Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Montezuma, Waterfall Town

It was another typical semana in San José last week.  Monday the entire group from CEA went out to the Monday spot of Cuartel, where there was a live band that played Costa Rican songs purely in Spanish next to Bob Marley next to John Mellencamp's "Hurts So Good."   It was a lot of fun, though I must say that in the crowded windowless stage area I began to miss Colorado's good old no smoking in public buildings law.  Tuesday I cooked fresh tomato pasta for Tita with Lanae, then went to my first clase de baile where we learned some reggae, salsa, and merengue.  Wednesday I missed cooking class where they made fried dough with canela (cinnamon) and leche condensada (condensed milk) inside, for I had a brochur about Nicaragua to finish (and mostly start, heh).  Thursday we walked to the grocery store to get ingredients for MORE fresh-tomato pasta and guacamole (we had a "feast" in class on Friday), and on the way back saw the most gorgeous sunset ever.  Each cardinal direction held a different view, to the North a bright blue sky with a few clouds, paling, of course, closer to where the sun set.  To the South, darker and more gray, with the mountains looking unusually clear but intimidating in the background.  To the West, naturally, the actual setting sun, outlined in clear gold, with a golden arch of soft clouds above and purple stripes before more cotton-ball nubes of gold and pink.  And to the East the clearest, most brilliant rainbow I've ever seen.  It was a double one, too, and since we're so close to the equator, it nearly formed a circle rather than the simple wide bow of further north.  We looked like a bunch of tourists, for sure, walking down the busy Avenida Central gawking first this way, then that, grocery bags in our hands, but I didn't care.  Gotta take in the sights, right?
Friday we watched the very fuerte and dura movie "La mala educación," a film by Spanish director Almodóvar while we ate the different things the three students and teacher in my class had brought in to share.  We had guacamole, gallo pinto, fresh-tomato pasta, delicious Costa Rican coffee from the old-fashioned sock-like Costa Rican coffee strainer, and brownies from a box the other girl in my class's friend had brought for her from the states.  This was especially convenient because after class I didn't have time to eat anything else before our van left at 1 pm for the weekend destination of Montezuma, last of the CEA excursions.
Montezuma is a small town I'd been told was "cute" on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula in the Northwest of Costa Rica.  "Great, another beach town," I thought.  I was getting sick of them.  And it is those things, but it's so much more, too.
To begin with, this was the first small town (meaning its downtown is about two blocks worth of shops, groceries, tourist agents, and restaurants in the shape of a T) with NICE roads and DELICIOUS restaurants.  It had ethnic food (well, Italian)!  It had ORGANIC food!  It had flowers blooming everywhere and a shady park, and it looked taken care of!
It also had Trits, which are my new favorite Costa Rican things to buy!  They're ice cream sandwhiches in mini plastic tubs so you don't drip.  There's chocolate fudge at the bottom of the vanilla ice cream center, and the graham-cracker or whatever-they-are outer parts are just super.   And they're 300 colones, less than 60 cents, each!
Buuuuut, the main attraction was a set of three waterfalls, the trailhead to which was a five minute walk from our hotel.  From there you must hike through a river, over roots, up and down to the first cascade, which is about 50 feet high.   It was a complicated walk, as, actually, was walking anywhere in Montezuma.  In the city the first rain of the season had brought out 3 inch wide purple and red crabs like the plague.  It was pretty scary, really, to walk around at night with their clicking right by your feet all the time--how horrible it woudl have been to walk on one so big or to have on walk on you!  (They were pretty cute, whipping out their great gray pinchers whenever they felt threatened, but doing nothing but scuttle away fast as possible on their little orange legs, sideways, off the road.)  On the hike we had to avoid roots and sudden steep down turns, where we needed ropes at times to avoid falling.
At the waterfall you could swim right up to the cascade, even under it, for the water pressure was very small, broken by all the rocks the water had to hit on its way from the top.  It was a kind of gross yellow color, but there were fish all over and rocks at a nice height to jump from and swim about.
Fun, but there could be more!!  We met a man who had been to Montezuma 7 times and spends almost every day there at the waterfalls.  He offered to take us up to the top two waterfalls that fall into consecutive pools, the bottom one of which falls into the one we were swimming at.  We accepted and luckily he knew the way, because it wound and was dangerous and dipped and neared barbed wire and we would have gotten lost at a creek we were to cross had he not pointed us left.  At one point we looked out over the waterfall we'd been at and saw hawks or somethings soaring easily over all the green.  "Wouldn't this be completely perfect if there were some monkeys swinging through the trees over us now!?" I said.  We walked no more than 100 meters before we spotted a gang of white-maned monkeys.  It waaaaas pretty close to perfect.
We arrived at the top of the two upper pools.  The waterfall feeding it is about 3, 3.5 meters high, and we watched with glee as a group of elderly zip-liners took a detour to jump from the top of it on into the greenish water of our pool.  None of hte pools have strong currents, even near their profoundest of drops.  They're super safe AND super fun.
