By Jesse Maloney
Before my plane’s final descent into San Jose, I could see the rugged topography of Costa Rica just over the shoulder of my flight companion. It boosted my desire to explore. It’s a given that it’s difficult to maneuver Costa Rica without experiencing some of the ubiquity the country is famous for; guided tours with zip lines, hanging bridges, and purloining cappucine monkeys. My real intent, on this trip though was to see if I could find some great places off of the beaten path.
I lucked out. On a friend’s suggestion, he told me to check out a small family-run ranch down an obscure road near Monteverde. When I arrived, the owner and her husband warmly greeted us. The deep lines in their raisined faces let us know that pretense was not an issue. They told us to dress in pants to avoid saddle chafing but to bring shorts. Their ranch hands mounted us on calico horses and led us down steep ravines into a rugged and arid valley. Oddly, there was an ever present cool mist in the air. They told us that the high altitude kept us in the clouds. It was an enigma since we were surrounded by cacti and plants that looked like giant yucca.
After 40 minutes of rocky trails and harrowing switchbacks, we stopped and dismounted the horses. One of the sabaneros told us to continue on foot down a path that narrowed into the valley. Having had some desert experience, I could tell we were close to water because the dusty path transformed into a hallway of trees of all shapes, smells, and sizes. As we started down the corridor, we looked back and noticed that the guides weren’t accompanying us. They told us to keep walking until we reached a shed. They said that we’d know what to do when we got there.
The experience suddenly took on an added layer of mystery and adventure. I was intrigued and curious. Sure enough, after about a five minute hike, we arrived at a small wooden shed. A bit further down the trail, the ravine terminated into a braided, tightly churning river. Aerated bursts of teal rushed over cleaved boulders and smooth worn rock. Halfway up the side of the ravine just 50 yards away from us was the coup de gras; a glass clear hot spring with gentle roils on the water’s surface.
We quickly figured out the shed was a changing room.
A severed artery from within the earth magically filled the stone lined pool. The floor was carpeted with a kaleidoscope of leaves of every color and size. All worries blurred into oblivion once I entered. Twenty feet below us, the river tossed cold spray but it felt like a world away. I took all of my anxiety, my insecurities, and my worries and hucked them over the edge into the cascade below. It was just me left over.
Even thought this spot far surpassed my expectations, I wouldn’t want to go back. To go back would be assigning mortality to the immortal. If I sent my friends there, they’d most likely look for what I found and not find it. I am content with filing this experience away in my library of moments well spent in a new and fascinating corner of the world. Costa Rica has given me another reason to appreciate and improve my stewardship for mother earth. Pura Vida!