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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Costa Rica!


As some of you may know, I surprised my girlfrined with a trip to Costa Rica for her birthday this month. Just for fun, I wanted to share some of our experiences with you!

We stayed at the base of Mt. Arenal, a LIVE volcano, for our first few nights. Mt. Arenal is about a 3 hour drive north of San Jose where we flew into.
This was the view out the window of our simple cabin. Notice the smoke rising from the top of the volcano.

After we checked into our little cabin, we visited the local Butterfly/Frog/Snake sanctuary.

We met some new friends from Israel and a snake named Madam. She was an incredibly gentle python weighing in at around 250 pounds!

Natasha wanted to have a zip line adventure through the rainforest canopy of Costa Rica. Here she is rocketing down a zip line hundreds of feet above the jungle floor.

One of the incredibly friendly locals, Raphael, helped us navigate through some very difficult terrain and introduced us to some of his friends there.

Raphael (in red) with his friend Leon (who gave us some of the mini-bananas he had grown), and Natasha.

Raphael also showed us a beach were MILLIONS of baby sea turtles hatch every fall and race their way down the beach toward the Pacific ocean. Only about 2% of them actually survive into adulthood.
This is a spider monkey that we were watching as he was watching us. Spider Monkeys and Howler Monkeys are all over in the thick rainforest canopy.

This little gecko was one of many that made their home at our hotel by the ocean. They make a little kissing sound.

...and then, on our way back to the airport to come home, something amazing happened.

The rains in Costa Rica were legendary. We had been hearing about the havoc it was playing all over the area. We started off down the main highway back toward San Jose to be back for our flight home the following day. However, a landslide had blocked traffic and we were told that there would be no traffic passing through today. Maybe tomorrow. Well that just didn't fit with our plans. So we opted to find another route to San Jose.

Natasha wanted to take a route back through La Fortuna. It was a very very long detour (about 6 extra hours) and seemed a bit too prudent to me. I saw a tiny brown line on the map that went through a little village called Juntas. I thought that would be a much quicker route. Natasha vehemently protested my choice, so we arm wrestled to see who's route we would take.

Juntas was lovely.

Once past Juntas, however, the road became the bumpy dirt quagmire that we had come to associate with the budding transportation network of Costa Rica. As we slowly bounced up one very steep hill in 4WD and down the next, we were both silently hoping that this would soon lead to civilization. Besides, the roads couldn't possibly get any worse. Could they?

Then we saw the river.

Yup, a new born river, the product of several days of incessant rain in the mountains, had formed over our little road. It was 45 feet across, and at least 5 feet deep. I don't actually know exactly how deep it really was because the current was so strong, I could only make it a third of the way across it on foot before I could no longer withstand the force of the water. We could hear the boulders underneath the surface crashing downstream by the force of the current. It was impossible to drive across.

A short movie of "THE RIVER" that trapped us in the middle of a rain forest in Costa Rica. This movie was taken the following day. Notice the cable bridge across the river on the left side of the screen.

Keep in mind, the road behind us was very steep and muddy. We attempted to retreat back up the hill but it was no use. Our mighty rental car floundered on the cascading mud and boulders. We were trapped.

We drove back to the river and parked. I had seen a makeshift rope bridge near the road that went over the gully that was currently a class 6 rapids. It had at an earlier point in its life sported wood slats that formed the walkway for dexterous pedestrians, but these boards had long since rotted and been reclaimed by the rainforest from which they came. I asked Natasha to come with me and together we very slowly and very carefully inched our way across this wobbly precarious cable bridge. Beneath our feet the river roared and swirled. Looking down into it made me dizzy and affected my balance. We both fully understood the implications of falling into that furious current. Words fail to capture the intensity of that crossing.

We both made it across. Natasha noted the fact that the sun was setting, the rain was intensifying, and we hadn't seen another non-bovine soul for miles now. We started up a very steep very long hill on the other side of the river. I don't know what was harder, muscling through the steep incline for unknown miles, or just not knowing what lied ahead or how far. After what seemed to be hours, with the light of the sun all but gone from the sky, we saw a glow at the top of the hill. I called out "Hola! Nessicito Assistanco" (I didn't know the word yet for "Help"). When we got closer, we could see that it was a tiny house with several people inside. A family was coming out.

US: "Habla Ingles?"

Them: "No. Lo Sciento."

Us: "Sus carro esta en la callie en la otras del rio"

Them: (Long Pause) "...No...Es impossible!"

They couldn't believe that we had made it to where we now stood. Now that it was dark, there was nothing anyone could do about it so the mother, Loraina, invited us to stay with them that night in their house. Just like that.

Our New Costa Rican family - Miguel, Jefferson, Me, Loraina, and Natasha.

Loraina, Miguel and their 4 year old boy Jefferson brought these two completely unknown foreigners into their home. They gave us dry clothes, and gave up their bed for the night. They slept on a cushion on the floor. They gave us breakfast in the morning and performed great charades to communicate with us. The extent of my Spanish skills is just slightly beyond "The dog has bitten the leg of my brother Raoul." So their patience and Natasha's intuition were imperative in us all communicating.

Natasha and Loraina

Miguel (second from left) and his friends who helped rescue our luggage.

Miguel and Loraina were consistently warm and kind. Miguel rounded up some amigos the next morning to go down and together we retrieved the luggage from the car and carried it over the cable bridge. Miguel confessed that, while crossing, his heart was pounding. He couldn't believe that Natasha crossed it and was very impressed by her courage.

The rental car company picked us up later that day and took us to the airport. We were able to fly out the following day. It continues to amaze me that this humble family took two strange foreign travelers into their home and their care.

It just goes to prove that people are GOOD.

People are STILL good.

And good people are EVERYWHERE.

Take care of each other!

All Things Possible,