Gary, the man who was guiding us, walked us over some rocks around the pool to the verrrry edge of the middle waterfall, a giant 15 meter straight shot down.  "You could basically fall from here," he said, "and be fine.  There are no rocks at the bottom and none to worry about on the way down."  Interesting, but the idea of falling from such a height terrified me anyway.   We turned back around to the pool where we were already situated.  A few of us took shots at the rope swing some locals had hung, and the water was refreshing, if slighlty murky.  We swam around a bit and waited for some more of the CEA kids to make the hike up--they'd gotten lost at the barbed-wire section.
When they got there everyone whipped out their cameras.  Gary was deciding to jump off the 42 footer (he'd done a GPS reading one time).  He leaped without time for us to really think about it, splashing straight in, like a pencil.  Wooooow.  I decided I wanted to go.  He was encouraging!  I stood on the edge and looked down.  No, it was definitely more than 42 feet.  People around me had told me of other girls who had jumped wrong and broken their tailbones on the landing.  They were peer pressuring me anyway.  Geoff wanted to use his 10-shots-in-a-row setting on his camera to capture it.  Gaaaah!
I stood on the edge and counted so they'd know when to take the picture "Oooone," I said.  I didn't finish, but shifted my weight back away from the drop.  "Okay," I said, shifting forward once again. "Ooooooooone."  But I couldn't finish that count either.  "Just do it!" people were telling me, "And don't keep pretend-counting, we'll miss when you actually do jump!"  "Fine!  Ready?  Ooooooone, twoooo"  but I couldn't do it then, either.  I had to go sit down because I was hyperventilating and my hands were starting to tingle.   I noticed none of theeeem were doing it, those complainers of "You're wasting my battery!"
That's when Tristen, afraid of heights, decided she was going.  It was a simple "One, two, three, LEAP!" for her, and she kept her form, mostly, as Geoff did his camera thing.   She gave me a thumbs up from the waaaaaaaaay bottom, swimming easily away from the crashing water next to her.
Fine.  I jumped.
I actually remember jumping off the cliff, thinking "Oh gosh, what am I doing!?" but then nothing.  I don't remember hitting the water or trying to get to the surface.  All I know is that I was hurting reeeeeally bad on my heiny/leg/lower back when I did start breathing air again.  Gary was concerned and swam toward me, but though I didn't want to use my legs to move (haha I actually thought I'd jammed my spine or something and couldn't!), I cooould swim over to the edge of the pool fine anyway.  No worries, 2 minutes rest later I was much better and we all three, Gary, Tristen, and I, sidled over to look from the top of the main waterfall we'd been at much earlier that morning.  
I could have laid there on those rocks all day like a lizard basking my back and looking down the catarata.   Alas, 10 minutes or so later we made the climb back up the rocky face right next to where we'd jumped.  It was pretty cool to see what exactly we'd jumped off, how far it was, how beautiful, especially considering I definitely wasn't watching when I was actually mid-fall.
After all this everyone was pretty much done at the waterfalls.  We headed back, a group of 7 of us (Gary and all the CEA kids minus Rebecca Dos), a different way from that by which we had come.  Poor Justin had broken his flip-flops, though, on the way up, so the idea of a hot paved road soon was not attractive to him.   He went on slowly and with pain for as long as he could, but about 5 blocks from the hotel had to sit down.   The other CEA kids went off to the beach.  Tristen and I went back to the hotel for some of his other shoes while Sharifa waited with him.  
When we got back to the bottom of the hill where we left him we saw Sharifa laughing.  She had flagged down a random Tico on a motor bike and asked him in Spanish to "Please give the little Gringo sitting on the side of the road" a ride back to his hotel.  That was the funniest thing to see Justin cruise by 30 seconds later on the back of a blue bike, feet red and uplifted.   It was really just not the poor kid's weekend.  Friday night there were about 20 bugs of all sizes in his bed, and then just as many in the bed he got switched to when he complained of the first.  In the end, though, everything was fine.
The rest of the time in Montezuma we really didn't do much else besides get gyped on strawberry-piña daiqiris and read on the gorgeous blue beach.  We didnt' even go in the water there, though beautiful black volcanic rocks made a gorgeous backdrop.  Whenever a large wave would hit the boulders about 100 meters away, the water would fall off in miny waterfalls for 20 seconds or more, and that was my favorite.
Overall I had a great time at this "just another beach town" and on my final CEA excursion.  From now on we'll be travelling in small groups we choose ourselves, more like my first month here, but with more selection.  I'm looking forward to this, too.  Everywhere just makes me like this semester more and more!
I hope you guys are loving your country, too!

(PS That picture of the sign up there that seems to warn us NOT to jump off the waterfall I took AFTERWARDS.  Oops, our bad!)



  1. Does that say "various people have died here, no climbing or jumping"? Because that is hilarious! Given that no one in your group was hurt, I mean. It sounds like you're having so much fun, and I am particularly jealous this week. But I can tell your Spanish is getting really good, because "the water pressure was very small" is a particularly Romance language-y turn of phrase. I'm frankly a little surprised you remember any English at all.
    much <3!

  2. Aiiiiieeee! Tengo fortuna que mi hija es aún viviendo!!!!

    Lee los signos, usted!


    P.S. Have fun, and don't do anything Dad wouldn't do.