January 14, 2017, Category: Costa Rica

Nito leaves without us, and we wait for better weather so a plane can land to fly us out. There are no guarantees. Will we be stranded in the Corcovado? Another family is ahead of us in line (they were supposed to leave yesterday).

Day 10: Leaving Corcovado National Park

In December of 2012, Sandi and I went to Costa Rica. It has taken a few years, but I'm finally taking the time to edit my journal entries, post the blogs, and upload the pictures. Click the pictures to expand them. Click here to jump to the beginning with a link to every day.

Come hell or high water, we had to make it back to Naranjo tonight because early tomorrow we had to leave for our prepaid reservations at The Springs, a resort near Arenal. Our one night of luxury on this vacation at hot springs where we could soak and relax. The plane was supposed to pick us up early. It didn’t. Rain, wind, and clouds had shut down the little runway.

“No worries. Everything will be fine,” Nito said.

He’d used this phrase at key points in our journey, and I’d always believed him–in an American way. To me, these words meant everything would work out like we wanted, or needed, them to. The plane would get us back to Pureto Jiminez with time to return to Naranjo by nightfall. But I realized Nito was speaking Costa Rican.

Let me translate his words for Americans: “We will roll with whatever life gives us, and make it work.”

I’d do well to speak more Costa Rican. But if the plane couldn’t fly us out today, we’d lose our chance to stay at The Springs, which hadn’t been cheap and offered no refunds. Add another day of storms, and we’d miss our flight home. So, yes. Whatever life dished us in the next two days would not kill us. In the end, we would be fine. But it could be expensive and cause problems with our employers.

I could roll with whatever happened. But I really, really did not want to roll. Neither did Sandi, Ryan, or Yeimy. So we watched the skies, listened to the Sirena radio chat, and waited.

Another family was flying out today, too. Except, they had been scheduled to fly out yesterday but the storm hadn’t allowed it. If there was a break in the clouds today, the plane would pick them up first then, hopefully, return for us. Our chances did not look good. Had I planned in a buffer, I would have hoped for a delay.

Ryan caught a picture of this guy slinkin’ around.

The morning hours passed, and Nito and the Spaniards prepared to depart.

“Maybe we should hike with you,” I said. “To make sure we get back today.” Plus, it was a gorgeous hike. Although it would be tough, I wanted to cash in on my third day of Corcovado hiking.

Nito shook his head. “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.”

Ry came up to me, “She would like to look at your foot. She’s a nurse in Spain.”

The Spanish woman smiled at me, and I thanked her. I pulled off the gauze and she frowned. She pointed at it, raised her eyebrows, and nodded.

“Yes, please. Thank you,” I nodded back.

She cleaned it, put stuff on it that burned, and I tried to keep my body from jolting when twitches of pain shot up my leg. Then she spoke to Ry in Spanish.

“That’s a bad infection,” he told me. “You need to keep the gauze off so it can breathe and stay dry.”

I thanked her, then told Ry to thank her with many flowery Spanish words. He did, and we said goodbye to both Spaniards and Nito. They hiked down the runway towards the ocean, and I knew we’d be here until a plane could land. However long that took.

The rain stopped, but the clouds didn’t budge.

“The sky has to be clear before it can land,” a staff member told us.

My gut twisted, and I tried to talk myself through it. What happens, happens, right? There was nothing I could do about the situation except wait, so Ry and I took pictures and explored the trails around the ranger huts. Of all the places in the world I’d choose to be stranded, this was right up close to the top.

After a few hours, we heard the buzzing of a small plane up in the clouds as it circled looking for a view of the runway. We cheered when it dropped through a hole in the clouds, coasted above the grassy runway, and settled to the ground. The family loaded up, the plane buzzed back to life, and we waited again.

“We made it!” Somebody yelled across the meadow. We heard whoops and screams.

“It’s here! We found it!”

Three guys walked out of the jungle, dancing and yelling. The lost ones had found their way back after two nights in the jungle.

