Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pura Vida: Horseback riding, La Fortuna Waterfall

We met Alberto the day after an accident at his stables.  A stallion, angry at Alberto for inviting another stallion to the ranch, knocked the horseman to the ground, pinned him down, and bit his upper arm.  Shirtless, broad-featured, barrel-chested, fresh bandage glaring white against his tanned skin, Alberto looked tough as rock.  He walked with obvious pain.  Not only did the run-in with the stallion injure his back, he also suffered from a chronic ailment.  With my limited Spanish (as in, limited to understanding at about a middle-school level and speaking hardly any) I couldn't tell if it was sciatica, chronic back pain, or an old leg injury.  Riding horseback was one thing, but how was our guide supposed to make it down 492 steps to La Fortuna Waterfall, let alone back up?

"You look at me and you think, 'That's crazy, how could he do that?'" Alberto said.  "If I worked in an office, it would be crazy.  My job, this is just part of what you do."

I mentioned that when I ziplined, I never felt like Indiana Jones.  Riding horseback, I did.  Well, as Indiana Jones as you can feel while trying very hard not to think about Christopher Reeve.

Becky got the wild horse, the one who always had to be in front, the one who took off trotting while the rest of us plodded behind, the one who kicked and bucked every time she tried to control it.  Yet somehow, Becky managed to take that picture.  You can actually feel your horse's hooves scrabble for purchase on those rocks.  I think I also mentioned a certain Dare Devil urge in that zipline post?  Yeah.

The ride was an adventure.  The fields seem to go on forever.  The scenery and being on horseback were great, but that stream made it something special.  Alberto pulled alongside us and demonstrated how we were supposed to ride down the muddy slope and into the water - leaning back, on our toes, holding the saddle behind us.  On the way out, lean forward.  Easy-peasy.  Plus, your horse is going down that hill whether you're ready or not.

Riding in the stream was the best-worst part.  I'm fucking awesome! half your brain yells while the other half screams, this horse is going to slip, I'll fall and be crushed beneath him while drowning!

On the way out of the water, instead of a steep slope, it was a gradual incline carved right into the fucking hillside.  You could reach out and touch both sides of the ravine, but you couldn't see over it.  It was just about the coolest thing ever.

God created this place.  Be classy.   Respect his creation.   Do not throw your garbage.
Asociacion de Desarrollo Integral de la Fortuna.

After mingling with dogs and cars on a paved road, we tethered our horse near this sign.  It was time for 492 steps.

The view from the observation deck wasn't shabby.
After an hour on horseback, and the Arenal Volcano hike the day before, my thighs felt like jello.  I seriously wondered if I was going to make it.  I just keep telling myself that the trek up would work a different set of muscles.

Sometimes the steps looked like steps.

Sometimes they were just rock piles.

Sometimes there were trees with wrinkles big enough  to hide in.
Eventually we made it to the bottom, where the waterfall fell into a big pool.  You couldn't swim where it landed.  Well, I suppose you could swim where the waterfall landed if you wanted to commit suicide in an epic fashion.  The force of the water would suck you under and drown you.

You could swim in the river, though.  And people did.  For our part, we just rested.  How exhausting was the trek down those steps?

This.  This exhausting.

The water sounded like a train that never ended.  The air hung with mist.  The forest was thick and green, like nothing I've ever seen.  The river felt blessedly cool after the hike down.  From above the forest looks like an unbroken valley of green.  From below, it's a little oasis.

Unfortunately, we couldn't live there.  We had to turn around and take those 492 steps (or maybe 430 steps and a bunch of outcroppings) back up.

Just keep climbing, just keep climbing...
I felt sorry that my poor horse had to lug my 200lb bulk over to La Fortuna Waterfall.  After the trek down and back?  Not as much.

The horse requested that his face not be shown.


  1. fantastic. I'm glad you're having such a good time, dude

  2. "The horse requested that his face not be shown"?