Railway bridges – Costa Rican Caribbean

This post describes my first attempt to cycle la linea de tren from Siquirres to Limón on a fully loaded bike; crossing the bridges was an unnerving yet exhilarating experience.

After arriving from Turrialba in Santa Cruz I didn’t feel like losing more altitude so I  took an alternate route which climbed back up via Bonilla (again recommended by my biking friend Noel). It was great little detour.
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Lots of fun short steep ups and downs that curved in and out of the mountain; the occasional tiny little Costa Rican community undamaged by tourism.

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After Bonilla, the downhill started...it went on and on.

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And then rejoined 'La Ruta de Los Conquistadores' on this quiet paved section which had one last reasonably sized steep uphill before hitting Siquirres

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After camping out the back of a restaurant before Siquirres I continued following 'La Ruta' which starts becoming very interesting just before Siquirres

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It starts following this trainline...

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Bridge sections with perilous gaps between the railway slats.

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Some of the bridges are 100 metres long! (Best guess). This one just went on and on. Cycling wasn't possible and I had to carry my heavy bike.

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With the poor condition of the bridge, crossing with a fully loaded bike was VERY scary and more risky than I liked.

Some gaps were a metre wide and the drop to the river and rocks below was about 15 metres. My heart was in my mouth but turning round with my heavy bike may have increased the risk of falling. I was compelled to continue. Normally placing my foot carefully on the wooden slats, I occasionally  had to step onto the strut of actual the trainline since the gap was too big (where two slats were missing). Perhaps almost ok if you have no kit on your bike but an awkward 45 kg fully loaded bike: terrifying.

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After 15 minutes of highly adrenalised and painfully slow progress inching forward step by step placing each foot extremely carefully, I made it to the other side. I admit to feeling a little silly.  I had also seen a train on the line (they travel slowly up and down it every hour or so).  If it arrived whilst I was halfway across the bridge, God only knows what would happen (I was to find out a couple of weeks later when I returned! – future post). Presumably they repair it for the actual race, there were workman who were on the otherside about to start working on it.

This trainline route continued another 60km after Siquirres all the way to Limón. When I arrived in Siquirres, I stopped at the bike shop, I had a problem with my bottom bracket.  The guy working there told me there was a really bad problem with delinquency along the track and that I’d almost certainly be robbed if I continued.  He also said there were a lot more bridges. I decided it was too dangerous to continue on this route with a fully loaded bike ( I was less worried about the delinquency) so I joined the main highway in order to get to Limón.

This road was full of trucks and had a different set of risks. I wondered to myself which one was actually more dangerous statistically whilst I sweated along in the gruelling sun. Maybe the trainline in this case but only because of carrying all my gear over the perilous bridges.  People often direct me to busy highways since they assume they are safer than quiet back roads (‘ooh es muy solo, amigo’). But really it must better to be robbed than hit by a truck. One is your life, the other is your wallet. ‘Please people, stop directing me to roads with dangerous traffic!’, I thought to myself.

I had to spend an hour trying to get a cheap replacement tyre onto my oversized Rhyno Lite wheel rim. I bought the tyre 100 metres from where my tyre deflated in a random little store on the highway just after Siquirres. My old tyre had given me yet another puncture in the same place due to a hole that was created some X thousand kms before on the Great Divide route in the US. My fingers were virtually bleeding with the effort, sweat pouring down my nose as I lost a frustrating amount of time. I didn’t want to be on the road late; delinquency rates are higher on this side of Costa Rica (or so I was told).

Although a strong wheel rim and good for touring, the overly sized Rhyno Lite rim can be debilitating when changing a tyre. That combined with an undersized cheap $6 tyre in the hot sun is a recipe for madness and lots of swearing. Both tyre and rim were supposed to be 26 inches. Eventually it popped on and I cycled away fast and furious trying to make up lost time, southing myself with philosophical thoughts.

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My first time in the Caribbean!

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