As all four of you who read this blog know, this was the year that I was going to start having adventures and doing things that I don’t normally do. To kick-start this experiment, I started doing stand up. Super fun, awesome time doing that……..but it wasn’t enough. I needed something big, a massive challenge. So, I did what any other normal person would do: I booked a vacation.
Truth: this vacation was actually through a dating website. (No, not OK Cupid. Can you even fucking imagine???). It was through Match.com, which is slightly less embarrassing. You see, they have these events, trying to get single people to put the pizza down, get out of their pajamas, and integrate into the terrible, awful, miserable world of dating. I had attended exactly 0.0% of these events locally. However, on this particular day, something caught my eye. I saw an ad for a 9 day vacation to tropical Costa Rica. The price was reasonable, the trip would have a tour guide, and the company wasn’t a scam. The age range was 25-45 (not bad), it was guaranteed to be an appropriate mix of both men and woman (excellent), and we would be traveling to various places in the country. I thought it over for a bit, then said fuck it (!) and booked the trip. This was me, living la vida loca! I envisioned lying on a gorgeous white sand beach, drink in hand, listening to the waves crashing. I would be relaxed, happy, and most likely drunk. Sign me up!
Fast forward two weeks after purchasing: I have a boyfriend. Of COURSE. Now, instead of wanting to lay on that beach alone, I wanted him to come with me. For some CRAZY reason, he wasn’t willing to drop everything in his life and spend a ton of money to come with me.
The day I left, I had about an 8 hour travel day, finally landing in the capital city of San Jose. Navigating through an airport is a hassle in any situation, but doing so when, as they say, you don’t “speak-a the Spanish” becomes even worse. There I was, trying to find my way out of an airport that was a giant sea of airport-smelly people. Oh! I also forgot to mention that the World Cup was going on. So, not only am I a stranger in a strange land, but I’m also surrounded by THOUSANDS of soccer jersey-wearing nationals that walked about 20 people deep. No bueno.
I made it to my hotel in one piece, thanks to the quick reaction time of my taxi driver who simultaneously caused AND prevented an accident on the highway. I checked into my hotel, finding out there was a group meeting at 6 o’clock that night with the rest of my travel amigos. Logically, I headed to the bar, sitting next to a very large man from Texas, who was also a VEGAN. Exsqueeze me??? Baking powder?? It’s always been my understanding that people from Texas use meat as deodorant/perfume/toilet paper, so this guy telling me he’s a vegan completely blew my mind. I really wanted to sit and chat, but my group was assembling to discuss what we had in store for the week. So, I said hasta luego and met with the group to find out exactly what shenanigans I would be getting into for the next eight days.
We leave San Jose at 7 am, making the trek to our first destination, an area called La Fortuna. There was a volcano there and some other outdoorsy activities that we could do. One activity, something called “canyoneering” seemed to catch everyone’s fancy. From the guide’s description, this was an activity where you hike down into this canyon-type area and then repel off of waterfalls. Full disclosure: I’m a total puss when it comes to heights. I have been known to lock up, freak out, and cry. It’s not something that I readily admit, but it’s what happens. So………..I wasn’t super jazzed about the idea of repelling backwards down a waterfall. What if my line broke? What if I slipped before they even secured the line? What if there’s some weird water animal just waiting for my descent? I said I wasn’t going to do it, instead opting for the safe, old lady activity of horseback riding. This would be a nice alternative to the insanity of jumping around in water. However, because I have shit luck and nothing can go my way, I was informed that particular activity was cancelled for the day due to weather. Awesome. So, canyoneering it was for me.
The weather in La Fortuna is, for lack of a better word, disgusting. It’s about 5 billion degrees Farenheit, so rough translation of -3,462 degrees Celsius (who knows and who cares). Total misery. Now, I had to hike in this weather. We got to the place and were loaded into the back of what were basically Mexican farm trucks. At this point, I wasn’t even entirely sure that these were adventure guides. I have watched waaaaaaaaaaaay too many episodes of Locked Up Abroad to know that this could lead to a kidnapping in the jungle. But, my fears were of course ridiculous and we got to the location without issue. After a quick 10 minute safety talk, we were on our way. As the guide was talking about the hike, I began quietly deciding how to make a run for it. In hatching my jungle escape plan, I realized that I would last about 20 minutes before I ate a poisonous berry and died. I have absolutely no survival instincts other than curling up in a ball to wait for certain death.
All fear aside, we reached the first “baby” waterfall, and over we go. It really wasn’t a big deal at all. It was maybe 10 feet up and looked like I could at minimum, slide down on my butt. The hard part was definitely figuring out the rope and how to lean back into it. Without much issue, I made it over the waterfall in one piece. Off we trek through the various streams to the next waterfall. This was fine! What was I afraid of? I was actually feeling a bit of an adrenaline rush! Onward ho we went.
Everything was going smoothly. The second waterfall was significantly higher than the first. The third was really not much of anything. I was feeling super confident at the point, even excited to get to the last one. We finally approached the last waterfall Now, that all too familiar feeling of my bowels turning to liquid came back. I was certain I was going to shit my shorts, then I would be called “Shit Pants Marie” for the rest of the trip. I would be segregated to the back of the bus, no one would want to sit with me………clearly, I needed to hold my shit together, literally.
I got to the top of the platform and did what most scared me: I looked down. I forced myself to look down. I almost puked looking down. This shit was 200 feet high. I could feel my knees starting to buckle, my heart racing. Yet, I still looked. The sound of water rushing over the falls was so loud you couldn’t really hear much else, including what the instructor was telling you to do. With complete trepidation, I walked up to the guide and he started to buckle what felt like 20 ropes to me. Because I’m left-handed, he had to make some adjustments. In doing that, he asked me to step over some of these ropes, which were precariously situated at the edge. I gave him my Kung-Fu grip and told myself I needed to trust him.
Once I was securely fastened, I was ready to now jump to my certain death. He explained to me that I had two options: the first was to repel about halfway down the waterfall, then when he yells “let go”, you let go of the rope and grab another rope, which the guide at the bottom of the canyon is controlling. The second option is that you can do the same thing of letting go, just higher up the waterfall, making you go twice as fast to the bottom.
Naturally, I did what a normal, safe human being would do. I let go of that fucking rope right at the top and flew down. That’s right people, I did not puss out and went for it. It was amazing; I was in a free fall, unable to see where I was going, only seeing the platform getting smaller and smaller every half second.
Finally, I felt the rope tighten a bit and started to slow down; this was my stop. I looked back and saw two of the guides smiling and cheering me on. One of them had a camera and was taking a million pictures. I looked horrible. I was soaking wet, wearing a harness and a helmet, pasty white legs sporting some lovely black water shoes. I looked like a European tourist, just minus the fanny pack. But I loved every second of it. I hammed it up for those pictures, knowing that was a moment I wanted captured.
I hope you’ve all stuck with me to this point (this is a fucking long post). I just want to make this point: I did it. I did something that I never thought I would do (travel alone, internationally) and jump backwards off of a waterfall. I proved to myself that I am capable of a lot of things (mainly not shitting my pants in time of crisis). There were other good moments of the trip, but I like this one the best because it was a kick-start. I learned that I actually enjoyed repelling and hiking through nature……..as long as there are no weird jungle animals around to attack/bite/maim me.