The International Writers Magazine: Adventure Cycling in Costa
From Our Archives:
by the Rainforest
a fresh new asphalt road. Add warm rain, thick mist, and sidelines
of flowers so colorful and fragrant that your senses are stuck on
the invitation to move forward and explore. Youre in the jungle.
The road knows no flat, unless you count the bridges that brace
the traveler from rivers. The sinews of this mountain twist up and
turn down, like riding up the back of a sleeping Giant.
This is Costa Rica,
where I am riding a bicycle 800 kilometers through primeval rainforest
that is a dazzlingly fierce green. The main event is rain, and Im
here at the beginning of the rainy season (typically running May through
November) to really take it in. A staggering five meters of rainfall
drops annually in the mountains, which nourishes a packed house. Crowded
along the roadside are leaves as large as elephant ears, trees and vines
tower over the asphalt, and every mile brings me through constantly
evolving bird and insect song.
|Im here to shed some of my own spoiled nature. To enter the forest
on the same uninhibited level as the creatures that live here, and hopefully
get to know these wildthings. Residents include the very majestic quetzal,
sloth, jaguar, tapir, and armadillo, not to mention toucans, turtles,
and mammoth blue morpho butterflies.
To understand what their habitat
is like, I expose myself to it completely, with no protection save a
warm place to sleep. I become a part of their world. Yet to do this,
I have to be quieter than a tourist bus, and smell a lot friendlier.
I carry a Gatorade bottle and I ride a front-suspension mountain bike
with forty pounds of waterproofed gear on the back end. I ride all day
long, from sun up to sundown and explore the jungle quietly road by
road. Hill by hill. Drop by drop.
Each and every day of my three week journey, it rains. As faithfully
as a nursing mother, big, hefty drops, plummet down from the sky, chasing
every living creature into a quiet meditative whir. The animals hide
mostly, except for the frogs, who hop all over the inner reaches of
the forest. Few roads wind among the cloud forest, lowland jungle, active
volcanoes and beaches of this magnificent country.
||Raindrops knock down my back, falling into thick rivulets that flow
along my hips and follow my legs to a continuous stream of water flying
off of my knees. Water falls and falls and falls until it starts to
bring the earth with it. Two inches of water moves steadily over the
road, and shotgun rivers appear and rush across the path, testing my
sense of balance.
This brings me to a very serious difference between me and the frogs
that I am so intently living parallel to: they are cold-blooded, and
dont mind a refreshing rainfall. Yet even though the water falling
outside is not much different from my body temperature inside, I am
warm-blooded, so I must thermoregulate (control my temperature) actively.
I have to ride harder and faster to keep my body at the exact right
Photo: Jaco Beach
Every time I stop (to chew on some papaya or check my brakes),
my muscles fall silent, my heat generation stops as well, and I start
to feel cold- it slips from my extremities inward, and a dull slowness
with it. All told, I know what it feels like to be a frog, drenched,
sticky, and cool. But I dont dare stop riding.
So I continue. I grip my toes into my shoes, which are locked in pedals
and churn with all my might, letting my frame settle into the comforting
splashy wiz of riding.
One fine rainy morning I wake up in the surf town Jaco. I take a semi-famous
local ride up eight kilometers of gravel to a giant waterfall. As I
make it to the top, I have the shock of a lifetime. Four local teenage
boys, on randomly assorted dredged up bicycles, are lined up at the
top, waiting to race me down. This is local mujeres, ready for the ultimate
rainy day action. The littlest boy has no brakes on his bike, yet he
sits on it proudly, as if it were a red sports car. Soaked and grinning,
we start yipping to commence the race downhill. My perfectly fitting
gear cant do a thing for me-these guys know this mountain road
and ride like professionals. The littlest one is the best jocky. He
descends into top speed in total freefall for 30 meters or so and then
peels his back tire around to slow up, intermittently ripping a bellowing
sound through the rain. Following downhill, gravity takes us to an unweighted,
all-knowing place. A Baptism of togetherness with the rainforest. Ive
learned to love the feeling of being in the elements, what the beloved
rainforest creatures experience their whole lives.
© Marcie Pullman
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