Saturday, February 23, 2008

Costa Rica 31

A day off! No scheduled tours, no buses to catch. Free to do whatever we want. Ok, then, how do you fill the day? L told us about this amazing place just outside of town that he had discovered on one of his earlier visits. A swimming hole used mostly only by local kids. What the heck, it sounded like fun so off we went.

L had promised that it was just a “short walk” out of town. I guess he uses a different dictionary than I do. Some quick calculations later told me that the entire walk, one way, was 1.2 kilometers, or ¾ of a mile. Except that we had to walk along the side of hot tarmac road. The sun beat down unmercifully upon us as we trudged our way along. We could clearly see Volcano Arenal off to our right as we walked along. It was such a beautiful clear day that the clouds kept sweeping away from the top, exposing the peak in all of its’ glory. Except that by the time I pulled my camera from my bulky cargo shorts pocket, got it turned on and then focused, the stupid clouds would reappear and cover the peak. It was very frustrating. I finally just gave up and concentrated on the chore at hand….putting one foot in front of the other. I didn’t think we would ever get there and we were sweating like pigs by the time we got to the path that led to the pool.
And it was well worth the work. This surprising little gem is known only to the locals and a few lucky tourists. A clean, clear, fast running river cuts through the rocks and boulders before ending in a ten foot drop into a beautiful plunge pool of water. From there it meanders its’ way on into the forest over more rocks and smaller boulders before disappearing out of sight around a bend. The pool itself is about twelve foot deep. I know this from personal experience, having hit the bottom!
Off to the side, high above on the rocks, somebody has attached a very thick rope to a very thick tree. From this it is possible to swing out and drop into the pool. I quickly named this place the Tarzan Swing Pool. Many years of use by eager feet have trodden steps into the hard clay so it is possible to swing out from varying heights. The higher you go, the faster the swing out and further the drop into the water. One just had to choose their personal preferred comfort zone height, hang on tight and drop into the delightful blue pool of water. Hours of free fun. Easy, right?

I watched several local kids (ranging in age from about 6 to 15) grab onto the rope and swing out, defying gravity and death. It looked like so much fun. I even saw a guy, an American I found out later, older than myself, do it. And of course, L took several turns at it, blithely swinging out from the highest step and dropping gracefully into the water. I could see the huge grin on his face as he fell into the water. It looked like so much fun. “Mmmmm”, I thought. “I can do this!”

Up to the top step I went. Somebody had to grab the rope as it swung back from the previous swinger and hand it up to me. I grabbed on and froze. I looked out over the cliff at the water and thought, “This is way too high!” So I retreated down one step. Then another. Then the last two and ended up on the first step above the cliff edge. Ok, not too bad. I had no fear of landing in the water, I am a good swimmer and knew that I would have no problem once landed and resurfaced. Unfortunately, I took a few too many deep breaths and a few false starts, which gave absolutely everybody there a chance to stop what they were doing to watch the old guy take a swing. With everybody watching, there was no way I could chicken out, nor did I really want to. So here goes!

I definitely remember pushing off. I remember the great feeling of sailing off into space. I remember seeing the trees on the other side of the pool coming at me. I remember hanging on for too long and starting to feel myself go backwards towards the hard cliff. I let go.

I remember sensing something was wrong. I remember seeing the whole pool coming up at me…fast. Shouldn’t I just be seeing my feet heading for the water? I was maybe about ten feet away from landing when my fuzzy brain got the message that I was headed for a belly flop like no other. I remember hitting the water full force with all of my body and then going under. I don’t remember coming to the surface. I remember telling myself not to panic, even though all the wind had been knocked out of me. Somehow I was on the surface and doing a weak dog paddle for the downstream, shallow side where Bob and L had been sitting to watch my premier Tarzan Swing performance. Only they weren’t sitting anymore. They were both standing and L was swimming furiously towards me. He yelled if I was ok. I gasped that I was, even though I could hardly breathe and felt like a train had just attacked me. No way did I want my humiliation to be completed by an in pool rescue! I dragged myself up on a rock and slowly caught my breath, trying to act nonchalant for the many, many spectators watching me. Soon, however, they realized that I wasn’t dead and returned to their normal programming.
I was mortified beyond belief. The entire time we were there, I was the only one to do a belly flop. I decided that once I caught my breath, I was going to get right back on that swing and try it again! B and L thought that that was maybe not a good idea. I told them to mind their own business. Kind of rude of me after causing them so much concern. All I could think about was what a fool I must have looked.

Back up onto the cliffs I went. By this time, there was a line of people waiting for the swing. I had a chance to just watch style and techniques. And I had a chance to rethink my decision. I decided best to leave well enough alone. And it looked so damn scary now too! I decided that I would go around to where the river fell into the pool and dive off the boulders. I knew it was fairly safe because people had been doing it all day. And heck, what was a ten foot dive into unknown waters anyway!

I made my way down and around to the boulders. B and L were still sitting where I left them. As I walked out to the edge of the boulder, placing my feet just right for the push off, I looked over and saw L frantically waving and shaking his head no at me. I couldn’t figure out why he did not want me to dive from there but I trusted that he knew something that I did not. So I moved over a couple of rocks to my right, put out my arms and did my best impersonation of an Acapulco cliff diver ever. My body sliced into the water and I am sure not a splash was made, so perfect was my entry. Redeemed at last!

Except that for the time I was underwater, it was really scary. I hadn’t thought about how the water at the base of a waterfall churns and just throws you around. I did have a moment of panic down there because I could feel the tremendous force of the water wanting to just agitate me like a load of laundry and really had to fight against it to make it to the surface. Once on top, all was fine and I nonchalantly swam across the pool to where B and L were waiting, feeling quite proud of myself. I wasn’t feeling quite so smug as I received a severe tongue lashing about the dangers of diving into the base of a waterfall. Oh well, my daredevil feats for the day were over anyway.

Luckily, the batteries on my camera went dead just before I did my belly flop so there are no existing photos of it. And L had not brought his camera. I have enclosed pictures of the place, just to show you how magical it was.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wayne – logic and gravity dictate that there are some activities better left to the young. Now this in no one is suggest you are old – just more developed ;-)

Keep your feet on the ground amigo.

Juan Calypso