Our longest bicycle tour was three months from June through August and had a lot to do with our decision to try to make a good map of Costa Rica. We were lost more often than not and the detour we took the first time we tried to visit Bijagua and the Tenorio, Miravalles, Celeste Region was a doozy.
The road from Muelle San Carlos north to Los Chiles rolls up and over about 200 little hills that must all be exactly 200 feet high because they’re just small enough not to show up on the 100 meter (330 ft) contours of the best topographical map we could get our hands on. After 76 km they added up to about 10,000 feet of elevation gain.
Even though the road was “paved” it was more potholes than asphalt and was washed out at the bottom of each hill. That meant no momentum heading up the other side. After slowing to a crawl to navigate the rocks, sand and crevasses in each dip we just stood up on our pedals and started the grind up the next hill.
And there was a head wind.
There is a point to all this whining. The point is we were tired of hills so we asked around at dinner to get some local info about our planned route for the following day. We planned to ride to the municipal dock and charter a boat to take us south up the Río Frío 25 km to Caño Negro Village where we could disembark and head west towards Bijagua across what looked to be featureless plains on our topo map.
We met a talkative Tico who everyone called “Chino” because of his Asian heritage (political correctness was an alien concept 25 years ago in the back of the beyond near the Nicaraguan border). He told us the wildlife along the river was amazing and assured us he’d driven the road on the other side hundreds of times in his Land Cruiser and although it was unpaved it was “totalamente plano” – completely flat.
He Lied. The boat ride along the Río Frío and through Caño Negro was everything he promised but I guess what looks like a hill to the driver of a Land Cruiser and what looks like a hill to a couple of exhausted cyclists with 30 pounds of gear in their panniers are two completely different things.
We rolled up and down hills for a couple of hours until we hit pavement again. The only paved road within 50 km shown on our map was Route 6 to Bijagua so we confidently turned south and started flying along the best asphalt we’d ever seen in Costa Rica.
We should have suspected something because the road was too good to be true and sure enough when we stopped after 25 km at the first sign of civilization – a little roadside soda – to ask how far it was to Bijagua we were totally confused by the answer. We expected another 5 or 6 km but the man behind the counter insisted it was about 70 km. Not only that he gestured back the way we had just come.
After much head scratching and map pointing we figured out that this was not Route 6 south to Bijagua but the brand new Route 4 south to San Rafael Guatuso. To get to Bijagua we’d have to ride back to where we hit pavement, continue west on the gravel road another 8 km and catch Route 4 south.
To make a long story short we were just too tired. As amazing as we’d heard that Bijagua, Tenorio Volcano National Park and especially the mysterious blue waterfall on the Río Celeste were we road the last 5 km into Guatuso instead and spent a delightful night in a little room for rent above the town ice cream shop.
We never did make it to Bijagua on that trip but have been there numerous times since and we now make a few maps to show others the way.
Free printable map of Bijagua, Tenorio Celeste and how to get there
Free printable road map of the whole country also available >> Costa Rica Map
And the one we sell >> Waterproof Travel Map of Costa Rica.