30 minute ride through the dark to Uvita.
Again I found out there was no accommodation in town so road my bike up a gravel road 2 km to a hostel hidden in the jungle. They were fully booked as well so it was back into town, and eventually I came across a dirty hostel tucked alongside a river with 8 Israelis partying outside. The 5 bed dorm was sketchy, and at $25 a night it was steep but with no options it would have to do. It was a fun evening having dinner with the Israelis but the night was a disaster as I found out the AC was broken, and there was only one fan for the whole hostel. It was like trying to sleep in a noisy sauna and to make things more interesting the stomach started acting up, likely from some bad water. In Costa Rica the tap water is generally good to drink except down along the be
Getting up exhausted and on edge of a meltdown I knew the body needed some recovery or else it would risk sinking into a grave and a subsequent long recovery process as I have learned a few times in the past. It was a tough call but I opted to head back to Ciudad Colon to rest up again at Ronald and Angela’s. Trying to reenact the trip to Panama on a time budget wasn’t the right move. I had a solid back up plan which was 100% new and was excited to launch that mission instead.
Having started a new training program based on 3 day blocks I had one day left to finish off this one. After a 2 hour bus ride back to Jaco, I unloaded in the heat of the day and set off on a rough 4 hour ride on the backroads up to Ciudad Colon. Sometimes you need to race when you’re tired and hungry (aka 24 hour racing) and this was the perfect opportunity to work on overpowering the mind and toughening up bit.
After two solid sleeps and a perfect rest day in Ciudad Colon it was off on a new adventure with my Apidura travel bags. Heading up and over Volcano Poas there were some amazingly quiet roads snaking through the jungle and past waterfalls eventually leading to Ciudad Quesada 140 km later. My friend Jonathan had helped our team out during the Vuelta and had left an open invitation to come visit him and his family. Ciudad Quesada is off the tourist trail and a very typical Costa Rican town sitting on a ledge between the mountains and the low lying flatlands heading to Nicaragua.
We went to some kick ass hot springs tucked inside the jungle, I had a nice ride to La Fortuna to see Arenal Volcano which was covered in clouds, and we ate Corn Bread at Jonathan’s Bakery for post ride snacking. It was a cool 2 days staying up at there home in the mountains before heading 120 km back over the shoulder of Volcano Poas to Ciudad Colon to cap another 3 day block.
Heading down to the river below the house for an afternoon nap amongst the jungle was the perfect oasis for some recovery. Falling asleep I eventually woke up to darkness as the sun had long since set. It was a bit alarming as I’m not use to the jungle but luckily had my iPhone and used the light to start hiking downstream to get out of the river gorge. Hopping off a rock I landed and heard something behind me. Shining the light back my adrenaline shot through the roof as I saw large green and black snack no more then 2-3 feet from my legs. It opened its mouth and launched its head back as if to strike, I hucked my t-shirt on it and jumped into the river. I was scared shitless and couldn’t see much as I headed downstream with my tail between my legs.
Scrambling out of the river and up the riverbank I made it back to a gravel road and stood there shaking for a few seconds regaining composure before heading back to Ronald’s and Angela’s. On the way back 2 rowdy dogs came after me in the dark to further escalate the evening. While riding this is generally not a problem as you always have your bike as a shield and water bottles to toss or squirt the dogs with. Walking is a different problem but luckily I had a long stick and was able to club one of the little punks on the nose sending them back to there house. Costa Rica’s a great country but there’s a few people that need to take ownership of there dogs and get them under control down there.
Finally back home I started sharing my story with Angela and she gasped as apparently there are loads of Fer De Lance Vipers around the area and after seeing a few pictures and reading some horror stories about them it was pretty blatant I had lucked out. I checked under the blankets when I went to bed that night and was a little jumpy in the coming days.
After the snake encounter the plans for a recovery day by the river were scratched and instead I loaded up the bike and headed up the mountains to see my friend Paulo Valle on the Cerro de Muerte. Taking the backroads I discovered one of the raddest road bike rides of all time through the back valleys of Costa Rica. The climbs were relentless with nearly 5000 vertical meters of climbing over the 97 km ride. The further I went the steeper and quieter the freshly paved roads were. Eventually the surface turned to gravel and at the back end of the farthest valley there was one last 30 % climb leading to Paulo’s eagles nest perched at 2000 meters overlooking the countryside. It was one of the coolest rides and destinations ever in Central America. The next day Paulo and his girlfriend Nina offered a ride back to San Jose but I had to decline as the riding up there as too damn good. It meant pushing the rest day back another day but sometimes life is too good to sit still.
After 5 days of stellar riding the much needed rest day finally came onto the agenda. This also turned into a bit of an energy zapper as my friend Seth Cox had arrived from Canada and along with Paulo we drove down to the coast to find some crocodiles and sandy beaches. Costa Rica just built a new highway to the coast so the drive home should’ve been quick but the engineers made some drastic flaws in the planning and created a 4 lane highway with many pinch points. The 1 hour drive turned into a mission as we hit traffic backed up for miles. When the tourist busses started backing down the on ramps to get out of the mess we followed suite and eventually got home to cap a long day
The final two days in the land of paradise were spent riding back into the mountains for another big day of climbing, a picnic at the valley of peace, and then a big ride towards the Northern Costa Rica town of Liberia. I had lucked out and found a West Jet flight for $150 USD flying direct back to Canada. My buddy Ronald offered to be my support car for the day and loaded up the cooler with coconuts and papayas and followed me for the last few hours down the Pan-American highway towards Liberia. It was a pro roadie style ride and the only safe way to ride on that part of the Pan Am highway with the crazy drivers and non-existent shoulder. Eventually the highway rolled out of the forest and onto the flat windy grasslands near Canas. The cool riding was over, I hit my training threshold at 6 hours, pulled over, packed the bike into the car to end the Costa Rican training camp. We then drove to Coco beach for the night to cap the trip with an ocean swim and fresh seafood to start the recovery process.
I can’t thank my friends Angela, Ronald, Jonathan, Paulo, and Alejandro (thanks for the flat tire repair in La Fortuna!) enough for all the help in making this southern training camp. Pure Vida Amigos!
My 4 days in Victoria were spent cleaning out my condo for new renters, unpacking, repacking, and finishing off a big training block and trying to get the bike ready for the next journey. After this there was just enough time to catch a boat over to Vancouver to have dinner with my friends Chris Ganeff, Dave and Thea and then hop a flight to start the next stretch of the season down in the Oceania summer 🙂
Big thanks to my friends Emile de Ros Nay, Dave Mcnaught, my cousin Tasha and Straight up Cycles for the help during this busy turnaround. Also a big thanks to Jon Watkin @ Russ Hayes bike shop and John Espley @ Accent Inns for setting up accommodation at the Accent Inn’s near the Vancouver Airport as it was the perfect place to catch some rest and launch the next leg of the journey.
Next report will be from Down Under!