|Friday, 08 January 2010 13:27|
However, it really should be as it offers a diversity not found elsewhere, along with a freedom and friendliness sadly lacking in far more accessible locations, like Great Britain! Imagine waking up on the side of a volcano in the morning and riding up to the top to watch it bubble away and then bathing in a warm Pacific Ocean in the afternoon after a good days ride on some spectacular and challenging motorcycling roads.
Costa Rica is in South America and sits between Nicaragua and Panama and extends from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, a distance of barely 200 miles and its land portion occupies only 20 thousand square miles.
The formula is much the same as many other similar operations across the world. Fly in with just your crash helmet and favourite riding kit, (unless you are happy to use the kit provided), jump on the bike and follow your guide out. All you have to do is just enjoy yourself, the accommodation, food stops etc are all taken care of. When you have had enough, just pack your bags and go home.
You can do as many days as you like on a full organised tour of up to a week long, or you can do the odd day if you are in the area on holiday. Larry can accommodate virtually any request thanks to the flexibility of the now well established operation.
However, Larry has now realised that up to now the emphasis has been on the off-road side of things, which has maybe deterred road riders from experiencing the delights of Costa Rica.
So he has now purchased a fleet of KTM’s to go with the Honda’s and worked out a series of routes that will enable the road rider the chance to see some of the same scenery that they would get to view on the dirt bike tours without the sweat and requisite skill levels.
To find out about the whole operation, I packed a good book and spent a day flying into the capital San Jose and the base of the operation, less than half and hour from the airport. In an effort to fully assess the operation the idea was to spend three days on road and two off with a days white water rafting thrown in between.
One book down and a relatively timely flight saw Larry pick me up at the airport and take me to see the bikes and equipment store that resides below his house. After a good night’s sleep and a leisurely breakfast I met Pablo Fernandez one of Larry’s regular guides who was joining us for the weeks ride.
Just as the road ended totally, we turned into the Albergue Hacienda at Moravia de Chirripo a totally isolated and picturesque establishment right in the heart of Moravia Valley and in the middle of the Indian reservation. This is used as the overnight accommodation on some trips, but for us it was lunch.
It would have been easy to have just gone to sleep in the warm afternoon sun, but the mountain beckoned and we retraced some of our route as we headed back towards the central mountain range and towards our evening stop at the Turrialba Lodge on the side of the volcano by the same name.
The idea was to go straight to the top, but the temperature had dropped and the weather was closing in, so we went straight for the warmth of the lodge and an excellent home cooked meal. The morning saw the sun shining which made the ride to the top in the sulphur laden air a much more pleasant experience.
After descending the easy single track trails through old pine tree forests and cloud forests, it was onto visit the Irazu volcano a slightly more active one just along the range. After a coffee stop, it was a complete drop down into warmer temperatures on a tortuous route through the coffee plantations, towards the Pacific Ocean and our evening stop.
What was amazing was Larry’s almost ‘Sat Nav’ route finding ability when there were no signs or any indication as to where the next town or village was. All of a sudden there would be a small bar for a personal stop or a petrol station, just when you thought you could be running low.
Tarmac roads and hard packed trails continually swapped places and it was not unusual to find a large lorry coming towards you on what you might have believed was a small trail, indicating in fact it was a main road!
By the end of the day we had made the Best Western Hotel at Jaco Beach which is right on the beach abutting the Pacific. A quick dip soon refreshed us prior to a trip into town for a meal. This is the closest you actually get to any real tourist areas and on the off-road tour provides a free day to recuperate on the beach.
The following day saw us head along the coast before heading back towards base at San Jose on a mixture of tracks and roads. No matter where we were nobody seemed to take much notice of the bikes and when they did it was to give friendly wave. Stops were always at small cafes in villages where the service and food was excellent.
The Ticos, as Costa Ricans are commonly known, are famous for their hospitality, and are quite happy to live up to their reputation.
They are well-educated and hard working people, who are quick with a handshake and a smile to welcome you.
The mixture of roads and tracks make the KTM an ideal tool for the job with the long travel suspension dealing with the irregularities of the roads and tracks, providing a comfortable ride. When the roads do deteriorate such as on the side of the volcanoes the bikes take it all in their stride, and the big singles never get out of hand as would happen with some more potent machines.
At the end of the day the bikes were ideal, inspiring confidence and the going was well within the capabilities of any road based motorcyclist.
However, the following day was a day off white water rafting, one of the many activities that can be arranged as part of the deal to allow you to have a break from riding and give you a chance to try out something new.
So after a day cooling in the river it was a change of machine to the Honda XR400 and a chance to experience some of the proper trails and tracks that cross the whole landmass.
In fact we were onto the first of these within a mile of Larry’s base, which took us quickly up into the hills and on towards the coffee plantations. Climbs seemed to zig-zag vertically in very short spaces, climbing hundreds of feet in a matter of minutes.
It also became clear that while there were some pretty standard, level trails, there were plenty of tracks that provide good training for those wanting to raise their standard of riding or practice for an ISDE. Certainly Larry and Pablo are up to the task of guiding up to those levels as well as keeping the pace as hot as any client may want!
After a day playing in the hills, the evening stop was at the Altavista, a hotel like complex on a mountain range to the south, which has views across to San Jose and the central range of mountains beyond. It must be said that dinner in the panoramic restaurant at night has to be experienced to be believed. Stunning!
After a leisurely breakfast it was more riding through the trails in a circuitous route on the way back to base. Given the terrain I must agree the Honda is probably one of the best bikes for the job, especially given the large number of riders of all standards that use it.
So in a week I had managed to experience the entire Motoadventures package, stayed at all of their range of accommodation and enjoyed their hospitality. Can I fault it? Well, the answer is easy, No!
Service, machine standards, routes accommodation is all first class. All tour riders are top notch and capable of running with the best as well as nursing novices along and there are no language problems.
In fact try as I might apart from the time taken travelling and the costs (outside their control) I really can find nothing to criticise.
What I would suggest is that you consider adding on a beach holiday at the end in one of the more touristy areas to make the long haul worthwhile, or do another week. Larry has so many routes you will never get bored!What ever options you chose David Grist at HC Travel (the UK agent) can take care of all your travel requirements. www.hctravel.com
Article by Ian Kerr