Costa Rica 19 -- October 18, 2005
Catarata Fortuna

By Bob Corbett

I got home about 4 PM yesterday and decided to have dinner at home; I was planning a can of tuna on crackers and some nuts. But, I just wasnít hungry. I got a nice glass of Chilean wine I splurged on yesterday and read until I finished my new book, a book set in the country of Guyana, South American -- famous in the U.S. as the place where James Jones and his community committed mass suicide a decade or so ago.

Great first novel by a native Guyana woman, but whose family was East Indian. Set in the 1970s when there were riots against the East Indian population under the weird president.

Brilliant book, and I even finished it and wrote the review last night. But, by that time I had my fill of nuts and wine, and had finally opened my EXQUISITE bottle of rum and had two nips.® What I consider to be a nip is about what would fit into a shot glass, so I sipped two of those and was just kicking back in the rocker, it was dark, but only about 6:30 and the house lady and her husband ran from the side of the house and signaled me to hurry.

I raced around the corner (as much as these legs ever RACE) and was greeted with a spectacular sight. The volcano was in clear view on a brilliantly clear night. And it was spewing large fire balls high into the air. It was pyrotechnics like I couldnít believe. Just awesome. The couple both speak some English, the man about fluently. I said people had said it shoots out huge boulders as big as train cars. The man said, yes, more like tractor trailer sized, but this wasnít that. That made bigger noises and shook things. This was all the time, but usually in the rainy season you canít see it.

I asked about that. I told him that it seemed this not-seeing-the-volcano-in-rainy-season was a bit of a myth. He said, no, this is exceptionally rare, and both these folks are actually from Fortuna.

I was probably asleep by 7 PM and woke at 4:10 Am. I went out quietly and over to where one could see the volcano and was treated to an amazing sight -- the sky (even as of 1/2 hour ago) remained clear as a bell and there just a little bit east of the volcano was a gigantic full moon. Oh me, I was just agog and how lovely.

I came in and decided in a minute what I was going to do and hurried into my shower -- you could put 5 people in this shower, itís like a locker room!!! and what to my wondering body should appear, but HOT WATER!!!!!! I hadnít felt hot water since my morning shower before leaving home for the airport on Sept. 28th. I just relished it and soaked at bit.

Nonetheless, I was out on the street at 5:15 AM and it was still mainly dark, but the first light beginning to creep in. Very cool and breezy.

I walked up two blocks to the bus stop (no ďstationĒ here, just a main stop), and there were buses and a few people. No official cabs, but 1/2 dozen informal cabs. They were really surprised to see me, since the buses were mainly for workers heading to work.

I showed the cab driver where I wanted to go -- up the mountain (not the volcano mountain, but the mountain next to it) -- to the parking lot of the huge waterfall, Catarata Fortuna -- The Fortuna Waterfall. He explained in signs and such that it was closed. I said I knew that, I just wanted to walk back home. He and two other cabbies, helping in the communication thought I was nuts.

I agreed to the 2000 colones for the trip ($4.00) and off we went. The guide book lied. It said it was 4 KM up the mountain, and recommended riding a cab up and then walking back, which was my plan. But, the guide book didnít say that the road to the catarata was 4 km, but that road was 2 miles out of town. So I knew I was in for almost 5 miles back.

I got to the catarata parking lot, which would hold about 20 cars if that, and no one was about. I paid the cabbie and off he went, the sun was just rising. The guide book said it was a grueling 20 minutes down a rocky path to the falls. There was a gate and fee, no one about, and I decided, I needed a long walk day, so I ducked under the chain and headed down. This time the guide book was correct, and the descent was difficult and very steep, but I made it in 18 minutes. At a few places I could put my feet on the curved sides of the little path and sort of double time down, having tested the trees on each side to be sure they werenít the spiny kind. And I zipped down.

A huge sign up top had warned no one with high blood pressure should attempt this path and you did so at your own risk, the Costa Rican park service took no responsibility for you. Well, I have high blood pressure, but my medicines seemingly keep that in check. I was much much more worried about twisting an ankle on this treacherous descent.

But, I made it down. What I loved most was the sound. Within a few minutes of starting down the path I could hear the roar, and as I went it got louder and louder and louder. I just loved that.

Finally I burst into the clearing and there it was, 220 foot high falls smashing into the pool and creating a refreshing spray. ®The guide books say it is utterly forbidden to try to swim in the basin, that the current from the falls is such that no one would be able to swim it.® Thatís a dumb thing to put into such a book. It makes nuts like me really want to dive in. But, I had absolutely no intention of doing so. Iím crazy at times, but have no death wish whatsoever. I knocked about only a few minutes and realized what took 18 minutes to get down would be one hell of an ascent. It was simply awful. I would have paid $100 for an escalator. When I got to the top, and it took nearly an hour, I was dripping wet, limp with exhaustion, and, of course, had no water with me at all, not thinking about that walk back up very much.

