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Costa Rica

Christmas 2004/New Year 2005



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Costa Rica

Christmas 2004/New Year 2005

'Jungle and Volcanoes' Exodus cycling holiday (Guide: Kevin Hill of Bi. Costa Rica S.A.)

Day 1: London to Costa Rica, San Jose

Wednesday 22nd December

Day 2 Atenas to Puntaranas

Thursday 23rd December

Met the group at breakfast - the hotel has a great view of the plateau below - we'd seen the lights driving up as the taxi struggled up the hill at 2am last night.  Sorted out the bikes - ours are fine except for tyres a bit bald.  The ride was 40 km with an A team and a B team - I felt my training ambitions (TransRockies 2005) required me to opt for the A team.  Blisteringly hot - it was a relief to wade through a river and I felt my temperature rising and rising.  Saw live fences - planted trees instead of fences.  Named after tourists since they go red and peel.  Turkey necked vultures circling over a fresh batch of Exodus riders.  Two guides Randall and Paul with driver Carlos and main  guide an American, Kevin Hill.  The group are Brits except for two Americans, two living in Toronto and Peter from Belfast.  Ros and Jane are riding new black Specialised full suspension bikes and are amazing riders and Jane also speaks fluent Spanish.  Some of the men are more mortal - walking down some technical sections and up some hills.  I was really struggling towards the end - mainly because of the heat.  Paul came and helped me - pushing my bike up the hill whilst I walked.  Luckily I wasn't alone - with Justin the racing car driver also struggling.  Just when  I thought I might not be able to go any further - we were at the lunch stop when I could pour cold water over my head.  Then drove to the hotel in two vehicles.  I was with the Costa Rican boys so tried to practice some Spanish.  At the hotel overlooking the Pacific- cooled down in the pool and drank a cold beer..

photo: En route from Atenas to Puntarenas via the Rio Tarcoles Valley.

photo: Living fence heading into the Rio Tarcoles Valley.

photo: Little Soda (cafe) beside the old railway, Rio Tarcoles Valley.

photo: A good suspension bridge crossing Rio Tarcoles

photo: Rubble strewn descent, Rio Tarcoles Valley.

photo: Andy crossing a not-so- good suspension bridge crossing Rio Tarcoles
photo: Justin avoids the hole, suspension bridge, crossing Rio Tarcoles

photo: Carrie and Peter ford Rio Turrubares.

Day 3 Puntarenas to San Mateo, then Athenas

Friday 24th December

Today's ride started off along the sea front - down the unusual finger of land surrounded by mangrove swamps.  Saw a pelican, a frigate bird and more vultures.  Hot again but felt much better - helped by magic red powder in the drinking water and lots of snacks stops along route.  Lunch in a shady forest, most of us opting to do a few hours single track riding.  Technical but mostly ridable for me.  We stopped at a waterfall - time for a fully clothed swim, no problem in this heat and it felt great.  Back to the hotel in Athenas.  Really enjoying talking to everyone in the group - very interesting people such as Ros - a professional musician.  Huge Christmas Eve dinner.

photo:  Route briefing outside Hotel Tioga, Puntarenas.

photo:  Hotel Tioga, Puntarenas.

photo:  Jane, Lisa, Carrie and Ros, leaving Puntarenas.

photo: Black Vultures

photo: Puntaranas Mangroves, Mata de Limon.

photo:  Randall conquering a technical section.

photo: Mark & Randall take on Carlos and Gary at table football

photo: Stopping for a swim in the Single Track at Mahogany Park

photo: Mark & Randall, Mahogany Park
photo: Ros & Carrie, Mahogany Park

Day 4 Athenas through the Tarcoles Valley (Ruta de los Conquistadores), Turrucares to La Garita

Saturday 25th December

Last look at the wonderful view.  8 of us to go on the harder route.  Actually only 4 hours cycling time but very hot and very steep hills that only Gary could ride up.  The countryside looks very like Cuba from the houses with music blaring out.  Hard to get going after a lunch of rice and beans and chicken (cassada).  There aren't many bits of me that aren't bitten - my own fault for not wearing insect repellent.  It didn't seem necessary when no-one else was getting bitten.  Today I got stung by something riding down the steep hill from the hotel.  Arrived at a chalet style hotel and cooled down in the pool.  Went out for a meal without the guides - Jane as interpreter - had a delicious steak and Chilean red wine.

