Praise Jesus, Allah, Buddha, and Superman (Simpsons reference!) that someone figured out how to change the alarm on her phone! No heart attack this morning makes for a good start to the day. The whole team had to get up early because our tractor ride was shipping out at 6:30 am for our next destination . . . La Fortuna!
So we all pack up our gear and bid a fond “Muchas Gracias” and “Adios” to our generous hosts. The Magsaysay Lodge definitely gave me the experience of being deep in the jungle with creatures in their natural habitat. We saw snakes, frogs, spiders (both in the jungle and in our lodge!), bullet ants, and huge moths! We also had the pleasure of having an authentic Costa Rican meal. Definitely a must have after long safaris in the rainforest! Much love to our hosts and their country : ) PURA VIDA!
Time to experience the 2 hour “Costa Rican Massage” that is our tractor ride! With the day clearing up I thought I would snap more photos of this beautiful country . . . .
We also had an opportunity to meet the “fer-de-lance” viper — one of the most poisonous snakes in Costa Rica (and the world for that matter!)! According to Wikipedia, their venom is lethal and fast acting. Symptoms from the bite of a fer-de-lance viper include nausea, blackouts, paralysis, and loss of short term memory. They are known to hide in overgrown fields, and are quick to attack. I also learned that if you are bitten by a snake in Costa Rica, you can be saved. You just need to know the colour of the snake and it’s name. I could see myself now: running through the jungle, screaming at the top of my lungs, “I’ve been bitten by a yellow snake and his name is Sam!” Yup. That would be me. Big hero. Usually when I panic, I resort to the art of “jackass.” : )
During our ride we passed many homes with children who would wave to us as we puttered by. I learned that many of the families in these home were below the poverty line. According to Wikipedia, approximately 20% of the population has been in poverty for the last 20 years. This percentage dwarfs the 4.9% poverty rate in Canada. One way the Costa Rican government is assisting their people who are below the poverty line is to offer free housing. These houses stay with the people who are most in need of help. Furthermore, the same house stays with the family for generations. It reminded me of the quote from Winston Churchill: “You measure the degree of civilization of a society by how it treats its weakest members.” Although the poverty rate is high in Costa Rica, the country has made great leaps in helping their most unfortunate. According to the World Bank report “Costa Rica: Identifying the Social Needs of the Poor”, poverty affected 48% of the population in 1982. Through export and private-led sector growth, and a focus on education, Costa Rica has been successful in slashing the poverty rate to 20%. The full report can be read here.
So we arrive to our fourth destination: La Fortuna! Before you ask “Where the F is that?” it is a rural city that is located in the province of Alajuela, Costa Rica. La Fortuna received its name after the eruption of the Arenal Volcano in 1968. Because the city was located on the west side of the volcano, it was untouched by the eastbound destruction. The city of El Bario was then renamed “La Fortuna” to denote the fortune and luck of the town. I should’ve bought a lottery ticket!
I LURVE visting new places and meeting new people. I always wonder “what kind of people will I meet in this new place?” or “I wonder what they will look like?” Then we pass by this:
I guess the people of La Fortuna are tall, red-headed, fashionable, and . . . . buoyant : ) ***Insert random motorboat joke/sound here***
If you are travelling to Central America and need to use your new chip-enabled Visa card here’s a tip: Swiping your card will not work. Rather than swiping your credit card at a Point of Sale terminal, you need to insert your card (chip first). Central America just got the chip machines and I had a fun time showing someone how to use their Visa/Debit machine. Even though there was a communication barrier between us, we still found a way to connect and make commerce happen. Yay Capitalism! My favourite kind of -ism! Other favourite isms are: tao, self-critic, active, social, environmental, equal, and feminine. That’s right. I said feminism. I’m a BIG believer in equality because I want access to people who can make me a better person. And I’m not fond of suppressing free speech and creativity. Plus women are my favourite gender : ). Not down with equality? F you. Go read another blog you sexist mofo.
After a hearty lunch of tacos (will the deep frying end? No? Good. Just checking), it’s time to go waterfall rappelling! And the 10 year old boy in me says “F*******CK YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” (swearing as a young boy got me in so much trouble with my parents. They’re not here so F*******CK YEAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!). So me and my team jump on a bus and roll out to our next adventure!
So far on this trip I’ve jumped off cliffs, swam in open water, almost flip over in a tractor, and had predators around me in the jungle at night. I think I’m pretty prepared to rock this fear of height thing out of my system. Besides, I have team of crazy people to support me. Plus they can identify my body if I mess up (hence the pink buff!) : ) Badass Group shot you say? Don’t mind if we do!
