Updated: Jun 20
OK… I just want to let everyone know that I wrote this blog out… twice.
On both occasions, it somehow disappeared on me… due to the multitude of problems I am currently having with my, soon to be, ex-computer.
I am not happy.
As I now find myself back to ‘talk to text to edit,’ on my phone, I will apologize, in advance, if this blog is not as informative, nor as funny, as the first edition… or the second.
Maybe third time’s a charm??
Onwards and UPwards...
Anyone that has ever thought that there is an end to going up... or that you can only go up for so far... or that you eventually get to the top after upping it for so long, has obviously never been to Costa Rica.
These hills and the windy roads on them, are never ending. Serioulsy. Never ending.
Whenever you think you might be all the way up... there is more up to go. And then a little bit more. The mountainous roads just never seem to stop up’ing. With every corner you go around, there is more up.
Now here I was in the Central Mountainous Range, Cordillera Central, as it's otherwise known as, and seeking out beautiful things to do in order to occupy my time and get to know the country. One suggestion was a day venture to a town called Baja del Toro, where I could get on the trail that would take me to Catarata del Toro. It guaranteed a couple stunning waterfalls, swimmable pools, breathtaking landscapes and a vigorous bit of exercise.
Seemed like a good idea to me... and not even too far.
Well… 24kms on Costa Rican roadways is not the same thing as 24kms back home. I still have yet to drill that in my mind. I have not yet grown accustomed to the considerable amount of time it takes to do a very modest amount of kilometres here.
There were, as usual, many things to which I was ill-prepared.
~ The road conditions - No one can truly prepare you for the narrow, winding, mountainous paths here. Had they pre-warned me, I probably would have opted out of this adventure, knowing it was me, myself and I behind the wheel. My confidence is not astounding when it comes to bad road conditions, steepness and a rental vehicle.
If anyone has ever been to both Maui AND hit the winter slopes, they will understand when I say this road was an undeniably bona fide amalgamation of the Road to Hana and a double black diamond. It's the truth.
Absolutely treacherous at times. There were moments I was truly petrified… but you can't stop. You just need to keep going. Thinking back to a few days ago, when I actually congratulated myself on conquering that minuscule hill at the Bri Bri waterfall, was comical, at best. Embarrassing now, knowing what other obstacles there are out there.
These narrow hillside highways present you with your own set of obstacles, in the form of potholes, pedestrians, pets, speed bumps, slow drivers, motorcycles and sheer drop-off cliffs.
*Tidbit of information: Did you know they refer to speed bumps here as muetros, meaning ‘dead person.’
I’m gong to call them dead people from now on.
Looking back to only last week, I am exceedingly grateful for opting for the full insurance package, as I cannot imagine the financial suffering I would endure should I cause extensive damage to this vehicle, merely by driving down the road.
My tires and my brakes are already, unfortunately, paying quite a price… and each time I come to a full stop, I can smell the hardship.
~ The parking costs - I didn't realize I might have to pay a parking fee... stupid me... But honestly, it did not even cross my mind until I was there, in the middle of nowhere…wanting to hike. I opened up my empty wallet and handed over my last 1000 colones to the man at the stall.
~ The hiking fee - Yep... that too... As I had given the last of my money to the parking attendant, I was cash broke and beating myself up for not having had stopped at an ATM before blindly heading into the back 40.
To arrive at this registration office and be told there was not only a fee to hike to the waterfalls, but also that credit card was not an option, was devastating. I could feel the tears beginning to well up. Considering the effort and there conditions I had endured to get this far, I really should have consulted a guide book or some online travel tips. The young kid at the desk obviously saw heartbreak written all over my face, as he took pity on this ignorant gringa and my desolate situation.
Miraculously, a credit card machine appeared from behind the curtain... and the day was saved! I was allowed to pay… and hike.
~ Gas - If we're being honest, I have never been a person that spends a significant amount of time looking at the gas gauge. This toxic trait of mine has landed me in much trouble over the years, yet I refuse to learn my lesson.
A quick Google Maps search to locate all the petrol stations in the area, actually revealed that there were NO petrol stations in the area.
The gauge was dropping at an alarming rate. Running out of gas on these 75° angel roads was more frightening than any pothole or speed bump.