photo: Morning vista before breakfast, Vista Atenas, Atenas.

photo: Usual morning briefing, Vista Atenas, Atenas.

photo: Andy crossing another 'interesting' bridge in the Tarcoles Valley.

photo: Gary and Paul make one of the climbs on the Ruta de los Conquistadores

photo: Carrie cools down after one of the many climbs, Tarcoles Valley.

photo: Ros - the only person to clean her bike, La Rosa de America, La Garita.

photo: Christmas Day evening meal at Delicias del Maiz, La Garita.

Day 5: La Garita (shuttle through San Jose and Cartago) Lourdes, Orosi Valley, Orosi, Kiri Lodge (Tapanti N Park)

Sunday 26th December

Leisurely start to the day, with a two hour drive stopping off to watch the Tour of Costa Rica race.  Up hill cycle for a mile got us warmed up and then a long down hill to lunch.  Usual cassada and great fruit juices made it a struggle to get on the bikes for a final 7 miles to a hotel deep in the rain forest.  My goal to stay ahead of Jane - just managed it but it didn't count because her chain came off just before the end.  Pouring rain, but still able to see glimpses of amazing birds.  Once the rain had stopped me, Gary, Peter, Andy, John and Ditsie set off on a hike before supper.  It was much harder than the leaflet led us to expect and John and Ditsie turned back.  We carried on with the promise of a bat cave at the end point of the walk.  It was steep, muddy, slippery and overgrown.  We started to worry about the disappearing light and how long it would take us to get back, especially since an early part of the path had a steep drop on either side.  We increased our pace - reluctant to turn back without seeing those bats.  The walk was numbered so we knew we had reached the end.  But could we see any bat cave - well the secret is out - not a sign.  Not that we lingered long as conscious of the lack of daylight - we rushed to retrace our steps and made it with minutes of light remaining.  Feeling exhausted, with muddy and wet clothes.  So much for the relaxing pre dinner stroll I had promised Gary.

photo:  Tour of Costa Rica race goes by (Outskirts of San Jose).

photo: Mark takes it easy on the wobbly tree crossing!

photo: Andy, Carrie and Justin take a break in the Orosi Valley. Coffee plantation in the background.
photo: Lunch stop with casados lunch and fruit juices, Orosi.

photo: Orosi.

photo:  Green parrot, Kiri Lodge.

photo:  Kiri Lodge. Our relaxing walk was up the hill behind!

Day 6: Kiri Lodge (Tapanti N Park) to Turrialba

Monday 27th December

Bird watching over breakfast - scarlet rumped tanager, a honey creeper and a northern oriole.  Steep climbing to start the ride today followed by long down hill section with loose rock.  I came down it slowly.  I fell off on a slippery up hill bit, unable to get my feet out of the pedals in time, banging my knee.  Saw a beautiful blue butterfly (neon blue morpho).  The hotel is at the top of a very very steep hill, which took us all by surprise.  We thougth we were there and the hill just kept on going.  Lunch at the bar took forever to arrive.  We are staying in a little hut with a fantastic view from its own balcony.  Feels good to know a little Spanish.

photo:  Carrie takes another stream crossing in her stride.

photo:  Carrie (grinding), Justin (pushing) and Paul (Playing).

photo:  Rio Macho en route to Turialtico.

photo:  Room with a view from the Pochotel, above Turrialba.

Day 7: Turrialba (Rest Day)

Tuesday 28th December

Pouring rain, pouring rain.  Played two games of scrabble with John and Ditsie.  Read.  Went into the town of Turrialba, into three bike shops where Gary bought some bargain bike bits and we drank some coffee (not had any nice coffee yet).  A bit of a flat day.

photo:  Street life in Turrialba.

photo:  Street life in Turrialba.

photo:  Resplendant Quetzal (the one on the right), Turrialba.

