Almost exactly a year ago… yes, I have had his in drafts for this long, but this was my favorite day of all of 2015.
The people there don’t care what I do… or so many of the other things we care so much about here. My only currency when I’m there is who I am.
A quote from this article that I absolutely loved reading in the Huffington Post about travel. If there was any moment that truly defined who I would be on this trip to Costa Rica, it would be hiking through the misty rain forest on the side of a dormant volcano known as Cerro Chato.
Flash back a couple months whereby I was ruminating on where to go for Thanksgiving vacation. My parents had decided to go on another cruise and my brother never comes home for Thanksgiving, so I had talked to Chiawen about visiting him in London. The more and more I thought about the upcoming holidays however, the less I wanted to go. Don’t get me wrong, I adore London and spending time with Chiawen. At one point in my twenties I even seriously considered moving to London as one of the few places in the world that I could see myself living other than the Bay Area. After spending a rainy cold winter in New Zealand earlier this year and missing getting to do a snowy hike of Mount Doom with Cid, I wanted to go somewhere warm for vacation but still get some good hiking in.
Googling “warm winter vacations spots” Costa Rica came highly recommended on most of the top 10 lists. I booked the trip immediately 8 weeks out from departure and began to train for the physical activities. There was a 34 mile mountain bike portion that I was particularly worried about being that I hadn’t biked since childhood, and to test my fitness on the hiking portion Jen and I hiked Mount Tallac 2 weeks before on a spontaneous weekend getaway.
Cerro Chato was where our personalities came out on this journey. Previous stops included making fresh tortillas, having coffee, and sitting on the bus, but nothing hard. We did a test hike the night before and ended up having to scale a fence to escape the rabid mosquitos to board the bus.
Cerro Chato itself is about a 4 hour hike for people in good physical condition and roughly about a mile and a half to reach the peak at 3740ft. If you read all the reviews, this hike is no joke. It is extremely technical, the are poisonous snakes and frogs hidden in the leaves, and being that it’s a rainforest it was muddy and swampy in some areas with branches poking out that would trip you if you weren’t paying attention. I decided from the get go that I refused at all costs to fall in the mud or touch anything other than my hiking stick.
We had two guides. Jackie in the front, who was our kick ass crossfit loving fem-fatale who this year won the REI tour guide best award and sadly I forget the other guy’s name. They would lead and flank the journey so that no one got lost.
At this point I hadn’t really bonded with anyone on the tour yet but that would change shortly as I easily kept up with the leaders Jackie, Matt and Danielle.
Matt and Danielle were triathletes on their honeymoon from Michigan, who would later tell me on the biking portion, “If we had started on the bikes, we would have never been friends.”
My hiking shoes were only twice used at this point and great for the navigation of the mud trunk puddles. I’d watch Danielle pick her course and comment “nice” if she picked a good path for me to follow, which she’d later exclaim with joy that it was nice having a personal cheerleader on this adventure. Matt had a slightly quicker pace than the both of us and would keep pushing Jackie to move faster, I liked this because it forced me to hustle to keep up. What I loved about the technicality of making our way through the woods was that it required my complete focus to pick a path and occupied all my thoughts to not once fall in the mud on our journey. I was generally quiet and focused except for when I was cheerleading.
The view on the way up was beautifully haunting. It was warm, misty and sometimes it rained but my rain jacket held.
We plodded along to the top where we had snacks. It was too misty to see the blue-green lagoon which was a bummer, but the real joy of the journey was befriending Matt and Danielle and dancing up and down the steps made of roots through the rainforest and cloud forest.
Right after we finished the hike and had lunch by this pool, we then did a grueling additional 500 steps down and then back up to see a waterfall.
Here in Costa Rica I wasn’t judged by what I do for a living, what I wear to work, or anything superficial. The currency was my focus on the tasks at hand, how well I scaled this mountain, rappelled off waterfalls, how fast I sped down zip lines (I kept forgetting to use the breaks), how experienced a white water rafter I was, and oops yes how shitty I was at mountain biking as well.
For this trip I am forever grateful.