Day 1 – March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day)
Total – 40.3 km (25 miles), 504 meters (1,654 ft) elevation gain.
Mountain bike – Puerto Viejo to Suretka 29.6 km (18.4 miles), 447 meters (1,467 ft) elevation gain.
Boat – Suretka (Rio Telire) to Lari 6.1 km (3.8 miles), 5 meters (16 ft) elevation gain.
Hiking – Rio Lari to Coroma 4.6 km (2.9 miles), 52 meters (171 ft) elevation gain.
The Multi-Sport Tour
We got up early, waded out into the cool grey Caribbean Sea to make the first “coast” official then did a little last minute rearranging before tossing our packs in a truck. It would follow us to the end of the road and take the mountain bikes back to the outfitter we rented them from.
It was almost anticlimactic starting out on a paved road past the boutique hotels of Puerto Viejo. We could have just driven to the start of the trail but when I conjured up this scheme I’d started with the idea of walking coast to coast. The only thing that sounded less adventurous than mountain biking the road was walking it. I shifted my expectations from hiking the whole way to self-propelled the whole way but I wasn’t about to drive any part of the coast-to-coast.
The first day was a relatively easy one traveling by mountain bike from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the Caribbean coast to the end of the road on the banks of the Río Telire at the Bri-Bri village of Suretka. When the road ended we loaded into a dugout canoe for the only motorized segment of our journey across the Río Telire to where we could enter the Río Lari, cross it and pick up the trail to Coroma.
The last short segment on day one was on foot to the Bri-Bri village of Coroma where we set up camp in the front yard of our head porter.
I should apologize in advance to the guides and porters because although we did hear their names when we first met them they were Bribri and twisted our tongues into knots. They had similar difficulties with ours. Most of the time there was no one else around so we didn’t need to call out names. You simply walk up to someone and start talking.
In the stories of our trek I refer to them with the nicknames we used on the trail – “the guide” (the head porter with all the different rock band t-shirts. No one else had a clean shirt the whole time but I swear he had a new one on every morning), “porter number 6” (so named because we’d originally planed for five but the packs seemed unfairly heavy so we hired an extra) and of course “El Machete” for our machete wielding “baqueano” (indigenous guide) who led the way.
We never learned the meanings of nicknames they used for us.
Camp in Coroma was very comfortable – front yard, grass, dinner was stewed chicken, black beans and rice prepared by our hostess.
They were celebrating something in the community. Could have been St. Patrick’s day but it could have been something completely different. The language barrier (BriBri, we had fluent Spanish speakers) made it impossible to determine for sure. What was certain was that they definitely wanted us to share in the Chiche (corn beer) they had brewed up in an old oil barrel.
We had a few sips to be polite but the last thing we wanted on the first day of the big hike was a homemade hooch hangover.
Photo Gallery Day 1 – Puerto Viejo to Coroma
Each of the images below is linked to a larger version with a detailed description