The first descent was a small 20 foot drop with a stream of water following the rock. Not a bad way to get used to the equipment and the FANTASTIC wedgie I was getting from the harness! My point of view was this:
After the first drop I was like: “I got this. I’m a Black Ops soldier. No. Even better. . . I’m Batman descending into my Bat Cave. I’m a natural at this!” So I moonwalk my DC hero ass to the first real drop and see this:
Holy. F*ck. I am not Batman. Nor am I a Black Ops Operative. I am a Gringo from the Praires who knows NOTHING of heights. My hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba (in Canada for you non-Awesome people) is flat. There are no substantial hills or inclines of any kind. We do have one hill in the city called “Green Hill” or “Makeout Hill” — it is nothing short of a three storey building. Seriously. I’ve seen clothing stores reach higher altitudes than Green Hill. Hell I can could build a tower with Jenga blocks higher than Green Hill. You would have to milk Costa Rican cows from their noses because they would be laughing so hard at the height of Green Hill. : ) So when I looked down at the above picture, I turned into Scaredy Cat Chris and started to doubt myself.
And I wasn’t the only one! We had someone in our group who also felt the same way. Great. Two guys ready to live the dream and we’re shaking in our boots. And here’s how I try to delay the inevitable: “Go ahead girls. Ladies first!” I let most of the girls go first. I tried to hide my cowardice with the guise of being a gentleman. I am such as p*ssy. Feel free to call me out when you see me or in the comments below. : )
The key to starting your descent is to lean back, give your weight to gravity and let the rope hold you (or trust the rope will hold you). That’s the hardest part — letting go of your comforts. And that’s why I’m on this trip. To be better than the person I was yesterday.
So off the rock I step and my senses are amplified . . . I feel the rope tighten around my hand, I hear the waterfall crash against the mountain, and I taste my heart in my throat as my body becomes a pendulum in the jungle. The only sound that trumps the jungle is the sound of the “creek” of the rope as I swing back and forth. Is that evergreen ferns I smell? Yup. Is that the smell of burning rope on the pulley? Maybe. You know what I don’t smell? The fear of heights. And I don’t miss it at all. : )
The process of the descent is as follows:
1. Kick off the rock.
2. Open your hand and let go.
3. As you swing downwards and towards the rock, close your hand at the same time your legs touch the rock.
I had a real “rocky” start (sorry for the pun). I would kick off the rock, open my hand, then close my hand too soon. This would cause me to SMASH into the mountain like a wrecking ball. Ouch. The next kick off I would forget to point my feet towards the mountain and BANG! My knees would crash into the solid, jagged surface. Ahhhhhh . . . the sweet kiss of pain. I push off one more time and pay attention to timing my feet and hand. Success! I land perfectly! Like a BAWSE!!! Then I started to get synchronized in my descent. My heart grew with every kick as I found my rhythm. This is probably how Batman feels like when he’s in Costa Rica!
Then I get to the part where I have to totally let go of the rope and give myself to gravity. Oh sh*t. No turning back now. So I kick off the rock, open my hand and LET GO. PURA VIDA!!!!!!
The experience of flying down the mountain is EXHILIRATING!!!! The sound of the rope threading through my harness was music to my ears! I do more than than just give in to gravity . . . I lift my knees and lean into fall, in hopes of accelerating my descent. I don’t know if it worked, but it felt cool! : )
I land like a Black Hawk with the biggest smile on my face. “AGAIN!!!!!” I scream! Good thing that was only the first drop. Because I’m ready for the next three descents! Just bring it!
Unfortunately my fellow scaredy cat bailed on the first descent. He was really gung ho about rappelling, but his fear of heights got to him. Too bad. I was looking forward to taking on this mountain with a complete team. Oh well . . . I guess I would just have to be little harder on him on future daredevil-esqe adventures : )
In between the waterfalls were challenging hikes to traverse. Lots of sharp rocks, unsuspecting deep pools, and steep declines. The advice we got from our guide was: “There are some rocks and some water over there. Good luck!” Love our guides!
During the long queues at the drop off points, we had some time to reflect on nature, life, Costa Rica, and punch our tickets to the GUN SHOW!
Now I’m not a meathead by any stretch. However, at times, I can be a meathead. This is one of those times. Other times I can be “knuckle-dragging-caveman”: hockey games, football games, UFC events, going to “Build Your Own Sundae” yogurt/ice cream shoppes, going to the gym, rap concerts, visiting Costa Rica, getting Bubble Tea, trying on new clothes, bitching about the price of buying said new clothes, waterfall rappelling, whitewater rafting, kayaking, making nachos before I watch any sports event, drinking beer/wine, cooking with meat, making Simpsons/movie references, writing blogs, and taking pictures with my awesome friends. Aside from those times I’m a perfect gentleman. : )
The next few rappels were a dream. I lean back into my rope, smile like a villain, and GO. No hesitation. Just pure adventure!
