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).
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.
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):