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The central plaza with the Cathedral

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Welcome, to our site! After living for some time in Israel and then in the UK we've now moved to Germany. We'd like to share our experiences with you. We hope you have as much fun reading as we have writing.

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March 2021
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GOOOOOOOO POCHO!!!!!!!!!!

The day after we arrived back in San Jose was all about the preparations for the POCHO. In the morning there was a meeting for the Dutch cyclists, to make sure everyone understood what was required of them, what to keep in mind and when to be where. That afternoon we went to choose our bicycles, which turned out to be cool orange mountain bikes. I loved mine instantly, but then, I’ve never had a mountain bike, probably only cycled on one once or twice, so they could have given me pretty much anything…if it would cycle I’d be happy :wink: Only thing I knew to check was whether or not saddle and handle bar where at a good height for me and whether or not the gears were working properly…I guess my spinning lessons are good for something after all! :wink:
That same evening we all gathered at a local jazz club, also owned by a Dutch guy, where we enjoyed some nice food and listened to some inspiring stories and speeches. I say inspiring, cause one of the speakers was a Belgian lady, who’d been struggling against cancer herself for a while, and who’d come to say goodbye to the country she’d fallen in love with (Costa Rica, of course), just in case she wouldn’t have a chance to do so later… The strength that shone through her story encouraged me (and I’m sure many others) to surpass myself cycling up that volcano the next day.
The reason this lady was one of the speakers, was because the POCHO is a cycling event aimed at collecting money for a cancer related good cause. The name is a combination of Poas and ocho, with Poas being the name of a volcano close to San Jose, and ocho Spanish for eight. Eight, because the idea is to cycle up the volcano eight times and get sponsored for doing so.
The cancer related good cause that was chosen for the POCHO was Funda Cancer. Funda Cancer is led by a couple who’s lost a daughter to cancer. They explained the organizing team of POCHO that one of the biggest problems in Costa Rica is that many people don’t have the money to come to the city to start or continue a treatment. Can you imagine that 25% of the cancer patients there dies because they can’t come to the hospital to be treated? A huge step toward solving this issue would be a Costa Rican version of our Ronald McDonald House. A place where patients, and where necessary even family can stay, ensuring they can finish treatments and have a better chance at gaining the upper hand in their fight against cancer.
The beautiful thing about the POCHO is that it’s based on a zero cost principle. Everything gets sponsored, done by volunteers, or donated. Some of you may have heard of Alpe d’Huzes, which is based on the same principles. Actually, it was one of the organizers of Alpe d’Huzes who started the idea of setting up a similar event in Costa Rica.
Because Alpe d’Huzes is a Dutch initiative, it was of course to be expected that at least part of the organizing team in Costa Rica would be Dutch too. And that’s where my friend Renée and her hubby to be, Ed came in. Together with some Costa Ricans and some other Dutchies in Costa Rica they organized the POCHO and scheduled it to take place a week before the wedding…yes seriously!
Of course the really nice thing about that timing was that a lot of the people travelling to Costa Rica for the wedding, made sure to be there in time for the POCHO. Most of them chose not to cycle, they just walked up and stayed at the top to cheer for the cyclists. But some others, like me :!: would actually take part. To ensure the threshold to participate wouldn’t be too high, it was decided that participants could either enlist as individuals, or as part of a group. Individuals were then given the choice to either cycle up only once, or as close to eight times as possible. Groups could choose to switch cyclist after every round, with the total number of times up the volcano adding up to eight too. Or they could cycle as a group, adding together the number of times up per cyclist as the total for the group.
To make sure there’d be enough time to actually cycle up eight times, the start would be at 6 in the morning. Most of the guests coming over for the wedding were staying at the same hotel in San Jose, from where it was a good hour drive to the Poas. So at 4am a little bus left from San Jose, filled with participants and supporters. The Poas is another one of those volcanoes with almost always clouds around the top, so when we arrived it felt like it drizzled a little. Luckily, by the time we were getting ready for the start the sun had started to come out…surely a good omen.
Many of the participants were quite experienced, or had at least done similar cycling tours before. I on the other hand (together with a few others) had hardly prepared at all. I’d just hoped my spinning would be enough to get me there (even though I hadn’t been doing much spinning lately :? ).
It turned out that people would get me there. Within seconds after the start signal I was one of the last cyclists. I managed to keep up with a few ladies, but after a few hundred meters it was just me and another one of Ed and Renée’s friends… Even one Dutch guy who’d decided to run instead of cycle up, decided after running along with me, that I was going too slow. :mrgreen: Together with my cycling buddy I’d cycle a few curves and then take a break to catch our breath. The thin and moist air makes it much harder to get some control over your breathing, so we felt we deserved it :wink: . While we were making our way up some late starters passed us and soon the first cyclists started to come back down for their next round. We’d cheer for everyone, causing somewhat confused looks on the Costa Rican faces the first time. But when they’d pass us the second or third time they’d join in the cheering!
In the meantime, Emanuël was walking the same stretch as the cyclists were battling, together with some other friends of Ed and Renée’s we’d met the previous days. At some point, probably around two-thirds up the volcano they actually managed to catch up with us! Of course that gave us another excuse for a break :D

