For this second story about my vacation to Costa Rica, my pictures only slightly capture the wild excitement I experienced!
I am not a seasoned traveler, by any means. In the past, I usually traveled with my parents, husband and children.
Therefore, going to a different country as a single woman was huge for me. The most beautiful part of my adventure was the fact that my eyes were not bothering me at all.
Ever since my divorce, I avoided traveling because I was very vulnerable with my dry eye condition. But suddenly, the constant eye pain that defined my life for four years faded away. It all seemed to coincide with my newest instrumental song composition, which I actually named: “My Healing Song.”
On this trip, I made wonderful new memories. My water adventures were especially fun. River rafting and scuba diving were things that I had done with my ex-husband. I proved to myself that I was able to still enjoy these things on my own.
I wondered how I would I maintain my commitment to losing weight while staying at a resort with all-inclusive food. My wonder simply became determination and I ate exactly the things allowed on my diet program. I enjoyed everything I ate; the vegetables, salad, fruit and meat were delicious. I came home and discovered I had lost weight – a first for me while on vacation!
On the fourth day of my trip, Lupe and I went river rafting in the warm jungle waters of the Guanacaste Province. I was a little concerned for Lupe because she was not a swimmer. Even with a life jacket on, I thought it might be traumatic for her if she fell out of the raft.
As our group hiked down to the rushing river, I felt slightly nervous. When the rafts were lowered down, one woman was so afraid that she chose to go back and skip the ride. Her husband turned around to join her. “That was a smart move,” his friends told him.
There were four rafts in our group. Our raft never flipped over during the trip, but the other three rafts did. One young couple requested it because they wanted to go swimming
From the moment our raft started bounced down the first group of rapids, I was exhilarated. In between moments of spray and splashing, there were smooth areas of gently flowing water. It was warm and breezy and the surrounding jungle was absolutely gorgeous. I had to scrunch down at times so as not to hit my head on a branch.
I marveled at how I could see every detail around me. I was wearing my new soft contact lenses and felt just the way I used to feel before I had cataract surgery. It was heaven!
Our guide liked to make a loud cracking noise by hitting his paddle hard against the water. When Lupe and I jumped, he laughed. But when he splashed us as a joke, I reacted with annoyance. My eyes were burning after water hit them because I wasn’t expecting it.
But after I complained, he even warned the other guides not to splash our raft in fun. He pointed to me and said something about my eyes in Spanish.
Our raft trip lasted about two hours and at the very end there was a waterfall, which was considered a Class 4 rapid. We had the choice to get off before it if we wanted to.
With a grin I said to Lupe, “Let’s do it!”
I gripped the raft with one hand and held onto my paddle with the other as the raft began to fall forward. I sure wish I had an extra arm that could have held my nose closed. The rushing water roared over us and it felt like a hose was shooting water into my nose and out my ears! Luckily my mouth and eyes stayed closed.
I experienced a terrible headache from the water up my nose. It lasted about five minutes and thankfully went away.
I didn’t regret doing that last rapid once my headache passed. It was great seeing those photos and marveling at the bravery Lupe and I had!
Scuba diving was also on my list of activities to try. I made sure that I brought with me my old certification card from 1980. The last time I had gone scuba diving was about 12 years ago.
It was wise for me to pay a little extra for a “refresher course.” A wonderful young man met me at the hotel swimming pool one hour before my scheduled dive.
He patiently explained how to hook up the tank and regulator. We went over all the hand signals that my guide and I would use to communicate under water. I struggled strapping on my buoyancy compensator vest while floating in the pool. The heavy weight belt had me sinking under water and gasping for air. It was so exhausting that I hoped I’d be up to the big dive an hour later.
Fortunately, the young man had a huge smile and was very patient with me. I repeated all the things he had explained to me. I did forget to do the “smell test.” I laughed because it was a smart thing to do – to sniff the air from the tank before breathing it in.
And I do have to mention there was one fear I had to overcome. A long time ago, I had gone scuba diving where I was seasick the whole time. It was a terrible experience.
I was confident I’d be okay because earlier that week. Lupe and I had gone on a Catamaran for sunset tour. The water was very choppy, but I enjoyed the ocean wind and felt fine. I was elated that I hadn’t gotten seasick then and really felt like a new person!
After the lesson, I decided to skip lunch before the dive. I wasn’t going to take any chances. I snacked instead on an energy bar I had brought from home.
My dive was scheduled for 2 p.m. I arrived a few minutes early and waited along with another young couple. They were friendly and it turned out they were from California, too.