Day 8 Turrialba to Parismena, Tortuguero National Park

Wednesday 29th December

17 miles today with lots of ups and downs on smooth tarmac at the usual furious pace.  I hit 36mph as the road was so smooth and sweeping.  Walked down to the water for the rafting trip.  Gary and I were with an American guide called Caleb.  Gary, Andy and I were the only ones to stay in the boat.  Grade 4 rapids were terrifying especially when the other boat completely capsized.  Justin and Ros were under for some time and were quite shaken, but all ok.  Lunch on the riverside.  Saw kingfisher, blue heron, toucan, osprey, king heron, egret.  A beer and a change of clothes then onto a bus to take us to the coast, where we boarded a small motor boat.  I spotted a green iguana in a tree, so we stopped for a closer look.  Tonight went to see the Caribbean sea and had a couple of beers before supper.  We ate in about 5 minutes - delicious spagetti, salad and garlic bread.  An early night with the sound of frogs, insects and torrential rain.  Another great day.

photo:  Morning view from the Pochotel, above Turrialba

photo:  'Put in' for the Rio Pacuare white water knuckle rafting trip.

photo:  Lunch stop on the banks of  the Rio Pacuare. Plenty to talk about.

photo:  Bike waiting by the side of Rio Pacuare.
photo:  Well it just looked good!

photo:  Bananas everywhere!

photo:  Views from boat near Barra Parismina.

photo:  Boat trip into Barra Parismina.

Day 9 Parismina, Tortuguero National Park.

Thursday 30th December

Boat tour with a guide to the national park.  Saw a crocodile with its mouth open and then leisurely crawl into the water, a sloth climbing slowly with its long claws.  Also a poison dart frog and turtle.  Free afternoon, walked on the beach, had a beer and then scrabble before supper.  Pete, Ros (Shiny Wheels), Jane, Justin and Andy stayed in the bar and got drunk.  A night boat trip after supper with a torch picking up eyes in the undergrowth.  Our guide stopped the boat and got out in his bare feet.  He called for help from the driver and the two of them returned carrying a cayman (small crocodile) into the boat to show us. 

photo:  Views from boat near Barra Parismina.

photo:  Iguana (spotted by Carrie) Barra Parismina.

photo:  Poison dart frog, Barra Parismina.

photo:  Bats, Barra Parismina.

photo:  Views from boat near Barra Parismina.

photo:  Views from boat near Barra Parismina.

photo:  Crocodile, Barra Parismina.

photo:  Crocodile, Barra Parismina.

photo:  Views from boat near Barra Parismina.

photo:  Sloth, Barra Parismina.

photo:  Typical house, Barra Parismina.

photo:  Girls, Barra Parismina.

photo:  Typical house, Barra Parismina.

photo:  Caribbean Ocean, Barra Parismina.

photo:  Gary, Caribbean Ocean, Barra Parismina.
photo:  John & Ditsie, Caribbean Ocean, Barra Parismina.

photo:  Justin, Ros, Jane, Peter and Andy rehydrating.

photo:  Cayman - I thought they were supposed to be small.
photo:  Cayman, Barra Parismina.

photo:  Cayman - Steady boy!

Day 10 Parismena to Cahuita

Friday 31st December

We ate rice and beans three times today.  Started this morning with a motor boat journey, still time to spot a crocodile on the bank and some howler monkeys high in a tree.  Relaxing to zip along letting my thoughts wander.  Lunch of spicy rice and beans with fish in a beach front cafe served by an Afro Carribean man.  Swam in the sea and the waves were so strong they took my breath away.  We cycled along the coast through Lymon for 34 miles.  Very busy roads.  Tried to stay in a peleton formation - nearly killed me to keep up.  Gary pushed me to help.  I managed one section then right at the end the leaders speeded up.  Jane made a fantastic effort saying we could catch them.  I tried to follow her and was gasping for breath and couldn't keep it up.  It was fun.  The hotel is another chalet style place set in wonderful grounds with birds and black and green dart frogs.  Swam in the pool and relaxed to the sound of grasshoppers.  Buffet meal at the hotel with a truly dreadful live band (a real difference from Cuba).  Kevin found a gaudy leaf frog to show us and it leapt onto Jane's face.  Into town for some more drinks and a bit of a dance - home for midnight.



