The Cave Trip
The hotel we were staying in was easily four star. The amenities were awesome. The showers in our rooms were bigger than my bathroom at home. Each room had a patio that fed into the jungle.
There was a spa with ten or so hot pools that you could go and relax in. each one a different size, depth and temperature, all spaced out with jungle in between, and all fed from water heated by a volcano. Speaking of which, did I mention the whole place was on the side of an active volcano? At night the sky glowed red and you could hear the volcano burp occasionally and see lava running down the side of it. Who could want more? It was like being your own Bond Villain.
Our package included our choice of activities from the list provided by the hotel. How could we go wrong? Everything in this place was first class, so to must be the side trips.
I chose horseback riding around the volcano. A chance to see the volcano up close and personal, without having to work hard. But as with all multi person trips compromise must be made. One person on the trip, we shall call her Carin as to hide her identity, had a problem with horses dating way back to three months before when a horse kicked her on another trip we took, sensitive. So looking over the list we worked together and chose the cave adventure.
Being Americans, oh wait a minute as we were informed on our trip we were not from America, as our trip was to Central America and they could claim to be from America as well. We were from the USA. At first I found this a bit off putting. For years I was an American, but I have to admit with perspective things change.
So being from the USA, whatever, we were expecting a large cave with stalactites and stalagmites. Maybe a wooden walkway to protect the delicate eco system, fluorescent lighting , safety rope, a gift shop at the end where we could buy a postcard of the cave with “wish you were here” written across it , even though had we wished that we would have invited you. But no that was our America, theirs was a tiny winy bit different.
Our first clue came when we went out front to get our bus. First off it was late, really late. Then it was crap, really crap. like falling apart running on three out of four cylinders smelling like garbage, wouldn’t be allowed on the road even in Florida crap. Now by bus I mean Toyota minivan with seating for six. Ah well in the spirit of the trip we climbed aboard and off we went. The driver moved in and out of traffic like a seasoned New York cab driver. His copilot would lean out the window whistling at girls yelling at other drivers. No problem. This was their America not ours. At one point we pulled down a side road, the copilot jumped out and ran after someone walking, he caught him, and came back to our bus counting out some cash the guy clearly owed him.
Oh well the trip had started and we were adventurers
We picked up another couple at one hotel and then a scantily clad young girl at another. The driver and his copilot both were very happy with this addition and chatted with her in Spanish for the rest of the trip. We chatted with the other couple and joked about the girl as we had all been told to wear long pants and hats and her outfit was just three pieces of clothing short of being naked.
Oh well the trip had started and we were of good spirits.
It took over an hour to get there. We had been in the middle of nowhere when we started. Now, near as I could tell, we were far to the west of nowhere. I started to get worried, what if something happened, such as one of us getting stuck, the nearest hospital was two hours away.
Oh well the trip had started and we were. .. stuck.
The final 20 minutes of the trip was through fields of cows. Crap did this place even have electricity or a phone?
We pulled up to a rundown farm house and the farmers kids were running around getting things ready for us. I could see one kid tapping batteries on a counter and rolling them back and forth to get them working to power our flashlights. I had done this countless times as a last ditch effort at ten at night when I didn’t have any fresh batteries. I chose not to say anything to scare the others.
The copilot pulled off his shirt, tied back his hair and transformed from Costa Rican street jerk to a Spanish version of Hugh Jackman. Suddenly the girls who all were put off by him a few moments ago now would follow him to the pits of hell, and surprisingly that’s just what we did.
We were given mud boots, something we were given every day on our trip in Costa Rica, no matter where we were. Going in the jungle? Mud boots. Riding all day in a bus/ Toyota minivan? Mud boots. Checking into a hotel? What happened to your mud boots?… have a fresh old pair. Getting a spa treatment? Well you get the picture. And off we went. Anything electronic we left in the van. Our guide and the farm children explained to us as best they could with only a little English that we could, no we would, get wet. With a little trepidation I left my phone and camera in the van. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I kind of pictured them selling our stuff after leaving us to die in a cave. Was there a Costa Rica section of craigslist? “New Canon digital camera, don’t have any way to charge it, ten million Collans (that’s like a buck fifty) and it yours, no picture available.”
Better and better.
From the back of the farm house we headed down a cow path that lead us to a small brook at the base of a cliff. On the far side of the brook was a large boulder, behind that a small hole, from which the brook came. We crossed the brook and began to crawl through the hole in the Cliff .Water was up to our knees, rendering the mud boots all but useless. It was a short trip and we emerged into a large cave. From there we made our way down a corridor to a smaller room. I was at the back of our party Carin in front of me and Tami in front of her.