But… it could have been the angel of the vehicle too... right?
Was I out of gas?
For all I knew, it wasn’t empty at all.
Anyway, I didn't run out of gas, like I had feared... but I probably should do soon, just to finally teach me a lesson. I think I might even be more inclined to fill up the tank, as the petrol stations here are manned. I don’t even have to leave the comfort of my own Bird.
The phrase, “fill’er up!” has made a triumphant comeback!
I just threw that into a translating app, and I got “Llenarla”… which doesn’t sound as compelling.
The waterfalls were located on private property, hence the hiking fee… but the insurance must have been through the roof, as the risk factor here was enormous. They did their due diligence and had someone stationed at each river crossing, and there was the occasional rope and cord to guide you across, up or down.
What worried me, was the slipperiness of the river rocks, the boulders, the mud, the tree roots and the enormous steps. I am positive those have definitely contributed to more than one broken or sprayed ankle along the way
The waterfall was impressive and majestic in all its glory. I recently read that a waterfall-seeking globetrotter said it certainly belongs in the top 10 waterfalls of the world. And there I was… standing at the very base of it, trying to do a selfie without slipping.
I loved it.
I was surprised at the group gathered there when I arrived, as I hadn’t really encountered many people on the trail. We were permitted to swim in any of the river pools, though I opted not to strip down, due mostly in part to the excessive screaming done by a couple kids that insisted on splashing around and ruining my photo opportunities.
From the main waterfall, I wandered down the rocky path to the smaller one below and watched as a few guys jumped from great heights into a small puddle of bright blue water. No more extreme sports for me, as I knew I might be the exception to the rule and potentially hit a random crocodile or a jagged rock.
There was another trail which led up and the sign said “Mirador,” which I now know, means Lookout.
BUT.. before I knew that translation, I thought it was another waterfall, so off I went in search of it.
More up. A lot more up. Up. Up. Up.
The trail was a series of approximately 700 stairs that meandered up the mountain… to a lookout. La Gota viewpoint. By the time I reached La Gota, I had never been so happy to be at a lookout in my life. And in regards to lookouts, if we’re comparing them, this particular lookout far exceeded most lookouts, and it is one of the most sought after tourist attractions around. Comes fully equipped with some kind of wicker, moon gated walkway, a spectacular view of the valley and…
… wait for it…
… wait for it…
There was beer!
Of course, I was quite prepared to walk by the small concession stand and forego a delicious lager… fully aware that if they only took cash at the bottom, they were hardly going to accept credit card up top. I smiled at the man behind the counter, and made a little comment about how lovely and refreshing a beer would be after that challenging climb. He handed the beer to me and made me promise to pay when I returned to the bottom.
It was the BEST beer I had ever tasted.
And damn straight I paid when I finished my hike. There was no way I wanted that bad karma following me around for the next month!
The heavens opened up as I was making my way down, and it began to pour. It was actually raining so hard, I feared the trails might flood, but I managed to make it back to the Bird without being washed away.
Once back in civilization, I managed to clean myself up, dry myself off and get back into the centro of Grecia, in order to meet up for coffee with Lisa.
Lisa is a friend of a mutual friend back home, Kevin, and he had kindly arranged for us to connect. Lisa had also, kindly agreed!
It was wonderful being able to sit and speak with her. She is a foundation of knowledge for this country, and prior to the strains of COVID, was on the brink of starting her own boutique travel company.
The advice and suggestions she gave to me was second to none and more appreciated than she will ever know. She might even come down and meet up with me on the coast in the next couple of weeks.
It’s almost surreal to have someone to share a meal and a conversation with. It's rare at the beginning of travels.
I had gone out in search of sushi the night before and found myself in a very inhospitable location. I was the only one in the place, yet the service was horrible and I just had the feeling, the entire time, that they wanted me to leave, so they could sit down and go on their phones. It won't alter my love of sushi though...
I also have to make mention of my bed 'n breakfast in Grecia.
Top notch. A1.
Conveniently located, charming, colourful, beautiful view from my patio, large garden to roam around and discover new plants, flowers, wildlife, etc... a river running through the property, excellent breakfast, hospitality second to none... and the biggest and most comfortable bed I've ever slept in!