Ruta de los Conquistadores – Volcán Irazú and Turrialba

Searching out decent back road routes can be exciting and adventurous but often the quality of the route can be unknown.  While that can be part of the fun, when a route has been carefully mapped out and used for a race that proclaims itself as ‘one of the toughest mountain bike races in the world’ you know you’re in some interested riding.  Every year, from Jaco to Limon, Atlantic to Pacific, riders battle out a tough three to four day race across Costa Rica’s challenging dividing range on dirt  roads winding up and down steep and diverse terrain in a variety of climates due to significant changes in altitude. On my way to Poas from La fortuna I met two Costa Rican tourers coming the other way who introduced me to ‘Ruta de Los Conquistadores’ and later sent me the gps route  (thanks Noel!). Unfortunately, I was already halfway across Costa Rica but decided to join halfway at Tres Rios just after San Jose.

I wasn’t disappointed. (Links for full route at bottom of this post).

image

image

Starting off in Tres Rios...

image

It starts off paved...

image

image

image

image

...and turns into this.

image

image

...and this. I had to push my loaded beast here.

image

Within the race, this famous stretch of hill is ...err... famous; very hard to not put your foot down. On a fully loaded bike = harder.

image

It then turns paved for a period

image

Before turning to dirt again and relentlessly climbing.

image

image

After a tedious flat tyre I lost time and night fell. It was time to pitch the tent out the back of a restaurant. What a day of climbing; I wasn't even at the top!

image

In fact the 2010 route didn't go all the way to the top, but I did (3432 metres high).

Irazú was the only national park that I managed to bargain my way in for local’s price. Normally they charge several times as much for a foreigner. I don’t really mind this too much but it seems unfair a bicycle should pay the same as a car. Especially as protection of the environment is the theme for charging in national parks and that’s kind of what it’s supposed to be about. This time they saw the bicycle rationale and discounted the fee.

On reaching the top I found a firm no entry sign to a lower micro peak with the view of San Jose where the antennae are. From the normal peak I couldn’t see the capital and, after sweating uphill for so many hours on this huge volcano, (2000 metre change in altitude), I felt compelled to ride past the sign and see what was there; so I did. After a few hundred metres I had a mediocre view of San Jose mostly covered by cloud.  Heading back to the ‘permitted touristy area’ I suddenly found myself being tailed. I feigned ignorance and the angry official let me stay in the park after a firm warning. Still, I was happy to have gone over there, it felt liberating for some reason.

image

The main craters and the active Volcán Turrialba on the horizon.

image

It was now time for some fast downhill which started off paved before I took the turning left to Volcán Turrialba and this glorious track overlooking the clouds and valleys

image

image

image

After the immense slog up Volcán Irazú, this downhill was fast, fun and beautiful.

image

image

image

image

Then this beast came into view. Unfortunately, climbing it was not permitted due to recent volcanic activity. Sometimes I would ignore this and find a way but I had a lot of miles ahead of me...

image

image

Amazing to be here; the vegetation and colours were so rich and diverse

image

A closer view of Turrialba. This route dipped into the saddle of both volcanoes before heading on down.

image

These geese wanted to eat me; defending their farm.

image

The route then climbs for a bit around the side of Turrialba

image

image

It turns into a LONG decent right down to the town of Turrialba. Starting off very rocky and only just rideable on a heavily loaded bike.

image

image

image

I pulled off the Ruta de Los Conquistadores until Siquirres at Santa Cruz, I had another route in mind… (next post)

GPS route for Ruta de los Conquistadores 2010 (from Jacó, Pacific to Limón, Caribbean across Costa Rica):
Day 1:
http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=913488
Day 2:
http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=913488
Day 3:
http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=913505
Day 4:
http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=913513

4 thoughts on “Ruta de los Conquistadores – Volcán Irazú and Turrialba

  1. Nicolas. You did a very hard and spectacular trip in my country, that is something really hard to accomplish and respectfull, the images are very nice and they talk by themselves. It seems to be that you were completly alone which makes it more challenger and dangerous too. Right now the Turrialba volcano has been releasing freatic material and ash so it was turned risky. The road from Siquirres to Turrialba city has a pronounced slope which is used to some international competitions here.

Leave a Reply to hamish Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *