Today we head out of Tamarindo on the first of our booked adventures. We barely remember eating breakfast because we are so excited to go. This also gives us the chance to explore more of the country outside of Tamarindo.
At 9:00 am we are in the lobby and loading up into the shuttle van…our ride for the day. There is myself and Melanie and three other ladies, our tour guide and our driver. The sun is up and shinning bright…and we are off. We are heading to an eco adventure site ; Buena Vista del Rincon for a full day of fun…and let me say, it was an amazing adventure.
Let me just tell you about our driver. He said his name is “Banana”…because he loves bananas. Not sure if this is true or not, but his smile was enough to make you really not care…and his driving skills…wow. He has been driving all over Costa Rica for 20 years and he can navigate narrow mountain roads, potholes and the ever incredible passing habits of the drivers on the roads and highways. You really felt comfortable with Banana at the wheel.
Our guide, Mariella, was a gem and has become a lifelong friend. She was funny, hospitable, knowledgeable, and really fun. She had us all introduce ourselves, and although the other three ladies seemed extremely uptight and already complaining, Melanie and I shared our story and immediately connected with Mariella. As note….Mariella now works for the Tamarindo Diria…as a tour guide…so when you go…ask for her to be your guide…and please say hello from Melanie and me.
Rincon de la Vieja…one of Costa Rica’s active volcanos and a National Park. The name of the volcano means “Corner of the Old Woman”. Legend has it that princess Curabanda took a lover (Mixcoac) who was the chief of a neighboring enemy tribe. When her Father found out, he sought out Mixcoac and tossed him into the volcano. Curabanda then lived in isolation on the side of the volcano, and gave birth to a son. She tossed him into the volcano so that he could be with his Father. She became a recluse and was known for her healing powers. Interesting story, isn’t it, although very sad on many levels. The volcano has an elevation of 6260 feet and is as I mentioned active. It actually had erupted on April 19th, 2019, just 10 days before we went. It has erupted again in June 2020. The National Park preserves 35,000 acres of jungle, which includes a dwarf cloud forest and is home to howler and spider monkeys, tapirs, sloths, pumas and jaquars. There are numerous hot springs and mud pots and waterfalls. You can grab accommodation at several lodges or resorts in the area and our adventure is taking place at Buena Vista Del Rincon Eco Adventure Park/Hotel and Spa. Check them out on face book or reach out to book your adventure at http://www.buenavistadelrincon.com..
We drive for about an 90 minutes…first on highways, then rural roads, then up the side of the volcano on a sometimes precarious road. We pass through tiny villages of maybe 10 houses, and see countryside and jungle that words cannot describe…so lush and alive…spectacular.
We finally arrive and see beautiful birds and butterflies of all colors, and are offered freshly made juice and organize ourselves for the first activity…ziplining. I wanted to try ziplining more than any other activity and was really nervous because I am hugely afraid of heights…so ziplining makes sense…nope. We get our gear on and start to walk the steep path up to the instruction platform. Now…for one second picture it…you are walking a path through a thick jungle (not a forest). It is hot and tree covered. You have no idea where you are and you are filled with adrenaline for the ziplining…and then you hear it…what can only be described as the loudest, longest and scariest growl I have ever heard. We all stop and look around, (to be honest I think we grouped up together really close) and our wonderful guide smiles and calmly tells us that that is a howler monkey, just letting the other howlers know we are there. Phew. By the end of our stay in Costa Rica, Melanie and I looked for the howlers every morning by the Diria and loved to hear them, but that first time….it goes right through your bones. Check out some YouTube videos of howler monkey growls…you will see how hearing that howl in the jungle for the first time is slightly unnerving.
We make it to the instruction area, get the lowdown on ziplining and head to the first platform. Everyone goes ahead of me and I see Melanie bravely slide off the tiny platform and fly through the jungle…at this point I am really scared. It wasn’t the height so much as the platform size and the fact that I had to almost hop up a little to get hooked onto the cables. The lovely man running the platform pointed to a larger platform and said to me…”go that way and do one run on a bigger platform”. If I was okay with that one I could walk back up and continue on from his perch. You see once you go on the first one from where he was stationed there is no turning back. There are 7 more to do and they get longer. I loved him in that moment. I did what I felt like was a walk of shame to the other platform, hooked on and sailed over the trees…I am so happy that I did…its an incredible feeling. When I made it to the end of the line, I knew that I did not want to do it again. I had fulfilled my desire and was done. So the guide at the platform pointed to a path and told me to walk down there to the lodge.
Here’s where things get a little…awkward. I start heading down the path…alone. I am feeling bad that I am not with Melanie, and hoping she won’t be disappointed that I didn’t share this adventure with her. After about 5 minutes…I realize…I am alone in a jungle and on a path that I have no idea where it goes. I take a few deep breathes and try to convince myself that my time in the forests of Northern Ontario, Canada have adequately prepared me for this moment. I come to a fork in the path…well of course I do, right?…and start heading down the left side…and then I stop because…it doesn’t feel like its the right way. I head back and take the fork to the right. I am now talking out loud to myself…a similar technique used in the Northern Ontario forests to announce your presence to bears, moose and the like. The howler monkeys start to whoop it up and I then realize there are jaquars and pumas and all kinds of fun creatures in this jungle…and me. At that moment I hear all kinds of scurrying sounds through the jungle…above me and in the bushes beside me. I walk faster now…and then I see a building and I hear all kinds of voices. I have ended up walking to the back of the water slide and am safe. I make my way around the building and see Mariella and I cannot tell you how elated I was to see her. She was impressed that I had walked down alone.
Our group finally gets together again at the water slide ( Melanie is laughing at my little adventure) and they prepare to do the slide. It is a cement slide about 12 inches high on either side of you and you go slipping down on your bottom, holding an inner tube as they release high pressures of water to get you moving. At times you get stuck…don’t stand up…because soon another tidal wave of water comes down and sends you further down the cement half tube. I saw numerous people make the mistake of trying to stand up and it was not fun to watch their mishaps. Also, as a note, when we had passed a portion of the slide on our way up to zipline, one of the ladies in our group saw a snake on the side of the slide…you see why I didn’t want to try it…and she wanted to move it off so it wouldn’t hurt anyone sliding by. As she went to go move it Mariella calmly said no just leave it and radioed for one of the Buena Vista staff to come and do the deed. You see it was a Fer De Lance Pit Viper…the deadliest snake in Costa Rica…at this point I need a drink. Ugh!
Next we head to the hanging bridges…an engineering feat to be sure…I still cannot figure out how they build these structures. It was amazing to walk hundreds of feet above the jungle floor and above the treetops. At one point we came across a family of howler monkeys; some above our heads, howling of course and some sleeping and eating right beside us…there were even a few babies to be seen…they are really cute and so agile.
We head to the restaurant for lunch next and what a feast we were given. So much food and so many choices… it was all delicious.
Our day is not close to being over…we are now about to go on a horseback ride through the jungle. We mount up and head out…yeehaw…this is my forte for sure. We ride for about 20 minutes…up hills…down hills…on paved roads and on jungle paths. It was so amazing to look over and see the hills and other volcanoes and take in just how lush these lands are. And then we are told to dismount. Now, our wonderful guide for this part of the excursion ( who remains on his horse) is an elderly Tico who only speaks Spanish. So he literally nodded for us all to dismount…makes a clicking sound…and suddenly he and all of our horses turn around and take off…leaving us all standing at the edge of a path…in the jungle…with no idea where we are or what is happening. I am about to tell them that due to my safari through the jungle alone early this morning, I can lead them out…not really…when all of a sudden a Tico man pops out of the trees and motions for us to go with him. This appears to be our only option….so we follow him through the trees…and we arrive at…a beautiful oasis.
We are now at a mud bath and natural hot springs and we have plenty of time to enjoy ourselves. Melanie and I quickly head to the mud bath and slather on the delightful volcanic mud, letting it dry and harden and work its medicinal magic. After we shower it all off, we head to the sauna, which was made with volcanic mud and shaped like a dome. Soothing. Next we wade into the first of three hot springs, starting with the coolest which was so warm and eventually working our way to the third warmest pool. There is a bar here, massage tables and music playing. We are surrounded by the lush jungle, with hills all around us, reaching high into the sky. There is a spring running by us as well…it truly is something out of a movie. Remarkable.
Soon we get ready to leave, and we are walked to what looks like a very steep drop off into the abyss of the jungle and yet again, left there without a word. Soon a tractor pulling a wagon comes for us, and we begin the extremely bumpy ride back to where our day began.
While we wait for Banana to come with our shuttle van, Melanie and I check out the authentic outdoor kitchen…La Fonda. A local Tico tribe were cooking food over the open fire, had an ox grinding corn on a turn-style (and yes, he is very well treated and fed, and given many breaks), were selling their handmade pottery and goods and…making sugar came moonshine or Guaro. It is most commonly mixed with the Ticos favorite fresca and seldom drank as shots due to its potency. Melanie and I got shown the technique for making the “shine” and then our demonstrator asked if we would like a sample…ummmmm…yes please. It was sweet and potent…we asked for another. Our lovely Tica hostess kindly obliged…and warned us that too many of these will hit you later and you will loose days of your life. We drank our second tipple and thought we had better stop right there.
Mariella gets us all together and ready to head to the van which is patiently waiting for us. We hop in and rest on the ride back to Tamarindo. One thing that struck me as I looked at all of the houses and Ticos we passed. Almost every home had the entire family sitting outside in front of the house, listening to music and talking. Young and old…all ages together…just being together. This is an everyday thing here. It made me think that I don’t really see that in my own country…and that that is a shame.
Once back to our room, we get ready for dinner. We eat at the Diria again, because it is delicious and convenient ( you must try the risottto…yummy), and then head to El Be for some dancing and drinks….and wouldn’t you know it…our mariachi band came and played for us again.
What an amazing day…so many emotions, adventures, firsts for both Melanie and myself. Today I realize how blessed I am to be here, with my daughter and to just be alive.
Tomorrow we have another adventure planned…and its a doozy.
Are you interested in hearing our crocodile encounter story?
Live Your Life…Jan