7/28/12 – Arenal
i have yet to witness the top of the volcano, shrouded in mist since our arrival. diagonal slopes of lush tropical vegetation, cows, horses & one lone yellow house on a distant ridge. for lunch, tilapia caught that day from the lake in the distance. huge black butterflies like floating paper, whipping rain that pounds against the windows of our love cabin, #11 with the perpetual ‘no molestar’ (do not disturb) sign secured to the door. this is the disconnect i’ve craved. cell phone all but forgotten in the safety of the deposit box, adventure beckoning us out of our cabin. the landscape begs us to dive in… & so we do.
yesterday began at 7am with a plate of the richest local fruits…. mangoes, papaya, plantain. we soon found ourselves at the beginning to a path leading into the rainforest. torrents of rain brought on fits of laughter as we secured our rain ponchos, seemingly preparing for war with the elements. i opted for rain pants (my fathers voice in my head instigating caution) & was glad i did. buckets of incessant streaming humid necessity poured over us.
my hood over my braided Bjork bun-ponytails created a fountain of rain water. i often stretched out my tongue to taste it, pura vida, the mantra in my head. ‘pure life’ what they wish for each other here. ‘pura vida’ as a greeting, a blessing. to me, a battlecry.
first step onto a hanging bridge. steel cable bridge that rocks side to side under foot & thin fencing as feigned security above the forest floor. ‘look for sloths!’ brady’s voice behind me as my fear of heights reared up. my feet go from bouncy to molasses & i hinge at the waist, grasping for the edges, as we near the middle of the highest hanging bridge. ‘sloths, yes’ i say to myself and scan the canopy, joining in to trick my monkey mind, releasing my hesitation born of fear. none to be found, my elusive friends. in Spanish, they call them ‘lazy’ & i feel quick to defend, despite never having met one.
ivonne, our guide, stopped at a fallen tree, explaining how in other countries it’s easy to tell the age of the tree based on rings, formed by seasons. here in the rainforest of costa rica, there is only one season, rainy & humid…. with a side of rainy & humid…. so no rings in the wood to show its age.
we walked on thru the steaming tropical wonderment, coming upon thick nests of large spiders poised in wait. ivonne somehow found a discarded remnant of a caterpillar morphing inside of a dry hold in the wood, a ripe cocoon, one wing bursting. the definition of metamorphosis, protection of ascension. i took note to preserve similar lessons within myself.
suddenly she stopped, shone a green laser on an eyelash pit viper, told us how most snakes with triangular heads are dangerous. didn’t have to tell me twice to avoid that one, coiled & livid…. & then brady started running and sliding on the bridges…. & i fell in love all over again. this man is fearless, standing for all but common sense, whimsically sliding on bridges a mile from the forest floor, my crazy clown.
we next journey to La Fortuna Waterfall, 500 steep steps down. my knees cracked & protested, distracted by blankets of moss & mushrooms that looked like burnt pizza pie, pulled by the curiosity of unseen rushing water, intrigued by the celebration & strength we were not yet privy to. & suddenly through the break in the trees, we were able to see a hint of it. a majestic rushing tide at the base, we bore witness to the full thunderous spectrum. the water pummeling so hard that there were warnings of being sucked under if you swam anywhere near it. the pounding mist of gravity was inspiring, humbling. i felt an amoeba on the thumbnail of God staring at this waterfall.
in the parking lot, ivonne thrust binoculars at me, showing us the nests of tiger herons, bulbous swinging homes hanging from windy branches, filled with the hair of animals to keep their babies safe.
we had lunch, then traveled to the volcano. we entered a path of giant cane towering above us, all one plant as far as the eye could see, bending in the wind. lava & ash underfoot. ivonne started poking plants. they retreated under her touch. my eyes went wide. it was psychedelic, unreal. she is like the nature whisperer to me, full of knowledge & random facts. i poke plants in wonder & force myself to walk on, glancing over my shoulder to make sure they recover.
ivonne starts digging into a muddy ball near near a dead tree, scraping tiny insects onto her palm. they are termites, full of protein. ‘taste them’ she says. brady throws one onto his tongue. i stare into the eyes of one termite. we both tilt our heads. i pluck it from its already disillusioned reality and sacrifice it in the name of experience. ‘minty!’ my conclusion & brady freaks spellbound that i actually did it. we smack hi-5 & continue on the trial giggling how we ‘totally ate termites in the rainforest’.
then like a dream the landscape changes. ivonne tells us it is because the lava explosion of 1968 avoided this part of the forest. we were in giant cane & then suddenly in the familiar diversity of rainforest jungle. spiders, reptiles, snakes & ferns. then we ascent steep black volcano rocks. the sky threatens us and then fully unloads its full torrential wrath. i throw my hood back, standing on cooled magma screaming with arms to sky “PURA VIDA!!” i feel it now, the pure life connecting. it is a place of acceptance & recovery through wonder. i slip a small volcanic rock into my pocket to remind me of this. black corral offerings of transformation, all born of pressure & heat.
we are then dropped off at Baldi Hot Springs. racing up to the water slides, challenging the waterproof housing of my flipcam. brady throws himself head first into the fastest slide, hilariously recording as he spins chaotic & bangs his head in the dark tunnel twisting cave that deposits him into bubbling healing water. there are many caves & waterfalls that we explore, some complete with ‘jaws’ theme song. we search for the hottest pool, settling into bliss as dusk descends, holding hands under water, eyes closed. “happy birthday, brady…”
electric flickers over the ocean as cobalt dusk morphs into a stormy abyss. the ocean swells and clashes like rams in battle. a storm is approaching slowly & i am wide-eyed, living in this tension, milky sky of secrets, willing it to come closer, to overcome me, to live in summer’s wrath….
drifting in a floating hammock on a cloudless day. i am in pure bliss, in want of nothing. replicas of mayan statues, mouths agape as if to shriek ancient songs, luscious ferns, red bark, tiny orchids like tongues fall onto my chest, bright fuschia aching towards the sun.
vultures with wide static wingspans cresting, riding the wind. howler monkeys rustle in the jungle nearby and bellow like dinosaurs.
the ultimate relaxation. i dare say, bliss. bright soft beach, powerful waves, butterflies chasing after each other, some flying solo swirling like childhood helicopters from trees, only to rise up mysterious and float frantically away. waterfall or beach, our most difficult afternoon decision, opting instead for chocolate, wine & bed…
on the streets of this small beach town artists sell their handmade jewelry & art from on top of their worn cars. dogs, happy but hot, lie under tables. they seem to belong to everyone. live serene music at night & the town drunk incessantly babbling to no one in particular.
our love cabin is perched on a hill overlooking the sea. a round circular cave with stones and rich wood, tall ceilings, lizards silently scamper by on windows defying gravity. today we wandered past the waterfall trailhead and found our own private beach… such beauty here.