Meeting Tarzan

We were still waking up, slowly munching on our cereal and yoghurt with small doses of upcoming stress. Canopy tour was booked, confirmed, and accelerating in our minds. At 10.30 sharp (or really…?) we crammed into an already crowded minivan and proceeded onto Extreme Adventure of the day. The weather was crisp, our faces (nervously) smiley and the ride ended up to be full of interesting talks.

We got to the station run by a very slow and lost receptionist, and waited around for a very long time bonding with an American Czech and an Indian American (or is it the other way around?).

Anyway. After we got hooked onto the gear (or rather the other way around this time, the gear onto us), sudden power came in and we couldn’t wait any longer. Quick training and off we go zip-lining! Goodness, just look out and watch your legs so you don’t bump into any trees, simple huh?

First breath-taking line was a double, over half a km long. I was at the back, but it didn’t diminish the overwhelming-ness of the scenery. All we saw at the beginning was a line disappearing into the cloud, then we were the ones disappearing into a cloud with tips of the trees looking as if we were just about to touch them with our toes. I couldn’t help but to let a shiver go through my body and remind me how fragile life is, how much there is to appreciate.

Few tiny hikes, and shorter zip lines later, we reached individual long line. Setting off on a trembling piece of metal attached to two semi-Amazonian trees, I had no control over what was happening. I just gave in. This time not only from afar it looked like entering a cloud, but we all actually entered one. Stunned, I almost forgot to keep breathing. I swung a little while looking around: there was nothing behind me, nothing ahead of me, nothing below, just nothing. Barely blinking I gasped a gulp of air as soon as I saw trees growing larger as I moved on. Speechless, or rather full of amusement I gave my companions the most expressive look possible. My favorite? It was only the beginning though. Few more lines were equally amazing, until I heard a scream. Multiple, heartful screams. What/who the hell is it, what happened? Few steps later, I realized it was the Tarzan each of us has inside. THE SWING was coming up. Bungee-like, non-stretchable, head-up jump.

We repelled down only to climb back up and start wondering: is the increased heartbeat caused by the climb or the chicken legs that we all seemed to be getting?

Hes goes first: ‘whoooo-hooo’ gets around the forest and you can’t keep an eye following her without entering some forth-back-forth trans. I keep looking down, to see how (and if) she got caught safely, when someone pushes me slightly. Oh, my turn! Caught up in my thoughts, I haven’t noticed that the guides are calling me already. All pinned up, I crouch down and… what? Do I just go? No nothing, just step off?

‘Ummm… Okaaaaay…!!!’ – my lungs announced without much consciousness.

The moment adrenaline hit my veins and my eyes brightened with satisfaction, rain hit my face. Pure, green-smelling, dense rain. I give in. There’s no more laughing. Amused yet again, I give in.

Fiona

Monteverde (Costa Rica), May 22nd ‘11

The ‘two blondes’ visual

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‘You’re gonna get fat’…

…exclaimed a toothless grandpa at a bus stop, as Heske later informed me. No wonder she brushed him off with an unpleasant smirk. Finally! We were to get out of Cóbano, and luckily enough we made the 1.30pm bus that existed as 2.15pm in the guidebook. The only one for the day – Travelers’ luck! 5 hours squished on a public bus, and a completely different climate awaited for us in the midst of the mountains.

After a day (and night) filled with exciting expectations, we woke up early, cold, and with no hot water in the shower. Slowly making breakfast and planning menu for the rest of the day, we had all the time in the world to prepare for the Monteverde hike. As we left (walking – cause there were no buses at the time), we got our thumbs ready. And who’s the first one to pass by and stop for us? The exact same guy who gave us walking directions 10min before.

Ha! We got a ride almost to the top and strolled up the last few hundred meters. After getting student tickets (since it’s enough to just look like one), we highlighted the longest trial on a small map we got and set off into the jungle. Few liana swings and bug bites later, we arrived at the first stop: the waterfalls. And what do we see there? A viewpoint with ‘no-entry’ sign, and people coming out of there. One-way road? Really? Ignoring that, we climbed tens of concrete (seemingly never ending) steps, and reached the long awaited suspension bridge. To our disappointment, it was red and metal, having nothing to do with Tarzan or at least Jungle Book-like imaginary pictures in our minds. At least it swung. And I did get scared with Heske’s  ‘O-oh!’ when she dropped her camera lens cap – fortunately not all the way down. Thank God.

The cherry on top of the cream (in our cappuccinos) was the colibri café, though. It was for coffee lovers, and it was full of humming birds in different colors, sizes and with various friendliness levels. Absolutely amazing. We spend a fair amount of time photographing the hell out of them and observing in amusement the speed at which their wings flap. And the noise! They’re like the bugs you’d wish to have instead of flies and mosquitoes: pretty, lovely, don’t bite. And they’re still almost as small and as noisy.

