Walkabout: Travel Life and Photographs

Fila Cementario de las Maquinas

April 24, 2007

After hiking 8 miles on the beach every night for a week, I thought it would be a good idea to escape to the mountains and climb the tallest peak of Costa Rica. The trailhead is located in the rural town of San Gerardo de Rivas. The bus ride out there was a bumpy one on a steep, dirt road. As soon as we got off in the small town of San Gerardo Andy said, “Rach, what have you gotten us into.” That was just the beginning of a big adventure. We stayed at The Descanso hotel that is run by a very nice Tico and his family. The day before we rested and did some hiking in the Cloud Bridge Reserve before the hike up Chirripo. The next day we left at 5am for the initial 14 kilometers to the hostel located 5.5 kilometers from the summit. The hike was steep and muddy and winded through a luscious rainforest. Above tree line the scenery changed to more of a desert with small plants and tons of lizards. We made it to the hostel around 1. We were tired from the climb with our packs full of ramen and our heavy, but extremely important Nutella and snickers. The hostel sits at about 11,000 feet, can sleep up to 60 people, has running water and is nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. Awaking at 3am, we left the camp and headed to the summit to catch the sunrise. Walking in the cold and darkness with one headl amp was a challenge and maybe the low point of the hike. The signs were not well marked and both of us had the feeling that we were lost. We climbed a ridge and looked into a valley and saw some lakes and then Chirripo looming in the background. Daybreak was upon us as we started the ascent. Not wanting to miss the sunrise I tried to push it only to become severely out of breath and therefore almost crawling up the mountain. We made it though and saw both the Atlantic and Pacific shorelines and the sun came up. The view was phenomenal…this was the high point and made the whole trip worth it. 5.5 kilometers back to the hostel, we packed the rest of our stuff and started back down the mountain. Every kilometer is marked with a sign that has given that section of trail a name. One  odd name is Fila Cementario de las Maquinas, translation: The Machines Cemetery Ridge. There were no machines to be seen. Other names were Ba rbas Viejo: Old Man’s Beard that was a very calm section of trail with plenty of singing birds. While hiking we calculated that by the end of the two days we will have hiked 25 miles! Once we hit Kilometer 0, we were tired and limping from the downhill grind. Our trip wasn’t over. We had to walk another mile to our hotel, stopping along the way for ice cream and juice. To sooth our aching legs and feet we ventured out that afternoon to some nearby hot springs. It was also a steep hike to the springs, but was well worth it. The next morning we left for the Pacific coast where we are now. We had the idea to head to the beach to take it easy, but we will see how long that lasts.