***USUAL WARNING – I AM VERY TIRED SO PLEASE EXCUSE SPELLING AND GRAMMATICAL ERRORS!***
Today was the London Marathon and while 38,000 people were pounding the streets back home I thought it would only be fitting if I did at least 42km here in Costa Rica.
This morning I was in Liberia and after a normal breakfast of porridge and jam, peach tea and a protein shake I got ready to hit the road. My target for today was a town called Canas 48km away. 25km in was a town called Bagaces and would be my lunch spot.
Those starting the marathon would be surrounded be thousands if not millions of well-wishers, I was alone… but not for long! As I got ready to start I bumped into a French cyclist and had a nice chat with him. A car then pulled up alongside me and asked if I was a friend of Rich Villiers (the only person I know in Costa Rica). They were friends of his and had heard about what I was doing. A few km later a car pulled over and a lovely lady with two young chaps jumped out and gave be two bottles of frozen water (one of the best things I can be given!). When they turned around and headed back to town I realised they must have made the journey just to see me which filled me with a positive vibe that helped drive me on.
The run today was mostly flat. The road was under construction the whole way which worked out well for me as one side of the dual carriageway was out of use and allowed me to run without worrying about cars. On the right of the road the land was flat a far as the eye could see and was mostly farm land. On the left the flat land stretched to the bottom of a series of volcanoes. In between were amazing trees that looked so perfect that they appeared unreal. Other trees had beautiful peach and purple flowers and mingled between palm trees.
When I got to about 22kms I saw a sign to a waterfall. It suggested that it was a mere 800m away so I decided to leave the flat highway and detour down the rugged dirt track. The sign was deceptive as the 800m was to the gate to the waterfall park which pointed to a further km of even rougher track. Undeterred I manoeuvred my stroller past all the obstacles constantly wondering how much further I had to go with the heat of the midday sun beating down on my back and without the breeze you benefit from on the roads.
I finally arrived at the car park and quickly realised that to get to the actual waterfall I would have to leave my fully loaded stroller. I found the security guard and arrange that for a couple of dollars he would look after my stuff. I transferred my essentials (passport, money, MasterCard and electronics) into my Overboard dry bag and headed off down the track into the woods. You know you are close as families sit in groups with coolers full of drinks and the shouts of children can be heard over the sound of cascading water. When the waterfall comes into view it all seems worthwhile. It is the kind of waterfall you dream of or imagine would be in a music video. The water evenly flows over the rocks above and descends like a curtain into a beautiful pool below. Despite the hundreds of local people enjoying the oasis it doesn’t feel crowded. I clambered over the rocks and between the trees and stripped down to my shorts. The water was so refreshing and cool as I swam over to where the water was falling. Over the last months I have become accustomed to showers with no pressure of just a pipe poking out of the wall. As the water pounded on my head I knew this was going to be the best shower I would have for a long time.
Conscious I had left my stroller in a public car park and that I had about 30km still to cover I headed back. As I was leaving I bumped into a lovely family who were taking a year to travel with their young children. Bizarrely the wife knew who I was because she had seen a post I had left on Jamie Oliver’s Instagram page.
Once back on the main road I ran the next 5 km to Bagaces where I managed to find a small restaurant for lunch. If I was in the UK it would be equivalent to a fish and chip shop or a kebab house. The food however was surprisingly tasty if not remotely healthy.
About 5km further down the road I got talking to a surfer who pulled over in a cool jeep. We talked about my expedition while I nibbled on a cookie he kindly gave me. He was an amazingly cool chap and explained to me the Costa Rican term Pura Vida. Literally it means Pure Life but it seems to be able to be used in nearly every conversational exchange. He then gave me an incredibly generous donation and I was back on the road.
About 5km further down the road I stopped at a fruit stand on the side of the road with watermelons, papaya and mangos piled high. I selected the best looking mango and the chap waved me away saying I deserved it for all the running I was doing.
My batteries started to fade so I found a nice tree, pulled out my knife, peeled and ate the mango and took forty winks!
At about 5pm I arrived in Canas and was pointed in the direction of El Pargue Hotel in the centre of town. For less than $13 I had a basic room in a rather eclectic establishment. Everything seems clean but instead of signs everywhere there is masking tape with scribbles detailing all you need to know. The hotel is run by a really sweet Chinese lady who has done everything to make me feel welcome, including allowing me to use the wheelchair lift to get my stroller upstairs – It now has its own room as it wouldn’t fit in mine. She has reassured me on numerous occasions that only we have access to that particular cupboard.
My first couple of days in Costa Rica have been really pleasant and while I miss the rustic atmosphere of Nicaragua, Honduras etc I am sure the generosity of the Costa Ricans will make this part of my adventure as special as all the other parts.