Apparently, my face was a bright shade of red, and I was breathing hard. As the Manager of Rio Perdido Resort, in the jungle near Bagances, Costa Rica, Gustavo likely didn’t want me collapsing from a heart attack in the open-air dining area of the resort. I couldn’t blame him.
The exertion of the previous hour may have taken its toll on my face, but I was elated, not ill. I felt incredible. I had just finished a one-hour guided mountain bike ride at sunrise, along volcanic ridges, steep hills and red mud in the Costa Rican jungle. It wasn’t the beginner trail either, but an intermediate bike trail that I must have been crazy to agree to the day before. I had completed this ride – had lived the moment – and I was giddy with happiness, and relief.
Happiness because I had done something that I’d found incredibly difficult. Relief because I hadn’t fallen or broken anything critical, which I realized two minutes into the ride, was the only thing I really cared about.
I’ve done some fairly adventurous things in my adulthood – ziplining, whitewater rafting, ice climbing, winter camping – including during my three day, solo visit to Rio Perdido. But I’d never done real mountain biking before, and nothing had quite tested my physical limits in such a profound and humbling way.
The heat and humidity was stifling as we headed out of the main building at 6:30 AM, across the Canyon Bridge and up the Bike Park trail. I was ready to quit after the second hill climb. There was no way I was going to continue biking up these crazy hills, rutted from rainfall and pitted with volcanic rocks. I could not keep up with André, my young, 20-something, pro-rider guide, and it was an ego bruise.
I was ready to turn around and go back at the top of the hill I’d just climbed, until I looked back. There was no going down that hill to return to the main resort building. It was just too steep.
Whether I had to prove it to myself, a 46-year old mother of two teen boys, or to the trail itself, I realized that this bike ride wasn’t going to be about looking cool, or accomplished, or needing to impress the guide who was half my age. It was going to be about getting back to the resort in one piece, without a broken arm, leg, or worse. I had no choice but to continue.
So I hopped off the bike and walked the portions that I couldn’t ride with confidence, probably one-quarter of the route. I was going to finish this ride, but on my own terms, to hell with appearances. It was slow-going, but André was patient and supportive of me going at my own pace. As we biked along the beautiful dwarf jungle forest of Rio Perdido, he pointed out interesting flora and mentioned the local animals we might spot – fox, deer, coyotes and if we were lucky, a puma.
I began to relax and enjoy myself. We stopped at a natural spring where the water was bubbly and tasted like Pellegrino. As my confidence increased, the ride became easier and much more fun. I understood André’s obvious love of this intense sport, and appreciated the athleticism that’s needed to ride these trails at maximum speed, though it will never be something that I desire myself. My inner, competitive voice was finally at peace with that.
We crossed the Canyon Trail back to the resort in a small triumph. I was elated to be alive and in one piece, red face and all.
André congratulated me,
“See, Costa Rica is good for bikes!”
It’s good for people too.
Guest post by Claudia Laroye.
Claudia Laroye is a travel writer and blogger based in Vancouver, Canada. She is passionate about family travel and about educating children through the travel experience. Her blog – The Travelling Mom – offers a modern mom’s guide of ‘how to’ travel tips and information, as well as destination advice for the new or experienced traveller. She is the Curious Travel Mama for TravelMamas.com, and has written for BCAA Magazine, Vancouver Mom, Inside Vancouver, SavvySassyMom, and a variety of online and print publications.Visit The Travelling Mom’s profile on Pinterest.
You can follow Claudia on Twitter @travelling_mom, and Instagram @thetravellingmom, and find her also on Pinterest and Facebook.
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