Then it was only a walk down with a short visit to a cheese factory (free samples!), a longer one to a chocolateria, and another Tica polite to hitch-hikers.

Now we’re home: tired, full of coffee and pancakes after 3pm, and looking for a game to play.

We end up trying out all geography games we can remember, realize we need to revise Africa really badly, and end up in a circle of oh-how-we-love-to-play-drinking-games-with-people-we-just-met travelers. The night takes us to Mata E Caña, but we get back early.
There’s a lot to prepare ourselves for, tomorrow will be crazy.

Fiona

Santa Elena (Costa Rica), May 21th ‘11

The ‘two blondes’ visual

Vanilla monkeys and hitchhikers.

‘Vanilla!’

‘What?’

‘I smell vanilla!’ – I said and stopped abruptly, weirdly overexcited. After all, we were in an almost-jungle. Curious and with dessert plans on our minds, we started searching around.

‘Do you even know what vanilla trees look like?’

A stunned look was all I got as a response.

‘Yup, me neither…’

On the ground, however, we spotted flowers – just like the ones you’d see on a package of vanilla flavored biscuits, but for heaven’s sake, we could not locate where they came from. Risking ticks and unexpected encounters with other insects, we searched for vanilla… sticks(?), following the smell. We got nothing but out hopes smashed. Why don’t they teach that in school?!

We moved on, just to pass a huge jungle book looking tree, when a weird engine-like noise from above paralyzed me.

‘It’s howler monkeys.’ – Heske laughed

Ugh… Ok. I looked at the ground in search for some fruit peels to locate our ‘ancestors’, but there did not seem to be anything.

Oops! Thought that too early!

Some little branches feel down, and the leaves above us went into a noisy hustle.

‘Am I to be scared now?’ I asked, considering the encounter with Indian monkeys visiting our high school. They were, let’s say… unfriendly. So we stood there, watching, almost ready to run. The curious and suspicious little creatures started getting closer and closer. We were on their land.

‘Why are you coming down, huh?’

Curious or territorial (who knows) they jumped around the lower branches, leaving us in wonder. Well, that was cool – real ‘natural reserve’ experience.

After a breakfast for lunch (dilishous), we had ~45min to wait for the bus (which, as we learnt, never comes on time) and so not to waste so much time, we decided to walk and hope for someone to pick us up on their way to Montezuma.

1km, 15min and 4 cars heading the other direction later, we see two tourists on quads rushing through the sandy road.

‘Trying?’ said Hes putting her thumb up, and so we did. We joined two American surfers on their last 6kms. Reaching Monetzuma at 3.30 we kicked some unnamed fruit off the tree by the road and with deliciously sticky hands and very happy faces, we tried to catch the +/- 4pm bus.

Dios mio! It left exactly on time.

Fiona

Cabo Blanco (Costa Rica), May 19th ‘11

Countless Cracking Costa Rican Crabs.

I decided (after a slight push from my parents) to get vaccinated for yellow fever. Why not, I mean. It’s amazing how easy it was. You go to a pharmacy, explain what you need in broken Spanish/invented sign language,  and ignoring the government’s instructions (about picking up your certificate somewhere far), you just get it then and there. So now I’m vaccinated and ready to go into the ‘jungle’! Or at least some full-blown nature reserve.

Indeed, later on we hopped on a  bus, then another one, and admiring whatever there was to admire outside the window, we hopped off at the oldest reserve’s entrance.

‘Wait, did we just not pay?’

‘Uh-huh’ said Heske, not impressed.

Ok… I looked over my shoulder – the bus was already gone. Well, 1000 colones stays in my pocket, I’d guess it was a rip-off anyway. We started rushing ahead and had a lovely encounter with the ticket-selling-track-explaining Swiss our-friend-look-alike. We hiked up rather fast, soaking up the satisfying beauty. However, there is always a dilemma in such amazing places: do you want to watch the ground not to trip over, or your surroundings not to miss anything breathtaking?

Heske, with her artistic eye, kept pointing at lizards and crabs that I might miss. Oh goodness! And I DID have my lenses on! But also, she was in front. Once we switched, with each of my steps over a mix of dried and freshly fallen leaves, I would hear tens of other, much lighter feet on the ground. All the fauna at the bottom of the forest was protesting against us disrupting their daily Costa Rican whereabouts. Silly crabs would hide under leaves on the path for us not to see them, but obviously it did not protect them from being stepped on. And crashed (by the other tourists).