They’d got confused on the trails during their short hike, and tried to return. Then circled back and tried another route … as they drifted further and further from camp, more lost with each choice. They had no idea where they were. The storm came, they sought cover, it got dark. They made a shelter with banana leaves and said as they were cutting down the leaves, snakes would fall out of the branches on them. Sandi did a heebie jeebie dance, but I was envious. I’d wanted to see snakes but hadn’t.

We heard the plane again, and prepped for departure. Yeimy and Sandi were nervous about the flight. I was worried our luggage would be too heavy and we’d need two trips. The little plane dropped out of the sky again; we hoisted gear to our backs and walked down the grassy runway.

“No worries. We can fit all your gear,” the pilot said, to my relief.

Sandi and Yeimy had white faces and wide eyes. They dreaded what was coming, Ry and I were excited. I’d smile and nod at Ry, then give a sympathetic frown to the women. Two complete different faces depending on who was in front of me. It was hard not to let the excitement side spill on to the gloom side, but I figured it could get me in big trouble if I didn’t manage it carefully.

We loaded in to the small cabin. Yeimy and Sandi consoled each other, and the prop started spinning. Ry and I had our cameras and GoPros ready to go.

The plan lurched, moved forward, and we started bouncing down the runway.

Suddenly Sandi got a big smile on her face and gave me the thumbs up. I thought of the old Life cereal commercials with Mikey.

“She likes it! Hey Sandi!”

Bounce, bounce, bounce, and … no bounce. We were airborne. We sailed over the ocean, the clouds vanished, and we banked to follow the shoreline. Below us, we saw the beaches we’d been hiking. The river with the crocodile. And behind the beaches, dark green mountains.

Seeing our day long, fourteen-mile hike pass in under fifteen-minutes was almost therapeutic. The rivers we crossed, the beaches we’d trudged, the thousands of animals we knew were down there. The panoramic view from a few hundred up had us all smiling, laughing, and reminiscing. Even Yeimy ended up having a good time.

A short twenty minutes after takeoff, we landed in Pureto Jiminez ahead of schedule. Had we hiked out, we’d still be hours away. We caught a shuttle to the hostile, loaded the car, and started our drive back. Leaving in the early afternoon left us plenty of time to stop and explore beaches and little towns during the trip. We drove through the surfer villages and watched them gliding across the waves. We stopped to see macaws and monkeys when they were resting in the trees near the beach. Ry and I watched a long line of army ants marching across the beach and up into the trees. They sliced up leaves, then carried them down the tree, across the beach, and into holes in the ground.

For dinner, we stopped at one of Ry’s favorite Seafood restaurants not far the Croc Bridge.

My foot hurt during the drive, but I swallowed pain killers and wore sandals with my heel free from the strap. When we stopped, I’d limp and hobble. In a few days, we’d be home and I’d have it looked at.

We chatted the entire drive back, reliving the adventure. Laughing at our mistakes, making fun of ourselves. Ry and I figured it would have gone 100% better had we packed lighter. We both wanted to do it again sometime, the girls let us know we’d be on our own. Next time, we’d take day packs and arrange to eat and sleep in the dorms. Fly in to one of the northern stations and hike all the way to Carate.

We made it back to Yeimy’s house before dusk, and Deyanira greeted us with the same warm hospitality. She cooked us fresh, hot tamales as Ryan and Yeimy rattled off our entire adventure to several members of the family that had gathered for the evening in Spanish. I watched the story through their changing expressions. Wide eyes. Hand over her mouth as she shook her head, mumbling quietly. Laughter. Sighs.

Then, they were all looking at me. I wasn’t sure why. Deyanira said something to me in Spanish.

“She says we need to look at your foot,” Ry said.

I peeled off the gauze. Based on their sour looks and Spanish chatter, I could tell they were impressed.

“They can treat it for you if you want,” Ry said.

“Yes, thanks!” I said.

“You better take a stiff drink first. It’s not going to be pleasant.”

Yeimy’s cousin put on various creams cleaned it out while I tried not to wince. It wasn’t pleasant. She wrapped it, and they gave me a few shots of something strong to help me sleep. And I slept. Like a baby.

Here is a compiled clip Ry made of some of our Corcovado experiences.

Click here to go to Day 11.


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