Damn, I am pooped. It’s a good exhaustion though, the kind of jam-packed activity kind of day that you are thankful for but can’t wait to jump in bed and recuperate.
My sleep was MUCH better last night. It didn’t rain much except for a couple drizzly patches that passed through, so the infamously named bugs I spoke of in my last post were notably absent. I also made a calculated decision to take a cool shower before going to bed so I didn’t have to slide under the sheets already feeling sticky. I didn’t even have to do the foot-pulled-out-and-laying-on-top-of-the-covers-move to regulate my temperature. I even…get ready…had to pull up the comforter at some points to keep warm.
I did, however, wake up with a peculiar zig-zag line of red bumps going up one leg with a couple other small bites on the other leg. These were decidedly not mosquito bites. They didn’t itch but peaked my curiosity. When I asked one of the guides, he quickly identified them as ant bites and thought that maybe one got me last night. He even showed me his battle scars from his war with the ants as well. If he wasn’t concerned, than neither was I.
We met for breakfast earlier than usual so we could get a head start on a long hike. Luckily the staff made us scrambled eggs with onions and fresh cheese, chicken empanadas and red beans and rice – total fuel for what was to come. Now about a 1/3 of the group decided not to go and for good reason – they had heard about an all up-hill hike and frankly, had enough of the hikes and heat. Not me, though. “When in Costa Rica…” I thought to myself. There was promise of a glorious waterfall at the end and so I became a sucker.
Now, the guides had told us that the hike was about as hard as the first hike, but in a different way. The majority of the hike was not in the rainforest, but rather on roads ’til we got in the forest that connects to the trail down to the falls. So, here I thought: okay, no creeks to traverse, logs to climb over or straight mud walls to pull yourself up. However, I clearly did not pay enough attention to the ”uphill” part – it was literally a very steep 1.5 mile climb upwards. Of course I had to take my camera with me - if I was going to trek to see a waterfall, I’d be damned if I didn’t document it with photos. I also had my 2 bottles of water and even a third for a friend that asked me to carry theirs since they had no backpack (“and, that’s my fault why?” I soon thought afterward). Every bit of weight on our backs, I soon learned, was going to make a very big difference.
Let me be frank. This hike KICKED MY ASS. I hated every second of it. I was cursing my decision to even attempt it. Not to mention that the 2 guides up front were college interns that have been here a couple months, run uphill every morning for their sunrise run and take this trip at least once a week. It was quite demoralizing at times – we’d get to the seemingly top of a hill, only to realize it was the just the base to another steep climb; every corner we turned opened up another straight shot up to the sky, or so it seemed. Very quickly there became a divisive line between the men with egos, trying to outdo each other or prove their machismo to either themselves or others and the women in the back, faces turning beet red with the humidity and sun beaming down on top of us as we climbed up the tortuous hill and wondered aloud what the hell we were thinking. We had a female guide bringing up the rear, but she had only been interning on the farm for a little over a week and was unsure of the correct path. We got lost for about a 1/2 mile, which doesn’t sound like much, but we were utterly exhausted and so tired of the hike already. But alas, we got back on track, muttered a few more expletives under our breath and took stops to catch our breath. I didn’t take many pictures during the uphill portion, as you can imagine, as I was just trying to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. At one point, with my hands on my knees, gasping for breath, the sweet guide asked if I was glad I came on the hike – a really bad time to ask that rhetorical question - to which I quickly shook my head no…but I knew that I wasn’t gonna quit, that no matter how painful it was, I was going to forge ahead, although I did often think to myself, that the damn waterfall had better be worth it!
Finally we make the turning point to the trailhead which leads into the forest. I can hear the waterfall, so I’m thinking we’re just about there. Nope, now we get to replicate the hike from day one, holding onto tree vines for dear life as we try to get steady footing in the thick mud and slippery, wet leaves, not to mention a very steep incline down. I was happy to be going down, but we had to work at it. We got to one point where it was a sheer drop down of about 15-20 feet of rocks that we needed to use a rope to belay our way down.
We could see pools of water through the trees below us and knew we were close…we continued on another 300 slippery feet ahead and finally, it opened up to an oasis, just as magnificent as I could have ever expected. It wasn’t just a waterfall but a giant pool of water to swim in and the rest of the gorge had mini streams of water falling from above…all around us. It was better than I could have imagined. I wasted no time to dive in and get my core body temp down, and it took no time as the water was only about 65 degrees, but oh so refreshing. We stayed for about a 1/2 hour before we had to turn back due to afternoon commitments, not to mention that it started to rain and the guides were anxious for us to get out of the rainforest section before it got even wetter and more difficult to maneuver in. I took very few pics of this place unfortunately as the water spray was intense and I wanted to keep my camera safe, not to mention that the rocks were unbelievable slickery and I didn’t want to chance a fall in the water with my camera, but I think you get the idea.
We made our way back and it was so easy, obviously, although I did take a pretty big fall when I lost my footing in the rain forest on the way up and the lower half of my body fell over the steep side while I luckily was able to grab some roots in the ground on my way down. I let out a serious girl scream as I went down, an involuntary shrill that just came out and luckily the guy in front of me as well as the guide in the back were close by and able to pull me up. As one of the women nearby noted, I was “dangling.” Though the walk down was really tough on the knees, it was glorious. We were actually able to take in the sights since we weren’t just staring down on the ground, focusing on moving up. We came across many small farms with cows, my favorite animal to shoot pictures of.
Once we got back, we devoured our lunches and the ones that stayed back were glad they did after hearing our story of “the climb.” We only had 20 minutes to quickly shower off the mud war pant on our bodies before boarding a bus to La Fortuna, a bustling small city with places to shop, as well as home to the resort where we would zip line out of. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, you get in a harness similar to one for rock climbing, you hook onto a steel cable and you basically zip from one platform to another over the canopy of the rain forest. It was at times scary, but always exhilarating looking over top the trees and to the river below, praying that the cables wouldn’t mysteriously snap or otherwise malfunction. The guides for this event were very funny and gracious, spoke excellent English and were handsome to boot. El Guapo!
There were 8 total lines we zipped across and it was such a rush of adrenaline. At the very last one, one not very high off the ground, they gave you the option to hang upside down instead of the sitting position, and yup, you guessed, I was one of only 2 chicks that did it. It was silly and freeing all at once. This resort, which is very well manicured, felt like a Omni resort and apparently has a full view of the very close Arenal Volcano, though we haven’t been able to get any shots with the low cloud cover since we arrived.
We made our way back to Luna Nueva, once again voraciously consumed our dinner and most people made it an early night, except for me, blogging away while having an all-too close encounter with a giant flying cockroach. I’m serious, I nearly had a panic attack. This guys are about 3.5 – 4 inches long and about 1.5-2 inches across. We saw one earlier in the evening when all of us were resting after full bellies, but this time, this bugger flew right into my head and in flight, they have a wing span of a large butterfly. Friggin’ gross. Now I feel like I’ve got creepy crawlies all over my skin!
So, on that note, I’m gonna do like the masses and go to bed a wee bit earlier tonight and hope I don’t have nightmares of giant flying insects!