The first stop on our magical mystery tour was a rock covered in bat dung and white insects. I was at the back and could not hear also I did not speak Spanish but I imagine the conversation went something like this “ Behold, before you is a rock covered in sacred scat do not touch it for your impure northern blood will get sick and cause you to die. Also there in the sacred scat you will find the bugs of the underworld, sent here to kill you with a painful bite. We have brought you here so the gods may choose their sacrificial ox. “This might be a bit of an exaggeration as everyone else in our party spoke some if not fluent Spanish. I was limited to being able to order three beers when the time was right. Also I think our guide did speak enough English to give the tourists a show. On top of that I have never been anywhere, save Disney world, where the tourists were more respected and taken care of then Costa Rica. So maybe it wasn’t that bad.
From there we went through a number of caves. I was not about to trust my flashlight to last should I get separated so I mostly kept it off. I would occasionally turn it on and look behind, expecting to see Sleestacks coming up to get us (google it, or better yet you tube it). There were none. Apparently not part of this tour. But I did notice that there is no darkness as utter and complete as that in a cave where the sun has never shone. It was kind of cool. You could literally hold your hand in front of your face and not see it. It was darker then closing your eyes in a dark room.
Next we entered a hallway formed by two slabs of rock one straight up and down and the other at an angle. They met just over my head and I was forced to turn sideways and duck down to pass between them. The brook was back now and shared this hallway with us slopping over the tops of our boots. Somehow it was passed back to me that sometimes if the tour took place on a rainy day that hallway would be wet up to my shoulders. Dam our luck to get there on a dry day. Near the end of the hallway Caren’s flashlight died and she reached back to make sure I was still there in the dark. The others had already gone on up into the next hell. She touched my arm, I screamed like a girl. When we did get to the next room I told everyone it was her screaming…sorry.
At the end of the hallway we had to climb up on one rock, twist 180 degrees and pull ourselves through a hole in the floor into a new, dry chamber. We took a breather here and congratulated each other for surviving this far. It was a short breather and no one had snacks so onward we went through several more chambers, one so big our flashlights could not see the end. And then light. We had made it, survived… no it was just the halfway point.
The guide gathered us around and showed us a mound that had been formed by minerals deposited by dripping water, basically a fat round stalagmite. Spanish Hugh then showed us some other cool stuff that was washed from my brain by the news that if the cave bothered us we could get out now. With that news even I wanted to sleep with him. Then with a pause that would do Ryan Seacrest proud, he informed us that we could leave if we could climb the fifty feet to the hole in the ceiling. Hope one of those white bug bites you and your hair falls out right before Hollywood calls you to stunt double the real Hugh Jackman you asshole.
To be fair the trip back out was not that bad….till
The last thing we had to do to exit the cave was crawl down a rock tube about ten feet long and about two feet wide. Now I’m a stout individual (fat) and I was already freaking out about getting stuck and the lack of help nearby. There was no way I was going to try this. We could hike the long way back if we had to but I was not going to be the Costa Rican baby Jessica. (Again google it) I’m sure there was some swearing and maybe some sobbing (once again sorry). But nope no way, no how.
The guide and miss bikini were discussing this in fast paced Spanish. As I said some in my party spoke Spanish, and Tami translated for me… “The fat American does not want to get stuck ha ha ha ha “Ok now the fat American was even more unhappy. First you confirmed my fears that I am fat. Second you admitted that we are from the real America. Dick.
After another attempt was made to get me to go, and I would not, the guide admitted there was another way. He set everyone up who wanted to go through the death straw and let them go. Then he brought me and another of our party who had chickened out because of my pathetic inability to attempt this maneuver, around a large rock to the exit from the tube. Literally three steps from where we had been arguing. . WTF, ok I do have to hand it to him he gave us what we wanted, danger in a dark cave, without risking anyone. I can’t fault him. From there it was a quick crawl out through the hole we came in from to the safety of a cow pasture.
They had showers set up and had us wash the bat dung off before putting our dirty clothes back on, Once back on our way to the hotel we had to agree that had we known what we were in for, there was no way we would have done that. But in our ignorance we got to experience something truly remarkable. Stupidity rocks!
I was in Space Mountain once in Florida when they turned on the lights. What was a terrifying ride turned out to be a small figure eight coaster that you can find at any amusement park in the world. Turn the lights out though and your brain fills in the missing information with a cool out of this world experience. I wonder at times if there was a light switch in that cave and once on you could see the whole cave was actually the inside of the farmers barn. But no, I always come back to the fact that it was one of the most dangerous places on earth and we, through sheer will and strength survived.
Ya something like that.