MTB in the Shadows of La Ruta

Thirty minutes into my ride, I met up with a local mtber who informed me that I was climbing up a road that, depending on the year, is a downhill into Turrialba at the end of stage 3 for La Ruta de Los Conquistadores, better known as La Ruta in much of the world outside of Costa Rica.  He took a look at the map a friend drew of a big loop for me to ride, and commented that I’d be climbing a lot.

Volcan Turrialba was not visible, hiding somewhere up in the clouds on an overcast day.  I had no intention of climbing that far, especially considering that to drop into the granny gear of the bike that I was borrowing, I had to unclip and guide the chain into the small ring with my foot while pedaling.

I arrived at the first intersection on the map and stopped at a little restaurant.  They had “chan,” a drink made from the seeds of a local plant. The seeds become gelatinous after a few hours in water, and impart a minty flavor.  They add some sugar, the result being a refreshing glass of hydration.

Un Vaso de Chan

I continued on, passing by Guayabo National Monument, an archeological site.  Not long after, the road became rockier and wetter, making for some slow going.  People wished me well, and offer greetings of “Adios,” a way of saying Hello in much of rural Central America.  The first time I heard it on this ride, I was transported back to Hondo, the thoughts of my time there put a big smile on my face.

The climbing continued.  At one point, a pack of mad, snarled, little, yip-yip dogs, as I call them, surrounded me.  I got off the bike and put it between me and the dogs.  They were relentless.  Suddenly into my brain popped a memory from Hondo, “make like you’re gonna pick up a rock to throw at them.”  The second I bent over, they took off running back down the road without a bark.

Turrialba is Famous for its Cheese

An hour and a half of climbing had ended, and I was rolling my way through villages with some steep, short descents followed by a few quick uphills.  I made the left turn on my map and began the long descent back into town, dropping somewhere around 500 meters in about 20 minutes on a steep, winding rocky country road that turned to pavement.  Near the end, I stopped for one of my favorite little snacks in these parts:  a Coke made with raw sugar (versus high fructose corn syrup) and a bag of platano chips.

Gotta Love the Pulperias

A couple more turns and I was following the old train line back to a friend’s house.  We had plans for making chocolate by toasting the beans grown on their organic farm and processing them into pure liquid 100% chocolate.

The chocolate was an earthy-flavored dream.  We poured it over tree-ripened bananas and drizzled some sweetened condensed milk on top.  In the evening we went around the corner to the local “chicharronerra” for some flame-cooked pork that was salty, crispy, crunchy on the outside and tender, juicy on the inside.

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