I started the coast to coast traverse across Costa Rica with 6 other loco people and our guides. This basically involved us crossing the entirety of Costa Rica cycling and hiking (with a dash of rafting and kayaking for variety). To prepare before hand for this I did basically no cycling (except for a spot of training at the gym). But most weekends I could be caught hiking along the beach, or in the hills (mainly because I hate cycling). What was I thinking?! The majority of the 258k distance is cycling (like 170K!).
Costa Rica is a beautiful country in Central America which prides itself on its approach to taking care of their biodiversity. Which is to help bolster their main industries, tourism (the others being coffee and banana imports).
On the first day we did an ‘easy’ 24k cycle and 18k walk, starting out from the Pacific Coast, at Playa Quepos. It was a gentle introduction to get us over our jet lag and the extreme heat down here.
The first cycle took us quickly from tarmac roads, onto to rocky very stoney roads that would be the state of the majority of all roads we took.
We quickly broke into 2 groups, the faster paced group, and Silvia and I. Silvia is a beautiful woman I met from Barcelona, who is very patient with my awful Spanish! And we seemed to spend the entire time singing or listening to music during the entire trip. This kind of behavior isn’t conducive for others who wanted to commune with nature, but in Silvia’s words we had mucho fiesta! After walking to the point I manage to hold 2 tiny swimming pools in my boots, we arrived at the local school in Naranjillo that we’d be calling home for the night.
The rain in the afternoon was so extreme we set our tents up in the school. The school was to be one of the more basic campsites we set up at through the trip. The food was simple but very tasty. Which was to be a fairly continuous repeat of meat, a carbohydrate and vegetables through the whole trip. Of which rice and beans could be found most nights (and occasionally in the morning too), as this is the national stable food in Costa Rica. The night sky appeared promptly at 5-30pm, the few stars covered in grey, purple mottled clouds. Everyone crashed out fairly early (before 8pm) which would be a recurring factor most nights.
Day 2 was spent hiking 13k along side the coffee fields, followed by a simpler bike 13k down hill.
Once we started the walk we entered wide paths alongside large coffee fields. Where the plants were at the beginning of showing their green beans, with the occasional bean turning a deep ruby red. Vultures punctuated the sky, with workers spraying pesticides and fertilisers from large canisters onto the crops.
The occasional truck drove past over crowded with workers on the grey graveled road. Peeking into one parked 30 year old red truck with peeling paint I could see the foam completely disappeared from the seats, leaving giant steel springs for seats.
When our guide passed a mother and son eating lunch, he stopped and gave them our left over chocolate biscuits. I became very conscious that chocolate biscuits are so common, to be a normality to me. But here their faces lit up. Where a good days work will give them over $20, when it’s coffee season. But with that pay it would be unlikely to stretch to chocolate biscuits, to the level of normality they are in the western world.
The rest of the day was spent on a simple down hill cycle, ending at Santa Maria.
Day 3 was the hardest day cycling 45k, starting with a steep 14k hill with multiple switch backs. The hill was a busy tarmac road with trucks and lorry’s passing me (along with the rest of the group!). As I reached the top of the hill, clouds descended and the wind actively started to push me backwards. It became an endurance battle, as my energy reserves were none existence from the small snack I ate beforehand. This lead me to think a lot on that hill about resilience and what it was to do this type of challenge as a single woman. The couples in our group had the women and men split the natural tasks, with the men typically carrying everything. I didn’t have any of this, and it made me wonder when do you start asking for help from those around you. Something I naturally feel uncomfortable with, as it lead me to feel indebted to people. But after today I wondered if this was a useless habit. Either that or I need to find a slave, wait, sorry, man, yes sorry, a man, quickly.
After a much larger breakfast (which my body immediately rejected helpfully) we went down a stony road. Then onto some slightly harder up hill roads again. Before we hit the next main challenge of the day, down hill on clay pathways. With shaky legs after a near fall which left me bruised, I ended taking a slow walk down the majority of the hills, whilst the men and Silvia sped off into the distance.
The last challenge of the day was to cross a river, which I promptly fell sideways into laughing hysterically (which earned me a title of Mad Amy). We then went on a simple and fast pace tarmac road to the beautiful wooden homely cabins we were staying at in Orosi. Unknown to me at the time, this would prove to be our last day with WiFi connection, which threw me suddenly being out of touch with the world. And even worse..Matthew McConaughey had stayed here, and I wasn’t told till after wards. I am deeply scarred, as I could have very appropriately tried to sleep in the bed he’d had and try to sniff out what he’d smelt like…