photo:  That looks like a Sloth, North of Limon

photo:  Sloth, North of Limon

photo:  Sloth, North of Limon

photo:  Black vultures, North of Limon

photo:  Navigating busy Limon

photo: Tree frog takes a shine to Jane, Cahuita

photo: Frog, Cahuita

photo: Lobster Claw flower, Cahuita

photo: Bush in flower, Cahuita

Day 11 Cahuita to Puerto Viego

Saturday 1st January

Feliz Ano!
Relaxed in the hotel garden, sitting outside our room.  Spotted a toucan in the tree and a squirrel cuckoo.  Cycled through the town of Cahuita, then into the coastal national park.  Enjoyed cycling over roots, beating the waves across the beach, but drew the line at log hopping.   Saw white faced monkeys and a sloth.  Cycled back along the road - again trying to keep up with the peleton - great fun.  This place is the most touristy yet with lots of cafes, bars and stalls selling trinkets.  Black rastas - marking the great change from the Pacific to the Carribean coasts.  Gary and I have a lovely chalet style room just off the beach.  Went for a walk to watch the sunset, paddle in the warm water and watch the crashing waves, surfers far out to sea catching frightening looking waves.  Celebratory cold beer out of our own fridge.  Great feeling.

photo: Gary's trusty Haro Escape, Cahuita

photo: Paul along the single track through Cahuita National Park en route to Puerto Viejo.

photo: Andy, Carlos, Justin, Paul, Carrie, Jane, Mark, Ros, Peter, Gary, Lisa, Jim, Ditsie, John, Cahuita National Park.

photo: Randall, Paul and Carlos, Cahuita National Park.

photo: Monkeys. No, up in the trees, Cahuita National Park.

photo: White faced monkeys, Cahuita National Park.

photo: A few obstacles, Cahuita National Park.

photo: Carrie, Cahuita National Park.

photo: Gary trying to control the frisky 'Haro', Cahuita National Park.

photo: A bit of pumping required to clean the salty bikes, Cahuita National Park.

photo: A bit more pumping required to clean the salty bikes, Cahuita National Park.

photo: Stop press: Women in shower with bike shocker! Ros cleaning her bike, again. Cahuita National Park.

photo: A large beetle, Puerto Viejo.

photo: Sunset from our accommodation on Playa Coches, Puerto Viejo.

Day 12 Puerto Viego (Rest day)

Sunday 2nd January

Last day of cycling - but only Peter and Andy joined us for our own ride down the coast to Manzanillo.  We started off along a beach path in the forest, with a plank bridges across streams.  Gary went across, Peter needed a second run at it.  Just as he was lining himself up for it, he couldn't get his feet out of the peddles and toppled over.  But not a man to be deterred - he still managed to cross the plank.  The path ran out and we continued on the road to Manzaniillo for an orange juice in a decrepid looking cafe, advertising ice creams but none on sale.  Continued along the beach crossing a deep estuary and into the forest beyond the path quickly turning to mud.  We stopped at a point with a view of choppy seas and pelicans on a rock.  Returning through the estuary Peter made a valiant attempt to cycle across - nearly losing his bike out to sea.  This afternoon did a canopy tour with Jane and Ros.  Not very thrilling but good company and views of the jungle.  Most interesting was a walking tree which moves in search of light and some huge ants.  Fun to be so high above the ground and then sliding down to the next platform.  Couple of beers from the fridge before supper  - this involved a bus ride to Manzanillo to a fish restaurant above this mornings cafe.  This was our last night together and Peter announced his awards for the trip:
Gary - superman, Me - grinder, Ros - best techy, Jane - snatcher, Mark - golden bib and best fall, Randall - bonk , Carlos - butterfly, Jim and Lisa - best couple, John - David Attenborough, Ditsie - sloth/cute bum, Newcomer - Justin, Kevin - one of only 2 in Costa Rica.  Andy - all round athlete.  Made us all laugh alot.  Pouring rain as we left and seemed to rain all night.

photo: Manzanillo.

photo: Gary, Carrie, Peter and Andrew, Manzanillo.

photo: Peter asking directions, Manzanillo.

photo: I'm not sure why Carrie is carrying the bike - it's a hire bike! Manzanillo.

photo: Caribbean culture, Puerto Viejo.

photo: Carrie on the canopy tour, Puerto Viejo.