I sat for nearly 1/2 hour, hoping the attendant could come along so I could pay my fee, but no one showed up, and it wasnít yet 7:30 AM.

I started home, down the dirt/rock road the cab had come up. As I walked and studied this road I realized what a bargain I got to be brought all the way up this mountain side for $4.00!!!! Gracious.

The road reminded me very much of the road between Hinche to Pandiassou and on to Maissade in Haiti (a number of people on this travel list know that road in Haiti). Dirt, rocks, often as large as baseballs, wet, narrow, slippery. The two roads are a like. But, take your eyes up from the road and the similarities end. Here is nothing was VAST greenness of deep rain forest; it Haiti it is brown and barren as far as the eye can see, in what was just like this 200 years ago. Take you ears away from your feet kicking and crunching rocks and the similarities end again. Here the loud sounds of a zillion birds of every sort, large and small make a cacophony of sound, in Haiti there are no sounds unless you meet people on the road.

I marched on and stopped in one place at the very very loud bird sounds and was trying to see where it came from. The first other human I had seen since I started down the mountain side came along walking his two dogs (he was going UP!). He said something, I couldnít catch it, then got it. Casa ossiou, something like that which I knew meant birds houses. Where? I signaled with a show of up turned palms and a shrug of my shoulders. He took me closer to the edge of the woods and showed me. There was a wonderful sight. About a dozen long cylindrical shaped structures that were the houses of these very noisy birds. These houses were about 18 inches to 2 foot long, tube shaped, about 6 to 8 inches in diameter. They were dark brown and fuzzy, seemingly made out of tree bark or some sort of vines. Two trees each had about a dozen at least in them, hanging down from the branches and swinging in the breeze. It was really cool.

It was cool in the weather sense too, and I sat for a while to rest on a log and watched the birds, including a group of 6-8 lovely hummingbirds which loudly zinged by. They are noisy creatures too.

I was at the bottom of the hill by 9 AM. Very tired, hot and wet, but I still had two miles to walk back to town. It was already getting hot. Behind me the volcano was still in PERFECT clear view, and as always spewing out dark smoke like a factory chimney at full blast. I canít help wondering if Iím going to one day read in the newspaper that La Fortuna in Costa Rica was yesterday buried in the eruption of the volcano Arenal. I have thought about that several times in the last 24 hours.

I dragged into the main and only real street, and the first place I came to was a rather elegant open air garden restaurant. I went in and first drank a pineapple juice, then a banana juice with milk, the had a huge breakfast of gallo pinto (mixed black beans and rice) with eggs and ham. Oh my goodness it was delicious. Then I had two cafe con leche.

Iím still wandering down the street toward my hostel. Iíll need a shower and change of clothes, maybe even rest some. I just checked my odometer, I have already walked 7.83 miles. Believe me, my exercise is over for the day. Iím going to seek out that rocker and get into my new book, a novel called PRAGUE, which, most ironically is not set in Prague, Czech Republic, but in Budapest, Hungry. Itís about a group of ex-patís in Budapest in 1990, just after the fall of the wall, and looking for that perfect place to be, yet thinking it is not Budapest at all, but Prague. Thus in the novel ďPragueĒ doesnít as much refer to the city in the Czech Republic, but the ideal concept of where ITīS at (the ďitĒ being ideality) and the answer being, not where I am now......

Oh good grief, there is so much of that in me!!!!!!!! Last night before going to sleep, just having finished a novel set in Guyana, as I mentioned, but about an East Indian family, and I was thinking about a possible trip to India about a year from now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yep, the novel, PRAGUE may be very good for me right now.

Tomorrow I leave here!!!! I know, youíre probably wondering what the hell is going on with Corbett, This isnít the guy who sat for two weeks in contentment in Quepos. Well it is, but itís that Prague syndrome. Iíll explain tomorrow my frustration with here, and Iíll be writing from my next destination, St. Elena. My transport there is novel. I will be picked up at 7 AM and driven to a very large in-land lake. I will ferry across that to the north, and then be picked up by the service on the other side and driven to Eddieís Hostel in St. Elena. It is my DEAREST hope that St. Elena, not necessarily Eddieís, I can always get a room, but Iím hoping St. Elena, the cloud forest of Monteverde (just a couple km away) and other rainforests in the area, will give me a haven for a few weeks. I so hope that happens.

If not, my fall back possibility is to head up to Grenada, Nicaragua, but Iíd really prefer it for St. Elena to be for me what Quepos was, a comfortable home.

Donít know when I can write tomorrow, another travel day, and one never knows how those things go......

Bob Corbett




Bob Corbett