• Lara Flanagan

Goodbye Cabuya, crab in the shower and things like that

Updated: Feb 28


I think the feeling I struggle with most is the feeling I experience on packing day.  It is exciting to be moving on, but there is one part of me that hates saying goodbye and I will miss our little cabina by the sea.   It is hard to believe we have been in Cabuya for 10 days – once again I feel like I have only scratched the surface of this area.   I think the kids will miss the pool but then our next destination has a much more swimmable beach being sand rather than volcanic rock so they might not miss it at all. 


We will miss the dogs, Archie has adopted Rocky the Pittbull, I have adopted Milly the little Rottweiler cross and Rissie has adopted Skippy the mysterious breed – a bit like Rissie really.  I have a feeling we will adopt more dogs at our next place and I have to admit I am looking forward to a little more space.  In our beach shack we have bedrooms and I am hoping a table where I can set up my computer instead of working on the bed as my back is fucking killing me and I don’t want to start looking like the Hunchback from Notre Dame.


So it is packing day today – I have to do some washing as I realised I have been wearing my black t-shirt dress for some days in a row now.  When I woke up early this morning dressed in the same thing I also realised I am even giving showers and pajamas a miss.  Pura Vida.  I can say Pura Vida to everything now.  It explains everything and fucking nothing really but it makes me sound mysteriously exotic and gives the impression that my Spanish has progressed a lot further than it has in reality. It is also an excuse for slowly moving away from my OCD compulsions and becoming a lot more laissez-fair about things.  I know that is the wrong language to be using but I am becoming very cosmopolitan.


Today we were meant to be doing a 3 km hike to the National Park and then doing a 4-hour return trip to an amazing beach but to be honest I think Archie and Rissie would prefer to be staying ‘home’ today.   Rissie loves the pool and Archie thinks Jim the owner is a good bloke so I suspect Rissie would rather do endless somersaults in the water and Archie would like to shadow Jim when he is not moving and hear about Big Balls – the head howler monkey with the big kahunas.  As soon as I hear Archie’s chuckles coming from the jungle I know he is hearing another one of Jim’s tall stories.


We also had a very big day yesterday.  We had to make the bus journey into our local big village of Montezuma as I had to get some cash and organise our water taxi to the mainland on Sunday so I decided that would be the day to tackle the amazing Montezuma waterfalls.  Getting the bus is always a bit of a lottery apparently.  There is only one bus driver and if a big night ensues he sometimes doesn’t turn up.  It did not really concern me yesterday but on a Sunday morning apparently the chances of a no-show due to a hangover are fairly high.  So we shall play that one by ear.  Pura Vida.   Jim had told us that with the waterfall you just followed some steps up on the left and there you go.  Easy peasy. So Rissie and I were in our Birkenstocks and the three of us were ready for a few steps and then a fabulous swim.  I think things started going amiss from the moment we arrived really.  There had been an amazing dump of monsoon rain that morning – I have never seen rain like it.   All power had been cut in Cabuya and on a lot of the peninsula so things were pretty wet and muddy and as soon we left the road I realised the only one wearing appropriate footwear was Archie as Rissie and I were slipping and sliding all over the place.


As we left the road we were greeted by a group of smiling Costa Ricans pointing us in the direction of the waterfall.  All sorts of advice was shouted at us like don’t veer off the path, don’t jump off the rocks, don’t kill yourself basically.  All good so far really – I was still in charge.  Then one of the Costa Ricans broke off from the pack and indicated he would show us the path.  To be honest I did not say no as I could not see a fucking path.  To me, one of Costa Rican’s most obvious waterfalls looked a little bit less than obvious.  So we were joined by Carlos.  After about 5 minutes I was not going to be played for a fool as he was obviously now guiding us so I asked him how much.  He shook his head and said don’t worry about it I just show you to the river.   So we headed to the river.  Now I don’t know if I missed an obvious path or some obvious steps or we were hoodwinked by Crazy Carlos but pretty soon it was obvious to me, that I don’t think I could have explored the falls on my own with the kids.


