It is an honour and a privilege to be able to write this blog post about our adventures over the past day and a half. I have been reading Senor Haui's account of our trip for the past 11 days and now it is my turn to tell it like it is.
Yes, our driver (Haui) did drive us to the start of our destination. We arrived at 7:59 am, he left at 8:00 and we only hope that his GPS will work tomorrow so that he will be able to find his way back here to retrieve us.
There were several guides that came through the "office" where we were dropped off, but none were ours. We also hoped that we would have a guide that was at least older than our children. At 9:30 our guide Diego showed up, had breakfast and said "listo". Daniel (21) from Seattle joined us and will assist Diego.
That was it: Colleen, me, Diego and Daniel. At 11:00 am another group was coming up the mountain behind us, with 18 hikers and 2 guides. Remember the number 18 because that will come up again in conversation later.
The guide book told us that it was going to be a tough walk, (2 km). And that is all I needed to know. Colleen on the other hand would have liked to have known:
1. How many steps were we climbing? (1,400)
2. What was the elevation grade? (800 meters)
3. What was the humidity? ( 100%)
4. What was the temperature? (hot)
5. How many people have died doing this walk? ( the answer is buried on the mountainside somewhere)
To say she was excited about our adventure after the first hour (or even after the second hour, for that matter) would be wonderful .... but that's not going to happen. Daniel and I walked together, Diego and Colleen walked together. Daniel wanted to know if we should walk slower so I could be with my wife. I told him, "For the sake of our marriage, we will keep a distance between us".
OK, enough with the suspense. We arrived on top and Colleen eventually smiled at me. And the walk was one of the hardest I have ever been on. I did not ask Colleen any questions about her experience and feeling about the climb, as I was pretty certain that while we are still married after 33 years, number 34 was in the balance at this point.
We passed through an amazing garden and tried eating or smelling 20 different plants, Diego also told me to stick my hand in this hill and when the termites came out, he told me to eat them, as they were good. I am pretty sure that Diego and my wife were now best of friends.
We were at the bat cave in just over 2 hours (no bats at all, as it turns out). The view was spectacular - we had the whole place to ourself for a couple of hours before the 18 other people showed up - and we soaked in the beauty of the place while simultaneously soaking in our own sweat because of the humidity.
After lunch Diego told me to come with him and Daniel as they wanted me to climb another 600 steps and 300 meters so we could jump off a 25 foot rock into a cold pool of water. So now I knew Daniel is also a good friend of Colleen's.
Climbing up to the top of the mountain I now could find out more about our Costa Rican guide, Diego. Remember the number 18 I told you to remember? Well, that is the number of kids in Diego's family. I asked him if his mother knew what caused all of these pregnancies. He said "Yes, she did. Her husband".
Diego is 31 years old. His oldest sibling is 48 and the youngest is 23. There are no twins or triplets. There are 35 grandkids so far. Basically they are their own town.
I did the first jump into the pool, saying to myself, "Don't be afraid ... the camera is on you .... so jump!"
Funny how when I did the second jump, my mind said, "You already have the jump recorded now so you don't really have to jump if you don't want to." It was kind of like a Jewish holiday at that point: The jump happened and tried to kill me. I survived. Let's eat.
Sleeping in the cave was incredible. It was so dark, the sky was full of stars and there was the constant sound of the waterfalls, a mere 20 meters away. Coll thought she could hear the sound of rain at night, to which I told her (in my usual compassionate and thoughtful manner) that we were near the falls, so duh.
When we saw Diego in the morning he wanted to know if we heard the rain last night. I told you he was Colleen's friend.
Well, today is my birthday and what better way to celebrate then to jump off the side of a 90 foot cliff. Actually you don't jump, but walk backwards until you get to the edge, then lean back as far as you can, and take a step backwards, until you shit your pants, and that is what is called rappelling.
Colleen was at the bottom to capture the special event and when I saw the video, it was a recoding of her shoes and the surrounding rocks around her feet. She turned the video off when she was supposed to turn it on and vice versa. Sounds like that is possible. After all, these things happen. She couldn't still be mad at me, right?
Diego told me this happens all the time. Yup she's still mad at me and he's still her friend. He giggled and asked if I wanted to go again, but I told them Haui is waiting and you don't want to be late for Haui. He is a QC and charges by the second.
Walking down was a breeze - we reached the bottom of the mountain in just under 90 minutes . Both Haui and Debbie were there, anxiously waiting for Colleen to make sure she was ok. They drove off with her and I'm still about 10 km. away from the hotel while hitchhiking back.
We all went out for my birthday dinner tonight to have an unbelievably fantastic ice cream and banana's foster soaked in alcohol and fire dessert and then the second last night of lighting the candles of Hanukkah. And bourbon. A great way to spend my 59th birthday.