It turned out that I was the only scuba diver that day. The other couple would be doing SNUBA; they would be breathing from a hose connected to a tank above in 30 feet of water. I noticed they had a waterproof camera and I asked them if they wouldn’t mind taking a few pictures of me. They were so nice and I was thrilled.
The location for the dive was on a volcanic reef that was only ten minutes away by boat. I climbed onto a small motorboat on the beach and soon climbed aboard a larger boat. It roared through the water at high speed and we were on our way.
Suddenly, my sun visor flew off into the ocean. I was very touched and couldn’t believe that the captain turned the boat around to get it. My handsome diving teacher jumped into the water and handed it back to me a moment later.
The boat lurched to a stop. It was time for me to put on my gear. I opted not to use a wetsuit because the water wasn’t cold at all.
I sat down on a bench and attached the three snaps on my vest; the tank and regulator were already attached. I was glad about that since I’d already forgotten my lesson by now. There was only one problem. I couldn’t stand up!
I was laughing when the captain and dive instructor lifted me up from my armpits. The boat was rocking as I moved slowly with my big flippers slapping the slippery deck. I looked out at the water several feet below. Now all I had to do was take a “big step” while holding onto my mask. I closed my eyes and held my breath.
I hit the water and was relieved to be floating on the chopping surface. It helped having my guide right there next to me. He told me to let the air out of my vest and hold onto the anchor rope as I went down.
My breathing was bubbly and noisy and I practiced clearing my mask. I was glad my eyes were okay and my contact lenses were unaffected.
As I descended, my ears hurt from the pressure. I squeezed my nostrils together and blew hard until I heard strange popping noises. I kept popping my ears until I was 50 feet down on the ocean floor.
I was in a fish tank! Schools of metallic fish were moving all around me. Because this area was a volcanic reef, the clarity was much better than other areas with silt from the rain run-off.
I hardly had to kick and swim. I moved with the current and my guide pointed out things to me. A few enormous rays sailed by effortlessly. I saw a few menacing eels slithering through the rocks and an occasional puffer fish.
The time flew by and then the guide told me it was time to go back. I was surprised because I had plenty of air left. But it was fine because I had gotten a few leg cramps; I was tired.
Amazingly, the same anchor rope appeared in front of me. I tried to go up slowly, but in a few seconds I was on the surface again with waves tossing me around.
It took me a few minutes to unhook my vest, but I did it. I handed the vest with the tank over to the men on the boat. I grabbed their arms and they helped to pull me up.
I noticed my knee was bleeding from a small cut; I must have gotten too close to some coral. But other than that I was fine.
I collapsed on a bench and took deep breaths. I was very inspired and so proud of myself for doing this!
On our last day, Lupe and I went to an interesting adventure park that had a beautiful waterfall and choices of activities. The main attraction was African animals that we could feed carrots to from a bus.
It was very cool to feed the giraffes and zebras. I knew they weren’t indigenous to this country, but it was a wonderful opportunity to see them up close. I learned a lot about these exotic animals during this tour.
After the safari tour, I chose hiking as my second activity and Lupe chose zip-lining. I was surprised that I was the only one that chose hiking in our group, so I ended up having my own personal tour guide. His name was Juan and it was fascinating to learn about the jungle from him.
From the beginning of my jungle walk, I was entranced by the amazing varieties of fungus in the rainforest. I took many pictures of them while Juan listened carefully for noises. I had hoped to see an animal, bird or reptile up close. Even though I didn’t see anything big, I enjoyed looking at small details. We examined an amber-colored ant that was bigger than any ant I’d ever seen.
Juan helped me take a short video of a particular fern that actually moved its leaves when touched!
There was a type of fruit that Juan called “monkey fruit” because the monkeys loved to eat it. He was excited when he found some on a tree that was untouched. He pulled off a clump and broke the fruit open so I could taste it.
He asked me what it tasted like, and I couldn’t really describe it well – it was very unique. My closest description was sweet and spongy, perhaps a little like citrus mixed with a pear.
I was very glad Juan was my guide. I learned so much that day!
On my last evening, I took a picture of the sunset overlooking the hotel. I loved the “pink clouds in the sky” and had recently sung those song lyrics before my trip.
I had mixed feelings about my wonderful trip coming to an end. I wasn’t looking forward to the long bus ride back to the airport in San Jose at 3 a.m. Or the two flights to get to Los Angeles. But during those hours in transit, I was able to reflect on all my wonderful experiences in Costa Rica. I felt peaceful and looked forward to coming home and seeing my children.
At night, I find myself dreaming of jungles and warm beaches . . .
Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.