Costa Rica and Earth University, LaFlor: Day 4

17 01 2010

Jan. 10, 2010

Hotsprings and Zip Lines and La Mascota, Oh My.

I first awoke this morning around three o’clock to the howling wind.   I was waiting for the roof or our lodge to fly off.  The wind was probably blowing at 40-50 mph or 64-80 kmph to Costa Ricans.  It was surreal yet so beautiful.  The sound of the wind was both frightening and soothing at the same time.  It’s hard to explain.  I was almost compelled to go out at that moment and experience it.

As daylight broke, the wind was still howling and we were told by the staff that the wind is normal and that it happens about two weeks out of the year.  Will and I were a little late getting out of bed and rushed to breakfast only to miss the rest of the group.  We wolfed down a buffet of cereal, scramble eggs, plantains, baguette, and some sort of rice/meat filled turnover as well as the delicious orange juice found in this region.  I don’t know what it is about this juice, it is so light yet extremely full of flavor.  I love thick, pulpy orange juice, but I think I prefer the juice we are having in Guanacaste.

After breakfast Will and I caught up with the rest of the group as and the boys and Colleen got ready to head for the waterslide.  This slide meanders through the mountainside forest and looks as if it was supposed to be there.  The water that runs through the waterslide is from a river that is partially diverted into the slide and then is drained back into the river as it reaches a pool at the bottom of the run.

I am an avid waterslide fan.  I’ve done all types and I can honestly say this was one of the fastest and most exhilarating one I’ve ever ridden.  It’s so hairy that you have to wear a helmet, sit in an inner-tube, and women must wear a “diaper” so that, as Alex put it, their “uterus doesn’t fill with water”.  LOL!!!  There was a section of the slide that steepens and increases in speed to about 25 mph and enters a series of s-turns.  A couple of times as my legs started flying in all directions during this sections I thought how much it would suck if my leg caught a tree.  Of course that just made the ride that much more spine-tingling.

After splashing down in the pool on the final of my three runs (I know weak, but you have to understand you literally have to hike up to the top) the guys told me to hurry up and get out to check something out.  I got out and before me was a wild pig.  Alex was told it was called La Mascota, and to avoid it’s behind and not to touch it as they can spray a powerful musk.  We took pictures of the pig and with the pig as it seemed unbothered by our presence.

After our waterslide runs we decided to walk and find the hot springs.  We got about 500 meters and couldn’t figure out which way to go so we went back and got on a tractor that took us there.  Good thing too, cause it would have taken us well over an hour to walk there and my legs were in no condition to hike that far after yesterday’s journey.

We arrived at the hot springs and were greeted to a full spa hidden within the rainforest and split by a good-sized river.  I tell you this country has some of the most beautiful rivers I have ever seen.  Every river we come across seems to be more spectacular than that last.  This must be a water-water rafter’s Mecca.  I will have to find that out next trip down here.

We first sat in a sauna for about 10 minutes then proceeded to the mud bath where we covered ourselves in warm mud and stood around making fun of each other as it dried.  At one point I resembled some sort of Mayan warrior from Costa Rica’s past.

After rinsing off the mud we headed for the hot springs and dipped ourselves in the 101º water of one of three springs.  That was the most relaxing hour of my life and I now understand why women rant and rave about it.  That soaking was much need to sooth my aching muscles from yesterday’s hike.

After about two hours at the springs we needed to leave so we could get some lunch and do what we’ve all been looking forward to, the zip lines through the rainforest canopy.

We stopped off at the main lodge and had a wonderful buffet of salad, rice, beans, chicken, and cheese filled enchiladas that were amazing.

After lunch, Alex, Matt squared, Will, and myself went wandering around and decided to go look for La Mascota.  We got back to the waterslide area and didn’t see him.  I wistled for him and Will called out “La Mascota” and as soon as he did, wouldn’t you know it, La Mascota popped out from behind a shed.  Alex informed us that we have been calling the pig by the wrong name all day.  He found out that La Mascota means “pet” in Spanish.  The pig is actually a collared peccary, a type of wild mountain pig.  It was considered a pet by the staff, as I found out earlier from Estevan who is an engineer at Buena Vista.  We hung out with LaMascota and as we began to leave he decided to follow us.

He must have known we were cool and didn’t want us to leave as he followed us all the way back to the main office, being careful to avoid the pond with the caimanAfter lunch we checked out of our rooms and headed for the zip lines.  We got suited up in the harnesses and helmets and headed up to the first line.  And yes, I was taking my camera.  We got our instructions and rules of the zip lines and we were off, flying through the canopy.  As we zipped from tree to tree we saw coatimundi and monkeys and the beautiful flora that made up the rainforest.  Oddly enough I never sensed that we were hundreds of feet above the ground as a result of the canopy being so think it seemed liked you could walk on it.

Halfway through the course we were greeted by Maria and Linda in one of the trees.  This was a surprise as both Maria and Linda were afraid of height and told us they were going to the hot springs instead.  They took pictures of us and followed us from some of the canopy bridges that also run from tree to tree.

At the 11th and final zip line it was time to go inverted.  All of us manned up and hung upside down as we screamed through the rainforest.  After Matt and Matt finished they had their harnesses taken off and to my amazement were being put on both Maria and Linda.  And wouldn’t you know it, they both went down their first zip line, both with giant grins on their face as they did.  I was so proud of them for concurring their fear of heights.

After the zip lines it was time to get our things and head back to LaFlor about an hour, scenic filled drive away.

This stop at Buena Vista Lodge has been a perfect example of eco-tourism.  The rides are almost unnoticeable and do nothing to disrupt the ecosystem.  The water that drives the waterslide is borrowed from a river and then returned to it at that bottom, unaltered.  The zip lines are barely noticeable throughout the rainforest and don’t require any energy to operate.   The hot springs are natural as stated before however they do require the use of a motorized pump to bring the lava-warmed water to the surface.  It would be ideal if Buena Vista developed a more environmentally friendly type pumped or vacuum system that could accomplish the same task.  Besides that, Buena Vista is a wonderful way of touring this beautiful part of the country.  To be out in the ecosystem and observing the biodiversity first hand gives tourist more appreciation for the land and encourages them to leave it the way they found it.

We arrived back in Liberia and stopped off at a central plaza downtown as we waited for Luis to get into town.  We observed a church service and Alex skateboarded with a local kid.  It was really special to see Alex and the rest of interact with the local people the way we did.

After spending an hour at the plaza we continued to LaFlor and stopped at a beautiful, open restaurant on the side of the road just up the road from campus.  As we arrived we from the east we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.  I even climbed on the top of the bus to capture it.  Luis was there to great us and brought along his wife, Andreia for us to meet.  This was a simple, family run Costa Rican restaurant with traditional Costa Rican food.  However, there was an added flare to meals served here.  Presentation was apparently as important as the taste.

After dinner it was back to LaFlor after a fun-filled day and some time hanging out with the guys drinking some Imperials and Pilsens and reflecting on our experiences over the past two days.