I have to tell you, until you’ve been part of something like this, it’s hard to explain how amazing it is to be there, struggling up that mountain, having people around you cheer for you, people you know, but also people you don’t know. It’s exhilarating and humbling at the same time. And to know that everyone is there, not because there’s a price or fame to be won…but because we’re trying to make a point, trying to change the world even if it’s just a little bit…goose bumps time and again…

All in all it took my cycling buddy and me about two and a half hours to get to the top. At that point we could proudly say we’d cycled almost 10km, starting at a height of 1894m, ending at 2510m, which brings the average incline at almost 7%. But there were parts where the incline was actually closer to 15%!! Let me tell you, those parts are excruciating!! :wink:
After something fresh to drink, an energy bar and a banana, my adrenaline and exhilaration at making it there hadn’t diminished the least bit…so I decided to…wait for it…yes…GO AGAIN! My cycling buddy from the first round had already decided to first go and see the volcano crater, together with Emanuël and the group he walked up with. So there I went, on my own, all the way back down. And that’s when you really realize how far you’ve cycled…and how steep that mountain really is!! I had my breaks squeezed tight all the way down, even though apparently it was perfectly doable to go faster, judging by the speed at which some cyclists passed me by on their way down. But I guess I like my life a bit too much to risk cycling at up to 70 km per hour, possibly straight into oncoming traffic!
Once down I ate another banana, drank a little more…and prepared to make my way up for the second time. And again I was lucky, two young Dutch cyclists instantly joined me and together we got to the top in about one and a half hour! We took short, regular brakes, but far less than I did the first time up. By now the air was a lot dryer, so breathing got easier and somehow it helped that we knew what was coming.
At the top I discovered that Emanuël hadn’t yet returned from the crater, so together with 2 other (again) Dutch cyclists I continued on for about 10 minutes to the visitors center where we found everyone. Most of us instantly decided to walk back down and find a place to have lunch. I left my bike at the finish, where Renée would pick it up it for her trip back down and got in one of the buses that would bring us back to the starting point. There we found a lovely restaurant, with a view of the turning point (where cyclists would turn from coming down, to start back up again), so we’d be able to see some people cycling by.
Our timing turned out to be perfect, cause soon it was raining heavily. I was absolutely impressed to still see cyclists go up that volcano again and again regardless… We, however just sat there and had a very nice meal. By the time we were done the POCHO was finished as well and everybody had started to come back down. We all got in the bus that would bring us back to our hotel and started to look forward to showers and bed…
We joined most of the Dutch group later that evening in the restaurant across the street. It’s nice to sit at the other side of the world, with people you didn’t know until a few days ago and to feel as if you’re among old friends. But then, what would you expect after a day like that… :-)

The day has been so inspiring to me, that I’ve decided to see if a similar event can be set up in Germany in the area we now live in. Of course, I hardly know anybody here, don’t know about rules, regulations and laws, but I’m sure I’ll be able to find people who do know all that. My personal goal is to have a similar event here sometime in the autumn in 2013…I’ll keep you posted here on my progress (and doubtless on my frustrations too ;)) and of course I expect to see at least the majority of you at the resulting event, be it on a bike or as supporter!!

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