Day 13: Puerto Viego to San Jose

Monday 3rd January

Four hour journey back to San Jose.  Stopped in a supermarket to buy coffee etc.. Pouring rain suits our mood of the impending end of the holiday.  Hotel Carlos - nice comfortable hotel.  Off to the bike shop and Justin and Peter decide to buy a Santa Cruz Blur for about half the UK price.  Jane bought a heart rate monitor, Gary tried hard but couldn't find anything to buy.  Out for dinner - the best restaurant yet - parmesan and olive bread has never tasted so good, for being an unfamiliar taste.  Drinks afterwards to say farewell to John, Ditsie, Jim  and Lisa.
photo: Comfortable chair!

Day 14: San Jose

Tuesday 4th January

Leisurely breakfast on the outdoor terrace but the weather turned cold and wet.  Ros joined us for our own city tour.  At the National Theatre - joined an Italian tour group as they walked into the theatre.  Beautiful horseshoe shaped theatre with a sense of colonial grandeur.  Delicious coffee at last in the theatre cafe.  Gold museum with pre-Colombian artefacts and walked to the indoor market, felt a bit unsafe with lots of people around on the streets.  After lunch went to the Jade museum for more artefacts and Gary went back to the bike shop where he managed to find some bargains.  Farewell drink with Ros, Jane and Andy.  Final meal at a Carribean restaurant.

photo: Street scene, San Jose.

Day 15: San Jose (Scenic Flight) and Flight home to London

Wednesday 5th January

Mark, Justin, Peter, Gary and myself hired a small plane for $182 each.  Beautiful sunny day - such a relief after yesterday's weather.  A thrill to be in a small plane, feeling the turbulence. Saw a couple of volanoes and over to Puntaranas with its unusual finger of land.  Picked out our hotel and the start of the next day's cycle ride.  Taxi to the airport and the long journey home begins.

photo: Our plane for a few hours.

photo: Justin and Carrie.

photo:  Mark - co-pilot for the flight.

photo: Gary & Peter.

photo: Small housing estate above the airfield, San Jose.

photo:  Volcano Barva (2906m), North of San Jose.
photo:  Volcano Poas (2704m), North-West of San Jose.

photo:  Volcano Poas (2704m), North-West of San Jose.

photo:  View - North-West of San Jose.

photo:  Volcano Arenal (1633m), North-West of San Jose.

photo:  Puntarenas, our  Hotel Tioga (the yellow building front right).

photo:  Caldera and Mata de Limon, Puntarenas (crossed the bridge on day 2).

photo: The local beer.

Altitude & Distance Plots (Polar 720i Heart Rate Monitor)

Day 2 Atenas to Puntaranas

Thursday 23rd December

Day 3 Puntaranas to San Mateo, then Athenas

Friday 24th December

Day 4 Athenas through the Tarcoles Valley (Ruta de los Conquistadores), Turrucares to La Garita

Saturday 25th December

Day 5: La Garita (shuttle through San Jose and Cartago) Lourdes, Orosi Valley, Orosi, Kiri Lodge (Tapanti N Park)

Sunday 26th December

Day 6: Kiri Lodge (Tapanti N Park) to Turrialba

Monday 27th December

Day 8 Turrialba to Parismena, Tortuguero National Park

Wednesday 29th December

Day 10 Parismena to Cahuita

Friday 31st December


Day 11 Cahuita to Puerto Viego

Saturday 1st January

Day 12 Puerto Viego (Rest day)

Sunday 2nd January