At the end of our rappelling adventure, we had to climb back up the mountain via stairs (400 stairs? Son of a b*tch. I bet you Batman never had to do this.). My team and I were treated to a HUGE buffet lunch before the ride back to reunite with the rest of our team.
A few blog posts ago, I talked about losing my watch in the Pacuare River. Guess what I lost this time? My room key! F*CK! My German roomie is going to kill me! Oh well . . . at least I was doing something cool when I lost the key : ) Here’s a tip for being my friend: Never trust me to hold onto things like movie tickets, hotel keys, shopping lists, or things like that. I guarantee you I will find a way to lose them (unintentionally mind you). I really should look into a murse so I can just dump things in a bag. But every time I try one on and look in the mirror I think “I’m not ready this.” The “knuckle-dragging-caveman” in me won’t allow it. So I just rely on the nearest female to hold onto things like movie tickets and hotel keys because they will REMEMBER ANYTHING and E-VER-EE-THING. I wish I had that super power. The only power that men have against women — COMPLIMENTS. And unfortunately we always forget to use this super power because we’re too busy being “knuckle-dragging-caveman.” : ) I digress . . . but here’s a good point to “raise a glass. Here’s a toast to the ladies with class.” (“Don’t Make ‘Em Like You” by Ne-Yo).
Our evening adventure had us visiting the hot springs. The hot springs are pools of water that are pumped from the Arenal Volcano. I was looking forward to swimming in a man made pool in the middle of the jungle, and being surrounded by trees, rock formations, and some wildlife. Here’s what we see after we change into our swimsuits:
Holy “swimup-bar-waterslides-multi-temperature-pools-hot-tubs-DJ-pina-coladas” Batman! This is PARADISE! And the currency of Costa Rica, Colones, is waterproof! PURA VIDA! Well then . . . when in Costa Rica . . .
What a great way to unwind after a day of travelling on tractors, exploring a new city, and rappelling down waterfalls! Definitely a welcomed surprise to a day full of adventure! And this is only 50% of the trip! In the coming week I’m looking forward to zip lining, swinging on a vine like Tarzan, seeing the Pacific Ocean, and experiencing new thrills with my “misbehaved-high-school-assembly” of a team!
MOMENT OF ZEN: Seeing animals in their natural habitat is so special to me. Seeing a creature act naturally in an unrestricted and unconfined environment is a much more authentic experience than seeing the same animal at the zoo. Last year in Canada, I remember seeing a fox ravage the carcass of a deer in the forest. As I watched from my car I thought “this is so peaceful. The fox is probably carrying the meat to his/her family. I would never see this in the zoo.” I really appreciated the freedom that the creatures in the wild had — to be free from captivity and to act naturally in their environment. Maybe that’s why I had so much fun with complete strangers on this trip. Maybe this trip gave us a chance to be unchained from stress, pain, and worries from wherever we were from. So why does it take a trip to another country make us feel free? Can we not just let go of what confines our freedom, creativity, and happiness? Or does keeping the familiar make us feel safe?
Many times I’ve let fear of the unknown rob me of unforgettable experiences: roller coaster rides (which I now love), moving to a new city (which I will do again), meeting new people (which is my favourite adventure), learning how to dance (my conduit to meeting awesome people), getting punched in the face when I kickbox (Ok I HATE getting punched in the face but it’s a great reminder to keep your hands up), and getting electrocuted in an obstacle race (it’s not that bad. And I WILL get that Spartan Trifecta medal! Bank on it.). But in all of my adventures, the toughest part was always LETTING GO. Letting go of fear, stereotypes, what people thought of me (I’ll admit this is still hard), loss, heartbreak, comparing myself to other people (being a very competitive person, this is also hard for me), embarrassment, and (probably most importantly) my F*CKING EGO. ***Remember when I said in a previous blog post that I could kick the crap out of my 21 year old self? Life did it for me. And I’m ready for the next 20 rounds. : ) ***
I found that once I embraced the unknown I transitioned from a “scared-negative-pessimistic-lazy-fraidy-cat Chris” to an “optimistic-positive-not-afraid-to-look-like-a-jackass-so-he-can-be-a-BAWSE-at-whatever-scares-him Chris.” LETTING GO is an adventure in itself. So my dear reader I wish that for you: to take advantage of LETTING GO of whatever restricts you from being you and who want to be — happy, optimistic, worry-free, successful, positive, creative, and any and all words that are synonymous with the word “FAN-F*CKING-TASTIC.” I wish that you and your loved ones are UNCONFINED, UNRESTRICTED, UNAFRAID AND FREE in love, life, and everything in between. I know it’s hard to relinquish our comforts, and I still struggle with my hang ups. But I’ll always remember the feeling of just kicking off the rock, opening my hand, and letting go. PURA VIDA!!!