Costa Rica has rouged, mountainous, extended lands, that makes it slow to travel around because roads are built to meander along every hill, mountain and river, making short distances longer than they should be. Road-tripping along costarican roads is a wonderful experience, absorbing all of its constant changing landscapes, getting lost in towns and villages, trying out their local food, greeting its friendly folklore.
There is a feeling of emptiness in your body when you are driving, a trepidation and anxiety to arrive to your destination, quickly, you start to feel that void filling in with a cozy fondness with every mile you devour, it is the desire for freedom kicking in.
Driving through a lot of costarican “unknown” dirt roads as far as your car can reach; open windows, warm or even better; cold breeze whirling inside the car’s cabin, gives you a better feeling of what the environment along the road is like; but every time, along these road-trips you must wonder what’s beyond the side of the road. Sometimes the abundance of trees and plants cover the views leaving you with a desire to stop and roam through the undergrowth and thick vegetation.
To reach out and explore more of this addictive “call” of wonder, one needs to get into the adrenaline rush and take it off-road on a different approach; get high on picturesque peaks, challenging your physical consciousness to connect with your unconscious biases, influencing your body to new behaviors, learning how to better communicate with your body. Taking the off beaten path can take you to spectacular inspiration and the best way to experience this is through mountain biking.
Costa Rica has an extensive terrain with all kinds of mountain bike routes for the recreational and the most hardcore bikers, after all, Costa Rica has the “Ruta de los Conquistadores” – “Costa Rica’s premier mountain bike race and one of the most difficult athletic events on the planet.” I recently did a quest, a trip to “memory lane”, getting back on my old mountain bike through some old routes I used to get lost. Muscles never forget, I got back the feeling of lactic acid streaming through your leg muscles, almost a masochist sensation that makes you keep pedaling on an inertia cycle that unconsciously moves your body without even thinking about it.
First thing you need to know if you’re new in the country, is that we only have dry and rainy seasons, but it really doesn’t matter which condition we are in, costarican micro-climates don’t have any respect for you or your plans and that’s the exciting part of it; costarican weather is constantly changing, no matter where you are and the thrilling part is that you will be able to cross ways with different kinds of vegetation as you bike up a hill or a mountain, in just short distances, you will feel a change in temperature and thus plants, trees, terrain and wildlife will metamorphose up and down during the ride, so, embrace the weather and enjoy the exercise.
Jungles, mountains, green valleys, low and high forests…lakes. All of them are colorful landscapes with challenging terrains and demanding climbs that will reward you with scenic villages. Most of these available routes were old roads that connected cities and they still usually are kept by few as circuit routes for delivering, selling or collecting goods; so you’ll probably get acquainted with the old fashioned “Tico”; the “campesino” (farmer), milkmen, ranchers and few more characters that give Costa Rica that unique friendly and welcoming spirit as they wave you hello when you pass them by. You might encounter some traffic along the way; colorful oxcarts and joyful horsemen usually transit the dusty rugged trails; time stops along these tracks and most of them will occasionally greet you with the smell of burning wood, meaning there is a “Soda” nearby (small typical restaurant) where you can quickly stop to get a snack or a big meal cooked on old iron stoves to re-fuel, re-charge and continue the quiet dirt roads.
Downhill your way through loamy ridges and rocky turns where the “vistas” open up to staggering geomorphic features all in the same view. Pedaling through nature surely awakens something in you; it connects your mind and body with nature, cleans up your head of any problem or stress you’ve had and makes you focus through stamina, a vigor that drives you out of your comfort zone, making you gain confidence in yourself. There is a moment while biking when you start to feel superhuman; beating a challenge, any obstacle in the way becomes a goal to conquer. You will start to look at your surroundings in a different way and that’s when you’ve started to elevate your connection with nature, a high on inspiration through the scenery.
Live in the moment, your high heart rate will only make you feel more alive, breath in deeply the environment you’re in, sharpen your senses at the point where all your strength decides to give in…stop…feast your eyes, your whole body dissolves; as everything disappears, you’re starting to live the present in relief and gratitude. Mountain Biking reminds you that going through any forceful effort and discomfort has its rewards. The best moments in life are usually after you’ve gone through some difficult ones and that’s just part of the human experience. The important part is that any experience in life is a hill, a lake, a valley or a mountain to conquer; a hard one or a joyful one, just enjoy the ride.
Story & Photos by Juancho Otalvaro