11.27.2010 - 11.27.2010 73 °F
After a deep, satisfying sleep, we wake up at about 6 a.m. and slip out onto our private patio to listen to the rain and the trills of insects. We inhale the freshest air we’ve breathed in months..or years. I can’t imagine there being fresher, purer air anywhere else on earth than in the damp, green mountains of Costa Rica.
We enjoy a fresh hot breakfast at the reception area. Matt has a beef tamale wrapped in plantain leaves, and I have pintos and rice with eggs, grilled beet root and grilled bananas. There is also a spread of local fruits (pineapples, watermelon and papaya) and delicious Costa Rican coffee. A great meal to start the day! We also are greeted by Mrs. Li, Felico's mother. She is a little sweet Taiwanese lady who reminds me of my mother and aunts, especially in the way that she keeps bringing us food even when we didn't ask for it!
While eating breakfast, Matt (who is wearing a Buckeyes shirt) gets an “O-H!” from a couple at a nearby table, both of whom had graduated from Ohio State's Medical School. It’s interesting how little slices of home can follow you to the most faraway places.
The rainforest is just as I expected: very humid and wet. The morning brings warm showers that we expect to continue throughout the day, but with a good rain jacket and waterproof hiking boots, we aren't deterred by the weather. In fact, under the canopy of the thick tropical trees, the rain is largely blocked to the point where you might not even notice it is raining.
We start our day with a trip to La Fortuna Waterfall, which is a surprisingly strenuous hike down a long series of nearly 500 uneven steps. By the time we reach the bottom of the falls, my legs are so tired that I am already dreading the climb back up! We first came to a waterfall that is right next to La Fortuna Waterfall and is only present during the rainy season as the rainwater drains down the mountainside. La Fortuna Waterfall, right next to it, empties into a large pool with so much force that it creates its own wind and throws mist on all the visitors. We gaze up at the waterfall as if it is the eighth wonder of the world, because never before have either of us seen such a tall, magnificent waterfall. It rises like a 200-foot pillar into the canopy high above us.
Just around the bend is a swimming area, with waters much calmer and more inviting than the water under the falls. There is even a wooden plank with a series of clothing hooks for people to hang their clothes on as they take a dip. Unfortunately, we had packed our swimsuits in our day pack instead of wearing them under our clothes, and there really isn’t a good place to step back into the foliage and change, so we just sit near the calm water for awhile to rest.
The hike back up all those steps is exhausting and, at times, excruciating. For someone who works out, I thought that I would be more in shape than I actually am. I stop to rest twice on the way up while women twice my age fly by me. I vow to, next time, train by strengthening my quads more, instead of just level running. By the time we make it back up to level ground, I am dripping with sweat and panting so heavily that I can’t talk.
The rainforest lives up to its name. Even when it is not raining, the air is thick and oppressive. Humidity drips from the trees.
We decide to head into downtown La Fortuna for lunch and to explore some of the shops. There are a lot of souvenir shops that cater to tourists as well as small sodas that smell wonderful. A few times while in town, we are forced to seek refuge in stores because of heavy downpours. We settle in for lunch at a soda that, at first glance, looks rundown. Rather than walls, it has a sort of iron lattice with a sliding gate that locks when the soda closed for the night. However, the tables are filled with locals--a good sign. The food ends up being quite delicious. I order a local dish, chicken rice, which has tender chicken combined with a flavorful mix of rice, cilantro and seasonings; there are fries and a small salad on the side. Matt has grilled sirloin with a side of potatoes, cinnamon-fried plantains, rice and black beans.
While we eat, we notice something that we would rarely see in the states: a meat truck unloading headless, gutted, butchered pigs. I think most Americans would not eat pork for awhile if they had to see where their meat was coming from, but maybe it's normal in Central America.
After gorging ourselves on the local cuisine, we decide to explore the Arenal Hanging Bridges, which is a two-mile loop through the rainforest canopy that includes 15 bridges over deep valleys and streams. The longest bridges are suspension bridges that sway and jolt with every step. It is a great experience, despite the occasional twinges of fear while walking across the highest, shakiest bridges. I do wish that the skies were clearer so we could see the jungle off in the distance and the volcano, but the sky is so misty and hazy today that the treetops gradually fade from sight.
The volcano, which is such a visual staple of Costa Rica and La Fortuna in particular, is shrouded in creamy mist so thick you could almost chew it. Though you can often see the base, the cone at the top is hidden. However, its elusiveness is beautiful. Like many things in Costa Rica, it is not easily visible or accessible. Just like hidden wildlife or landmarks, you may not even realize it is there unless you are looking for it.
We do not see any primates while on the hanging bridges, but we do see an eyelash viper, which is a very poisonous snake and can kill a man in a few hours.
By the time we arrive back at Kokoro, we are exhausted from our long day of hiking. When we return to our room we see that the kind staff left us a bottle of wine, chocolates, and a rose to welcome us for our honeymoon. We take the chocolates and wine up to reception to enjoy while we wait for our dinner delivery to arrive from town. I order nachos with shredded beef, beans, rice and avocados, and Matt has something called “volcano rice,” which he informs me was not at all spicy. Perhaps the name is derived from the location, not the spiciness of the food.
As we eat, we engage in a nice conversation with Felico, who is the same age as Matt but is very well-travelled and has an interest in American culture. And most importantly, he understands how lucky he is to live in paradise; he doesn't take it for granted like many other locals might.
After filling up on food, drinking the bottle of wine, and taking hot showers, we finally relax and just listen to the rain on our roof. A couple times I watch small green geckos scurry up our wall or under our door, but that's just fine.