There was mud, there was climbing, there were roots to negotiate, there were ropes to hold onto to prevent yourself from falling down a muddy slope and breaking your neck.  At one stage Carlos told me “next time you wear hiking shoes yes?”  I felt like smashing a fucking rock into his head.  Of course next time I would wear hiking shoes, when someone is hideously unprepared it really serves no purpose to remind them of the fact.  But thanks anyway Carlos.  We did have a very serious young American following us early into the walk.  I suspect she got a bit frustrated by our slow progress because at some stage she attempted to overtake us in a very slow unfriendly stealth mission style of overtake and she promptly slid on a rock and fell on her arse in the water.  She had on all the right gear too and inwardly I smiled when I saw her dripping wet hiking boots and my dry albeit muddy and inappropriate Birkenstocks.  She left us at the first waterfall – whether it was because we were too slow, she was humiliated by her fall, she had taken her selfie at the waterfall or because she had the full measure of Carlos I am not sure.  She departed without a word though which made me wonder if all other travellers were going to be so unfriendly.


After that I gave up trying to work out whether Carlos was a crook or not because by then I realised I had no way of knowing how to get back and there was no way I could have seen the waterfall in the way in which I was seeing it.  I knew I would have to pay at the end but I would figure it out then.  Onto the second falls – at this stage we actually had to strip off to our togs and swim across a forge or something like that, regardless of its name it was a fucking body of water and I thought I had absolutely been bloody conned. I had images of seeing the back of Crazy Carlos sprinting through the jungle carrying our three day packs whilst we floundered in a pool somewhere in the jungle.   At least we would have had heaps to drink.  Suffice to say he did not depart but rather stuck to us like glue.


The second waterfall was amazing.  We managed a swim, a sit under the waterfalls and a wallow for a good hour or so.   Had to laugh though because as we were swimming and Crazy Carlos was doing his Montezuma super guide impression in his wet boxers on some random boulder it was obvious that he was rather excited.  I had no idea where to look but bit bloody hard not to as you could have poked someone’s eye out with a thing like that.  At first I wondered whether I should be flattered but at that stage I had fallen flat on my face and was stuck on a big rock and I was also making sure my togs were pulled down far enough to resemble board shorts as I have still not addressed my bikini line issue (just call me Howler Monkey) and I told myself to stop kidding myself. 


The young Costa Rican Carlos was in no way shape or form interested in my Free Willy impressions but he was rather impressed with himself.   As he perused his domain and droned on with a thousand stories mentioning people like George Lucas and Johnny Depp I realised that Crazy Carlos was in love with himself and the majesty of his world of the Montezuma falls and the Costa Rican jungle.  I am sure he had told those stories a million times before at exactly the same place in exactly the same pose.  I am sure there were many young nubile backpackers who had fallen for his charms but I felt like saying to him, “Hush up and put it away for god’s sake, let me enjoy the jungle.”


When we had decided we had had enough Carlos looked momentarily crestfallen, he was talking about a third waterfall and a lunch in the jungle but I told him we were ready to go home.  I am sure he could see his commission from various establishments trickling away.  But it was time to head back and when I say we headed back it quite literally felt like we were randomly climbing through the fucking jungle.  What seemed like an eternity later of holding onto muddy slopes with tree roots and vines and slipping and sliding and sweating like little bush pigs we emerged somewhere on a hill.   As we walked down a road somewhere Carlos started up his sales pitch.  I felt like reminding him of his “don’t worry” remark and instead of getting pissed off I rationalised it, a quick check of my phone made me realise he had been guiding us for 4 hours, unless I missed an obvious path I also had to admit to myself that I would never have been able to do those falls on my own. 


So I calculated what $20 each was worth in Colonnes and gave it over for the three of us.  Turns out that I slightly miscalculated and gave him more like $75 but I did not think it was too bad as it had been an amazing morning.  He looked rather delighted so I don’t think most people were as generous or as stupid as me.  But we had a little bonus in that we were starting our 7km walk home and just as I was realising how long a walk it was when we were muddy, exhausted and covered in bites a little bus zoomed to a stop near us and honked, out popped Crazy Carlos and we were given a lift home in air conditioned luxury and not one of them asked us for any more money.


