This weekend I went with a small group to hike around Chirripó, the tallest mountain in Costa Rica. To hike to the top takes 10 to 13 hours, is very steep, and requires a reservation 2 months in advance (there is a hostel at the top). Luckily, there are a lot of trails around the base, also in the Chirripó National Park. I went with my friend Mark (who I sat next to on the airplane to Costa Rica) and a new friend, Sara. We took the bus ride to San Isidro and then a 4WD taxi the rest of the way up very steep, very dusty dirt roads. I can confidently say that my car would not have made the trip successfully. When we got into the town of San Gerardo de Rivas, at the base of the mountain, we found a few other Veritas students. It was great for me because I didn’t know anyone in the group very well (none are in the ISA program), so I had the opportunity to make new friends. Upon arrival we found out that it was the weekend of the annual race up and down the mountain and all the hotels and hostels were full with the 195 runners + organizers, helpers, families, and friends. A very nice group of Ticos let us stay with them in a room full of bunk beds as they were short a few people. They really saved the day, as it was now 8:30 at night and our taxi had just driven away. Un poco de queso (cheese), pan (bread), y uvas (grapes) was the perfect dinner spread.
Saturday morning we got up early, had some gallo pinto at a local restaurant (where our waitress was distractingly bodacious) and hit the trail by 7:30. The beauty of Costa Rica still amazes me. We hiked up and down and around hillsides reminiscent of Nepal (how do those horizontal lines get there?). We saw 2 different waterfalls and a bunch of little streams that weave through the forest. I am in love with the shapes and the smells and the sounds here. Everywhere we went we could hear the water. Pounding at las cateratas, churning around rocas or just trickling en los rios pequños. En el bosque todo es verde. And not just one color of green, every shade you can imagine. And it all smells fresh – like dirt, like fruit, like flowers. Ben has been collecting leaves to press, and it’s not a bad idea. They’re all so unique and beautiful. Some grow with little holes in them, or look like someone has taken a pair of scissors to the edges, while others have a purple fuzz around the center. There are small trees with little tufts of spiky fronds and tall ones with what look like pinwheels of leaves. There are also trees with brilliant orange flowers instead of green leaves at the top everywhere in San Gerardo, parts of the hillsides are completely orange. (I realized when I got home there is one of these outside my window, I just hadn’t noticed it before). There was this little “Jardín de Meditacion” off one of the trails in the Cloudbridge area, with circles of rocks... we keep finding these little surprises. We regrouped around 3:00 (there was a downpour for about an hour), and then followed signs to aguas terminales, hot springs. This turned out to be a steeper and longer hike than expected but totally worth it. The ground was steaming after the rain; it felt like summer. Got a little silly with the underwater function of my camera, it turned into something of a photo shoot.
Sunday we got on a brightly painted school bus for the ride to San Isidro. I’ve been told that when school busses in the States no longer pass emissions tests, they get sent down to Central and South America. It was funny seeing Scott try to fit in a tiny kid-sized seat with his long legs. I was glued to the window the whole way.