Sep 12 2016

It’s Kimberly’s Fault

Published by at 11:58 am under Animals,Travel

As I write, howler monkeys are chortling from the treetops and birds in brilliant blues, yellows and reds are zipping among flowers of similar color. The smell of ripe fruit hangs in the air.

So let me tell you about my night walk in the jungle. It’s low season here, maybe on account of the rain, so I was the only person on the tour. It gets full dark here at 6:00 — something about proximity to the equator, but I don’t understand that kind of stuff. My leader was José, a biologist with his family’s company, Eco Tours Arenal. He was a little preachy but, as far as I could tell, very knowledgeable about the creatures and plants of this part of Costa Rica. At one point I wondered if he were just making up fancy names for the things he saw and listened to. “I could be an expert too,” I thought, as I started inventing scientific terminology. I heard a loud chirping sound and decided that was an “epinephrous zorbitate.” I think it was actually just a ding frog.

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We saw: three three-toed sloths high in the canopy, two snakes (non-poisonous), an eel, a Jesus Christ lizard (because it walks on water), caiman eyes, some kind of rat, many bats munching on fruit, sleeping butterflies and birds, a pile of big and little frogs, and the list goes on though my memory doesn’t.

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After the tour, José’s wife served me empanadas, star fruit juice, cane sugar and ginger tea (too sweet), platano chips and bean dip. Very tasty.

When I got home around 9:00, I decided that I wasn’t going to go on the canyoneering trip, even though I’d waste the $99 I’d spent on it. Yesterday, when I went into the Desafio tour agency’s office, I started talking to a charming young woman who worked there, and she showed me videos of the experience. I decided that rappelling down waterfall cliffs — a couple over 200 feet high — wasn’t something I needed to do after all. I also decided there’s no shame in admitting you’re afraid. Via text, I did just that to Molly, who is in another part of Costa Rica right now. She replied that it was certainly something I could do, encouraging me on. But the only thing that got me to sleep last night was the security of the knowledge that I was gonna bail.

When the van showed up to retrieve me, I said, “I’m not going.” “Why not?” the young guide asked. “Because I’m afraid.” There. I just came out and said it. No fake stories about being sick. Just the truth. His reply was not what I wanted to hear: “Come talk to Kimberly.”

So here’s what had happened: Kimberly, knowing I was afraid, had pleaded with her boss to let her change her schedule so that she could come as my friend and support me. I could hardly leave her in the lurch. My stomach turned. I had no food in my belly save for three peanut butter-filled pretzels: not the energy I’d need for such an adventure. I ran and grabbed my stuff and climbed on the van, feeling doomed.

I won’t say it was a blast, because I — thirty years older than the oldest of them, forty years older than others — was petrified. I mean terrified. As scary as jumping out of a plane. But I did it, with the encouragement of the young’uns. In fact, the most physically challenging part was the strenuous climb back out of the canyon. At lunch afterwards, a girl from London approached me. “You’re an inspiration.” That made it all worthwhile. Pictures to follow upon my return home.

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