Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Following Friendship into Costa Rica

It was 93 degrees yesterday in Costa Rica--fans whirled through the airport in Liberia--and after a warm welcome by our friends Lynore and Siena, we went for a bite to eat in the town of Liberia. Fish seviche--normally made of Corvina--for most of us.

Lunch was a great introduction to the slower, relaxed pace of life here. The food was fresh and bright--the service was pleasant and attentive--and the food came out...eventually. But, no problem.

Lynore's daughter, Siena, indulged in a fresh, tall blueberry smoothie while we waited and it immediately made me anxious to taste the fresh fruit of this region. As I write now, I am enjoying a surprise Mango smoothie that Lynore whipped up.

After lunch, we followed Lynore's car to a waterfall about 2 kilometers from the main road. The major road was under construction for most of the ride.

On either side of the road we passed deserted, once glorious, farm estates that must have been something to see when they thrived in the late 19th century. 

We passed what I can only describe as shanty towns or what I think of as Hoovervilles--ragged, doorless, homes constructed with recycled building material. The images of rocking chairs and wandering dogs and people on old bicycles completed the scenery...until we passed the horses. Some were tied to side of the road, others ran free on dry farmland. We passed cattle and we passed children playing and laughing in the cloudy dirt. People walked. Men sold local fruit under the shade of roadside stands. And people waited for buses.

The volcano Tenorio loomed far in the distance.

The sign to the waterfall is easily missed. Faded paint on a small scrap of wood blended into the vegetation and trees. The history of the waterfall is that it used to be a local, unadvertised secret spot in Guanacaste.

We pulled onto the dirt road, uneven and bumpy, and followed it passed a sign indicating a hotel and restaurant existed, or once did. 

A woman waited under an awning and took donations for the construction of a local school before letting us take the road up to the waterfall.

The unpaved road was the roughest if ever driven on. We had to ease the (rental) car--a Toyota Corolla--over a mile of a winding stretch if jagged stone and hard dirt ruts. Even at 5 miles an hour or less the car rocked and bounced and scraped and rumbled. I thought through a silent prayer that we wouldn't snap an axel.

Once we parked, the walk to the waterfall  made for treacherous footing. It was a steep downhill (climb?) journey on a natural path of (more) jagged stone and tree roots. It was a winding zig zag about fifty yards down.

Lynore advised, "Watch where you put your hands if you need to grab something for balance."  We didn't want to surprise any snakes. We didn't see any.

Once reaching the first glimpse of waterfall--the first I've ever seen--we stepped onto a small beach with a really fine sand. Around us were a kind of fig tree--a strangler fig--that didn't seem to bear fruit, but the roots grew up out of stone and twisted and hugged and entangled.

The mist from the falls was cool and subtle--we were still over a hundred yards from it--and we wades out into the pooling river water to take pictures. The water was refreshingly cool.

Lynore and her daughter climbed to the falls and walked behind it--not as treacherous as they imagined--and reported there was a dark cavern which they left unexplored...much to Siena's disappointment.

Our ride home took us past many little towns--one even named Filidelphia (after our home)--and again we saw the tiny, simple homes, but as it was late in the afternoon, we passed more people of all ages. They walked everywhere and as a driver I had to be ultra aware as twilight came. We drove incredibly close to people who didn't seem to be fazed by the cars zipping by them, inches away.

Even when the area seemed remote, we passed a lone woman waiting for a bus or a solitary silhouette of a man crossing a flat field. 

By the time we reached Lynore and Bill's home it was six o'clock and night has fallen. We reacquainted with their son Liam, a soon-to-be senior in high school, and two of his friends. All great guys. We had a beer to unwind and Lynore put marinating ribs on the grill--which made the eyes of the three teenaged boys light up--and we shared in a nice feast at the end of a memorable first day in Costa Rica.

Which leads me to something I am (re)learning. Costa Rica is similar to many other amazing places in the word in that the landscape and lifestyle and history is memorable and worth experiencing. But it is only through the people of a region--and if one is lucky to make friendships, the friendships forged in a region, that make places like Costa Rica and Italt worth knowing. 

The people of a place injects its beauty into your blood and bones that our memories and photographs just can't match.

My wife and I are grateful for our friendship with Bill and Lynore and their children, and we are looking forward to meeting their friends, neighbors, and any passing stranger or two...even if some carry machetes here as a way of life (for vegetation, not people)!

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