(San Isidro, Costa Rica) My wife and I arrived in this beautiful country just over a week ago. It’s our third visit together, although my wife has been here a few times without me. The reason for our numerous visits is to meet up with family members; my wife’s mother lives here, as does one of her sisters and family.
My in-laws are some of the finest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Generous, kind, understanding and, fiercely proud Ticos …
My in-laws are some of the finest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Generous, kind, understanding and, fiercely proud Ticos, the term of affection favored by Costa Ricans. On my prior two visits they have been ideal hosts – so why would they try to kill me this time?
Having braved the much-ballyhooed chaos at Montreal’s Trudeau International airport on a Sunday, (in honesty I have to admit it really was not bad, the key is to get there early) we arrived late that evening. With immigration and baggage claim over, the ride from the airport behind us, and initial greetings completed, it was a long day. I knew there was a plan to go for a hike through a coffee plantation the next day, meaning the late night was to be followed by an early morning.
Meeting up with some friends on route, we arrived at our destination Hacienda y Benificio La Chimba about midmorning. We registered, received our wristbands, selected our walking sticks from a large number available (the need for a walking stick should have tipped me off), and listened to the instructions before heading off. Although a nine-kilometre trail exists, we opted for the 4.5 kms.
However, as much as I enjoy a nice stroll on a level surface, I abhor hills. Nothing ruins a nice promenade like an uphill gradient.
A word or two of explanation is required at this point. I like walking, everyday I try to get in my 10,000 steps. Often I use a favourite watering hole as a destination. However, as much as I enjoy a nice stroll on a level surface, I abhor hills. Nothing ruins a nice promenade like an uphill gradient.
There was a time when I used to be an avid runner. Every morning, rain, shine, snow, or sleet, I was out there making my way around town at a steady if not fast pace. As the vast majority of my running was done on sidewalks, one of the remaining effects is a right foot neuroma that can be very painful. Currently the only shoes I can do any substantial walking in are an old pair of Rockports with essentially worn flat soles. What could possibly go wrong?
Costa Rica is a very hilly country. The world famous coffee grows in these hills. I should have seen this coming. Off we started, down a very steep incline that, to make it a little easier, had built in cement steps. Even the downward trek was a bit of a chore, tough on the knees, but the fun was just starting.
Like a good Canadian, I have thick, cold-weather enduring blood. Our hike took place during the Green Season, or what used to be called the rainy season until some shrewd travel agent realized that was not great for business. The sky was overcast, and the humidity felt as if it were at about 400%. I was sweating while standing still. As we started our trek upwards, on muddy, narrow, rocky, tree root-crossed trails, I could feel my body temperature rising significantly, like a kettle on the boil. After a few stops to allow me, the Gringo, to catch my breath, my co-hikers realized that I needed cooling down. Wisely they poured water over me and this allowed me to go on.
After what felt like 10 kms but was only three, I felt I was done. The only problem, and one I think the owners need to address, is that there is no way out. It is not like IKEA’s basement where they make you walk through a maze of merchandise but always post signs that indicate the quick way out. The news of this lack of a safety valve caused me to almost become panicky. I started calculating the cost of a helicopter rescue in my mind. But, we pushed on; actually, it was them pushing me
Just as I thought I was doing ok, and that I might just make it, the skies opened and the rain fell. So there I was on my first day of vacation, exhausted, soaked, hot, wearing shoes that provided zero traction on the increasingly steep and now wet mud and rocks, unable to see through rain spattered and fogged up glasses. I fully expected a swarm of locusts to arrive at any moment. I liken my experience to the old hangover joke: at first I was afraid I was going to die, then, as it got worse I was afraid I wasn’t going to.
It is not like IKEA’s basement where they make you walk through a maze of merchandise but always post signs that indicate the quick way out.
At about the 3.5 kms point hikers are faced with a choice: to call it quits and head down an outlet to the main area, or continue to the very top. My day was done. I think my wife could have gone on, but she was kind enough to accompany me back down the vehicle accessible exit road. The others carried on to the top. Once we arrived at the restaurant, drenched and hot, the rain intensified. My fellow hikers showed their true mettle and finished the trek, albeit under rotten conditions.
These Latinos are tough.