When we were planning this trip, I let Miguel run wild. The tour company asked him what type of Costa Rican adventure we wanted. They provided (by my count) 8 different iterations of our dream itinerary. Examples of things that we could have done but didn't included:
- Jump out of airplane (parachute optional)
- Jump off of bridge (bungee cord extra)
- White water/White knuckle river ride (boat not included)
As you know, and as is my way, we chose more natural ways to find things that could kill us here. But if it were solely up to Miguel, each of those optional methods di muerta would have been attempted, too.
Similarly, for accommodation, you won't be surprised to hear that I had to tone Miguel down (or up, as the case may be) in that area as well. For example, I'm sad (but will get over it) that I needed to put the ixnay on various hostels which came with the following basic description (with my interpretation in parentheses):
"You'll enjoy your rustic (that means decrepit) cabin (hovel) deep in the forest (so deep that even Hansel & Gretel wouldn't have enough crumbs to find their way back). Nature surrounds you (and tries to sting you, or, if you're really lucky, just inject a neural venom that paralyzes you while you watch yourself being eaten alive) at every turn (up a steep, never-ending path) as you make your way from your casa to the main lodge (where the Red Cross has set up a permanent triage centre for our guests).
"The main lodge (a former CIA deep cover base) features internet access (well, that's a given) and a welcome drink upon your arrival (Cacique or ethyl alcohol, depending on whether they remembered to switch the label before you got there).
"You'll have a chance to mingle with our other guests (mostly drug mules taking the overland route to the US from Columbia via Panama and then Costa Rica) and learn about each other's experiences (how they avoid the DEA) while planning your next adventure (how to get out of this hell-hole).
And so, if you were Miguel, and got to choose your luxury accommodation here in Costa Rica.... nay, your DREAM accommodation, my guess is that you'd hone in on the Case de Piedra (Spanish for 'Stone House') experience. Here is the enticing come on in the tourist brochure:
"The Casa de Piedra 'Tree of Life' is a cave located in the middle of primary cloud and rain forest .... the cave has mats with blankets to sleep on and two waterfalls that constantly pour in front of the cave. The only way to access the cave is to hike a steep mountain on a strenuous and rugged path.... You will rappel down the waterfall to return..... Most people don't make it....."
Okay, I made up that last item. But the rest of it is 100% exactly what the brochure says.
Miguel celebrates his birthday tomorrow and, to celebrate, we sent him to the Stone House today to sleep on a mat in a cave. He is deliriously giddy with excitement. He is hoping it is filled with bats. So are we.
There is only 1 problem. He insisted on taking the wonderful Colleen with him. We begged and pleaded. "It's your birthday", we said, "so why does she have to suffer? Let her stay here with us and we promise to collect your remains and mail them home at some point". But no, he would not budge and so, the wonderful Colleen set off with Miguel this morning for their Tree of Life adventure.
It took 45 minutes to drive the 6 kilometres along the (and I know you will find this amazing and new) very bumpy and windy facsimile of a road to deliver them to the drop off point (I call that the Death Row holding cell) in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Debbie wouldn't come. She couldn't bear to be witness. After I double checked that their Wills were in order, she gave them big hugs and kisses but stayed behind here at Cuna del Angel, as the breakfast buffet closes in an hour and there was no way she was gonna miss that.
I delivered them into the care of 3 very buff young Americans (CIA mercenaries, for sure!) who I made promise and pinky swear to return Colleen to us safe & sound tomorrow. I told them they could keep Miguel or feed him to the howler monkeys or whatever. And then I went to the beach.
Tomorrow you will have the pleasure of reading a guest blog, which will be filled with the trials and tribulations of the "Tree of Life" adventure. Today, I will tell you about water in Costa Rica and it's 3 basic forms: Ocean, Waterfall, and Swimming Pool.
Playa Ventanas is about 30 km. south and is a small beach surrounded by the jungle. We did not have any difficulty finding it. That is a first. To celebrate, I went swimming.
There are numerous caves flanking both sides of the small bay that the beach curves around and which we explored during low tide. As the tide rose, the ocean waves started entering the cave chambers, creating some great backsplash. It's those cave chambers that give the beach it's name - Ventanas (Windows). The caves did not appear to be housing anyone and so we presume that Miguel & Colleen are not sleeping in any of these particular caves tonight.
We had lunch at a roadside restaurante in Uvita. At first blush, everything in Costa Rica appears by a roadside, out of nowhere in the middle of the jungle. Just as fast, you fly by it and are back in the jungle ..... until then roadside things. Sometimes the roadside things (gas station, restaurante, house) are announced in advance with a sign. Most often not. When it's a sign, however, it's actually the sign for the town or village in which the thing is located. And that thing is the town. Like, that's it, nada all else.
I asked for directions to Cascada Pavon - a local waterfall that is supposed to be a hidden gem, difficult to find, and totally unmarked. No one at the restaurant knew where it was. But one guy took a stab at providing directions, clearly wanting to give it the old college try and not let down the pride of whole town (which probably lives in the back of the restaurante).
I followed his directions. Well, maybe I did and maybe I didn't. He gave them in Spanish, I heard them in English, processed them in French, and then started repeating them back to myself in Hebrew that got progressively more profane as it became clear that, once again, we weren't going to find a waterfall but we were enjoying another 5 km. or so on an unpaved bumpy & winding road until it hit a dead end.
Undaunted, I headed down (or up) another unpaved bumpy & winding road; did not listen to my wife and ended up at another dead end; then listened to my wife and took the side unpaved bumpy & winding road and.... voila.... a waterfall! We ended up hiking at least 100 metres down a steep, steep hillside in order to reach the pools at the bottom of the falls. To celebrate, I went swimming.
After so much success today, having located both a beach AND a waterfall - things that Costa Rica is known to hide, I was excited to know that a swimming pool awaited me at the Cradle of Angels. And it was exactly where I left it. To celebrate, I went swimming.
As you can see, our day in the heat and humidity on the Pacific coast was arduous and filled with moments of great anxiety (will we find the beach or just drive around aimlessly? will we find the waterfall or just drive around aimlessly? did they move the pool at the hotel when I wasn't looking?).
To celebrate, Debbie had ice cream for dinner.
I'm pretty sure Miguel & Colleen are having a lazy day, too.