Getting caught in infinite lianas and tiny spider webs on the way, we reached the beach. How smart of us not to take any sort of swimming suits! Since there were only 3 other people at the entire beach, we stripped down to just underwear and run for a bath through unbearably hot sand.

Besides swimming suits, we did not bring enough food either – but it only made our carrots and leftover pasta taste better. We survived, easily distracted by the scenic landscapes.

Fiona

Cabo Blanco (Costa Rica), May 18th ‘11

The ‘two blondes’ visual

Traveler’s luck.

Cóbano turns out to be a cute, small, seemingly cliquey town with mangoes lying on the sides of the (very few) roads and birds singing constantly. I get really comfortable the minute I cool down from all the emotions and with a sunset already at 6.30pm, we take a ‘night’ walk.

Now, you see, I lived in India for two years, but it already seems so long ago. I almost forgot how it is to lock myself in a non-ventilated bathroom and have a wave of heat sweat up your whole body; step just next to a frog ; and have ants and mosquitoes everywhere. It feels homey, it feels like India all over again (only way cleaner). The night is uneasy, hot, sweaty, and very long. I wake up dizzy with a running nose. Allergies? I forget all about them once I smell fresh pancakes. This IS paradise.

Besides: afternoon=beach! Even though I arrive at the bus stop on time, I have to wait half an hour before the Montezuma directed van lazily rolls up on the street. ‘Oh, good to see you here. I was afraid you’d give up after 15mins.’ – says Heske, who was supposed to get on at another bus stop. You see now, THAT was traveler’s luck. If not for the bus being so late, she would not have walked to my bus stop, and I would probably end up in Montezuma alone. The bus turned out to take some unusual route and did not even pass the stop she was supposed to be waiting at.

We start off with a short hike towards the waterfalls – in flip-flops, skirts, and with handbags. What amateurs! The swim, though, is amazingly refreshing and unbelievably picturesque. ‘What a paradise’, I think to myself again. Montezuma, though touristy, has surprisingly few people. The beach still unveils few shirtless visitors, a ‘green’ smell and two blonde girls deciding to dive into the wild ocean. The water is not only extremely salty (oh yea, how unexpected), but the waves keep pushing us down, and the sand swirls angrily with foam. So there: we get our dip and realize it’s high time to leave. The only thing left is to make sure we’re going out of the water with the same amount of clothing pieces as we entered in – even though the sand grains and little shells desperately want to leave with us as they’re hiding under every string of the bikini that’s still tide on.

Since we are 10mins late for the 4 o’clock bus (why wasn’t this one late?!), a walk on the shore seems like a great idea. We pass a few surfers, postcard–like landscapes, and let the little fresh springs and waves wash over our feet from time to time. It is such a paradise.

Later, because Heske is practically a local, we get some handy money-maker to give us  a ride home under a cloudy sky, forgetting all about buses. ‘Un dolar a Cóbano’ and we hop in. Few minutes after we reach the house, it starts raining cats and dogs. Traveler’s luck, I say.

Fiona, May 16th ’11

The ‘two blondes’ visual

Getting there

Very fast and mumble-ish Spanish wakes me up. Am I there yet?

Oh wait, I am still to board the plane – I realize in a second. My head is spinning, I need coffee. However scruffy I appear, I decide to leave my backpack behind and go explore. It’s still NYC, I should be able to get anything even just before 5am.

When I get back, the only other guy that seems gringo* amongst all the “Hola! Pura Vida!**”-screaming Ticos smiles at me pointing to his own cup.

Good coffee, very strong.’

I smile back being too sleepy to respond and leave him with a slight nod. True, the coffee kicks in so powerfully, I don’t even finish it.

The plane is comfortable, and I wake up in five hours in the happiest country on the globe (as the billboards say). Feeling the somehow-familiar, humid, hot air that surrounds me with my first step out, I know. I exactly know I’m in the right place, right time and not much else matters at the very moment. Excitement pushes adrenaline through my veins and in a very springy, confident stride I get myself out on the streets.

Buenos dias, senor, puedo tener un taxi al estacion de buses?’

I ask with sparkly eyes, not worrying about my broken Spanish. ‘Claro que si’ he responds with a hopeful perspective of getting quite some money out of me and I end up glued to the car’s window. How beautiful!

After a taxi, a bus, another taxi, a ferry with a wonderful breeze, and yet another bus I stand in Cobano too excited to stay in one place, holding onto a telephone card in my shaky hands.

No answer. Damn it.

I’m not giving up, though. After four more tries, I suddenly hear blissful ‘Are you here?!’. Few minutes pass and my friend Heske and I are jumping around in a hug, screaming in the middle of the mini bus station. I’m here.

Fiona, May 15th ’11

*foreigner

**typical greeting amongst Costa Ricans meaning ‘pure life/just life’