11.30.2010 - 11.30.2010 73 °F
Today is our last full day in La Fortuna. We spend a couple hours in the morning browsing the shops in town, buying Christmas gifts. We accumulate quite an entourage of local canines, which trot along behind us as we peruse the stores. I think they aren't used to being acknowledged by people, so after we greet them with some baby talk, they fall into step with the rest of the dogs and wait patiently for us to emerge from each shop. At one point, we have about 4 dogs with us and then after reemerging from a store realize that our entourage has moved on to more interesting pursuits.
Just after lunch we schedule a canyoneering tour, which consists of following a mountain stream by jumping through the water and rappelling down waterfalls. Lucky for us, it ends up being just Matt and me on the entire tour (which was great since we don’t have to wait for a big group). We have two guides (Ronnie and Carlos) and a photographer who all work for Desafio tour company. We ride up a winding, bumpy road in the back of a pickup truck that was converted to hold about 7 or 8 people in the bed, and by the time we reach our location we are up in the clouds and mist.
The “rescue dog," Chinga (very funny, whoever named that cute dog a curse word), also rides up the mountain with us. He is some sort of Chihuahua or beagle mix that had been abandoned near Desafio’s canyon house by his owners, so the canyoneering guides started bringing him food and eventually adopted him as a “member of the staff.” He doesn’t seem to mind the rough ride up the mountain and even trots along with the five of us as far as he can go, until he eventually has to turn back and wait by the truck. Carlos tells me that sometimes in the morning, when they are setting up the rappelling courses before the first tour of the day, they take him with them in their backpacks so he can go with them through the waterfalls.
The canyoneering tour takes us down four waterfalls, some of them more than 200 feet high, and on most of them we need to rappel directly in the cascading water. In between rappelling points we follow through the stream, which at times drops down to waist-deep holes or has rocks to climb over. At one deep hole, where the water is almost over my head, we are instructed to jump a few feet from a rock ledge and cannonball right into it (which is obviously more for fun than necessity). I am nervous about doing this because I still hate putting my head underwater and am especially nervous about losing my contacts, but I manage to keep them in my eyes for the time being.
There is also a point where, at a small narrow waterfall that cuts through the rocks like a waterslide, Ronnie lays down at the top to block the water flow. Matt is instructed to sit down near the bottom, with me behind him as if we are sliding down a slide in tandem. We are given two instructions: 1.) brace yourselves for dear life, and 2.) do NOT, for any reason, stand up. When Ronnie releases the water, a huge powerful mass of water rushes down the pseudo-slide, crashing into my back and flowing over our heads, making it seem like we were behind a rushing waterfall. Matt finds it exhilarating, but I think it feels a lot like drowning! It takes a couple minutes for the water to clear from my eyes and for my contacts to reset.
The canyoneering tour is certainly the most “extreme” thing I’ve done, and I mean that it is a different sort of extreme than the zipline was. While the zipline was a huge adrenaline rush, the canyoneering is more of an extreme sport that the most athletic of people might enjoy during their free time. So I feel like G.I. Jane while I am hopping backwards down the rock faces, trying to figure out the right rhythm for jumping and using my brake hand. I am not as good at it as I thought I would be, so I can only imagine how clumsy and awkward some of the less athletic people who take the tour might be.
The tour is immediately followed by a dinner at the canyon house: rice and beans (of course), salad, a potato stew, pasta salad, and yucca. Matt also drinks a beer to unwind after an adrenaline-filled (and sometimes chilly) afternoon while we watch our 160+ photos on a laptop slideshow.
During the ride back down the mountain, I notice how modest (and that’s putting it nicely) many of the mountain homes are. Many don’t have windows (though I think they have wooden shutters that they shut if they aren’t home) and a few don’t even have walls; one of the homes we pass is more like a treehouse, with the first floor having just a gate around it and the top floor with some rudimentary boards forming an incomplete, hastily constructed wall around the outside. Obviously, these people are not worried about mosquitoes, bats or any other creatures that might end up in their beds.
Matt and I take a hot shower when we arrive back at Kokoro and relax while watching some TV… until we see a bat fly in front of our TV screen. Now, it is obviously a very small bat, but it was startling nonetheless. I notice how afraid of bats Matt is when I see him looking for the critter with a small flashlight, creeping toward the bathroom, eyes wide and walking slowly, like he might turn and run at any minute. Of course, I just rush into the bathroom and turn on the light because I’m not afraid of bats, but I still decide to ask Felico if such a bat might decide to munch on us tonight. I’m not interested in getting rabies shots on my vacation! But since Felico says that bats may just come and go, and they won’t bother us, we resigned to sharing the room with our new little friend. I try to make Matt more comfortable with the bat by using an old trick that my dad used to do--name the bat to make it less scary. So I talk to Batman and tell him that he's welcome to sleep in our cabin as long as he doesn't try to crawl onto the bed with us.
In about 12 hours we’ll be on our way to Playa Samara on the Pacific Coast. This cabin in Kokoro has come to feel like home, and I’ll be sad to leave it. I’ll also be sad to leave Felico and the Li family. As we were sitting up at reception waiting for our food delivery, Mrs. Li kept bringing out little morsels of food for us to eat, which reminded me of Thanksgiving with my Asian side of the family or even just being home with my mom. I’ve had a great time here in the rainforest, but I’m also excited to get some sun at the ocean.