THE AUSSIE DIARIES: TRIP REPORT, COSTA RICA
Originally posted on muddbunnies.com During my injury I decided it would be a good time to book a mountain bike trip for February 2014, since I had injured myself on my Downhill bike it only seemed logical that I would book a downhill trip… I chose the Big Mountain Adventure Costa Rica trip for two reasons, it was the hardest downhill trip I could find, and the owner sort of confirmed that it would be single track not old roads that we’d be riding and secondly, they had a group limit of 4 people. When I booked the trip, I hadn’t taken into account what would be involved to fly to Costa Rica. You had a couple of choices, direct from Vancouver but super expensive, or super cheap but fly all over North and Central America to get there. I went with the third option which was find a reasonably priced flight with minimal stop-over. Another point while I’m talking about planes, make sure to check what their bike policy is, a lot of the US airline charge $200 each way per bike, that makes a cheap ticket get really expensive, really fast.
Day one: For whatever reason, I decided it would be a good idea to leave Friday evening after work and catch a red-eye to Costa Rica, I guess I hadn’t taken into account just how small and uncomfortable plane seats are, nor had I taken into account that not everyone plans on sleeping on a overnight flight! All this aside my Jackrabbit and I landed in Costa Rica on a sunny and warm Saturday morning (did I mention it was snowing in Vancouver when we were boarding our flight!) and met by our guide Paulo. After loading our bikes and luggage into the truck, I soon discovered that driving in Costa Rica is a little bit more exciting that Vancouver, I think the road lines are there as a guide only, based on the way everyone was swerving and dashing through the traffic. We arrived at our accommodations in one piece, got to meet the third member of our party and spent the next couple of hours re-assembling our bikes and unpacking. We spent the afternoon seeing the sights in San Jose, then returned to our hotel to get an early night in anticipation of our first day of riding.
Day Two: We started the day with a typical Costa Rican breakfast; Gallo Pinto, which is made up of rice and beans mixed together with onions and bell peppers, served with scrambled eggs and fresh fruit and coffee. Oh have I mentioned the coffee? I’ll get to that shortly. As we finished breakfast and enjoyed a nice rich cup of coffee our guide Paulo arrived, we loaded the bikes and headed for our first ride of the trip, which we were told starts on the side of a Volcano. Volcan Barva is an inactive volcano, it has a lagoon in it’s crater that you can see on a clear day, since it was overcast, we skipped the lagoon and went straight into the riding. The trail was fun, I’d almost say it was perfect for someone who hadn’t ridden her downhill bike in six months. It was fast and it flowed, almost reminiscent of the Rio trail in Kamloops. We finished on a farm, as we ducked through the fence into the field, the local cows took a casual look at as and then continued on doing cow things.
Our second lap was on another inactive volcano. This trail felt like you were riding through jungle, it was steeper, tighter and had some technical areas to negotiate. It was also covered in leaves, as in a deep bed of them, which made braking very interesting. Usually you engage your brakes, you slow down, here you engage your brakes, you slide, then maybe you slow down. Or maybe your front just starts to slide. It took me a good portion of the trail to relearn how to use my brakes so they were more effective on this type of surface. Day Three: As per our itinerary we headed out of the city to a “privately owned mountain near the city with steep trails through the jungle”. This was the first mountain bike specific trail we got to ride on the trip, and the trail was built and maintained by our guide. I should also mention it was the steepest and gnarliest trail on our trip. It’s also where we learned that our guide Paulo has the same warped sense of time as I myself have, his “it’s only 10 minutes of pushing/pedaling” often turned into a lot longer than that. Have I already mentioned that this trail was steep? It was challenging, but was also a lot of fun! There aren’t to many more words I can add to describe just how much fun this trail was! I would probably need to start using explanations like “Weeee!!!” and “Woohoo!!!”. Anyway, you get the picture. The last point regarding this trail, is it finishes in the little town in the Dota Valley. If you like coffee, then you are in luck. The local coffee shop is in front of the local roaster. We actually rode through a coffee plantation on our way out of the trail to the coffee shop. Day Four: We headed south to some of the most remote mountains in the country and we started our day on top of one of the highest mountains in the country too! Our first lap was on another multi use trail (think hiking primarily) and it was a long descent. It was rocky and rugged and gave me that sense of vertigo I feel whenever I am in the alpine. It was also fun! We ran into a group of hikers about two thirds of the way down. I am so used to bumping into hikers here on the North Shore that I don’t think much of it. They on the other hand were totally fascinated, thinking we were a little crazy riding down the trails but at the same time thinking it was totally cool. They also proceeded to grab their cameras and take photos because “no one back home will believe people were riding bikes down these trails”
We had gotten a late start so our second lap of the day was a little bit shorter. It was on another Paulo built trail and I think upon reflection this ended up being the favorite trail for me on our trip. It was fast and flowy, then it was steep and flowy, it has some technically challenging sections thrown in to keep you on your game, and then it ended with what I like to think of as the evil technical steep switchbacks Day Five: We got introduced to a couple more new trails, including some shorter “back yard” trails that dropped back down into the resort. They were great for end of the day riding when you are tired and the big mountain hour plus shuttles (with another hour for descending) start to get a bit tiring. Day Six: Last day we spent in this area. Were able to revisit all of our favorite trails and then finished with a couple of laps on the shorter backyard trails. I haven’t mentioned yet, but this area of Costa Rica is very popular with the bird watchers. While we were blazing around on our bikes every one else at the little resort compound where we were staying were walking around with super zoom camera lenses trying to capture photos of elusive and rare birds.
Day Seven: Our last day of riding was pretty mellow. We started our day at the rim of the dormant volcano Irazu, riding the smoothest trail of the trip until we re-entered civilization. We then weaved our way through back roads and single track until arriving for the final time at our shuttle truck. We returned to the hotel where we started our adventure and proceeded to dismantle our bikes. As it was my Jackrabbits birthday the following day and I had planned a surprise adventure (not on a bike) to celebrate, we spent the evening packing up and having a quiet meal at the hotel. Last Day: We finished our trip with a 5am start and a taxi ride to a nearby hotel to meet a tour bus, who then shuttled us across Costa Rica to spend the day White water rafting. After a week of riding Downhill bikes it was a nice change of pace! The fact that it was almost 30 degrees and that the water in the river was quite warm helped to make it an enjoyable experience. I feel like I should finish up by saying that I am someone who doesn’t tend to be a big fan of “group tour trips” and yet I thoroughly enjoyed this one, I suspect it in large part had to do with the small size of our group, the constant challenge I found on the trails and the amount of time we spent riding singletrack. It is a trip I would definitely recommend for those into their downhill adventures!