I realised yesterday how tiny this little village we are living in is.  When we went into Montezuma yesterday I was wondering down the middle of the road and almost got knocked over by a car that came whizzing around the corner.  I was quite indignant until Archie looked at me and cried out, “why are you walking in the middle of the road mummy?”   Indeed, it was a road and rather a busy one, we were used to dirt tracks.  Our life in Cabuya seems to be governed by the tides; low tide we walk on the beach, high tide we walk in the jungle and it seems to have gotten us ready for living life a bit more slowly.  10 days here has seemed like a few weeks and we are moving at a much slower pace.  Pura Vida.


We have gotten used to a few new things over the last 10 days.   Rissie was in the shower the other afternoon and I heard her screaming her lungs off.   I tend to react a bit slower to Rissie now as she does have a tendency to overreact.  I found her standing on top of the toilet because there was a rather large crab in her shower.   I laughed out loud, not because it was funny but because I had no fucking idea what to do – one simply does not expect to find a very large crab in your shoulder.  So I called Jim.  


I got up the other morning and there was a small pile of poo on the kitchen floor, I got some toilet paper to clean it up, without actually addressing where it might have come from and then let out a scream of my own when I spotted the most enormous toad I have ever seen in my life sitting next to the fridge.  Once again I had no fucking idea so I called Jim.  Archie finally blocked the toilet.  He reassured me that he had put not toilet paper in the toilet.  In Costa Rica you put all toilet paper in a bin next to the toilet.  I suspect we go through a lot of toilet paper as I like to wrap the toilet paper in toilet paper to avoid anything unsightly.   My toilet bin looks rather neat and tidy even if I do say so myself.  When Archie told me that he was having issues in the toilet I checked out the bowl and fair enough it was another whopper – hard as a fucking rock.   I actually attempted to cut it up with a kitchen knife (which I scrubbed, disinfected and treated) and it flushed but then the whole cistern gurgled and stopped.


Christ almighty will I be haunted by the indestructible turd for the rest of my life?  I went and got a toilet plunger from Jim and he told me that it sounded like the kids had been putting toilet paper down the toilet.  When I assured him no that was not the case he did not seem to believe me.  “Indestructible turd” I explained to him.  I think at that stage we came to the conclusion that we no longer understood each other’s language.  Suffice to say I unblocked the toilet.  A few days later Archie came running to me and told me he had unblocked the toilet himself.  He had also suspiciously tied up the toilet bin bag tightly and told me ‘not to go in there’ so I suspect he had hidden the evidence somehow in the toilet bag and at that stage I had no desire to actually find out any more information.


We learnt the power of the tides and the power of the currents of the Pacific Ocean.  One morning we were walking on the beach and Archie who had stepped in the water stumbled and lost one of his thongs.  I was on the verge of getting fucking exasperated at the sheer foolishness of him losing one of his thongs and not taking better care of his possessions when I stepped in, grabbed his thong, threw it to him, then promptly fell in to waist deep water and in my panic to hold on and not be swept away by the surging tide, proceeded to lose my thong.  As I made my way gingerly back along the rocky beach with my one thong I am so glad that Archie and Rissie weren’t to know how close I came to having a huge coating of mud on my face.


We ventured across to the Island of the Dead which is only accessible at low tide.   Once there Skippy proved to be a murderous bastard of a dog and promptly found a great big puffer fish which he proceeded torture with his teeth.  Archie then started to wail and shriek, “don’t let him kill it mummy” with tears pouring down his cheeks which promptly started a 60-minute circus.   Now keep in mind we were on rocks and rock pools on the wrong side of the island.  I was wading after this fucking puffy fish which I was not sure was poisonous or not, using my camera bag strap as some sort of leash for Skippy and using my hat to scoop up puffy fish and take it somewhere closer to the ocean.  This would have been fine but 10 minutes later with me wearing a drenched hat on my head smelling decidedly fishy I felt my insides clench with fucking frustration when Archie screamed out again, “Skippy why do you have to be so violent?”  Skippy had another fucking fish.  Violent?  I will show you fucking violent.  I took longer to catch this one and longer for my children to realise that one of them needed to hold Skippy using my precious camera bag.


In that time Archie fell and cut his hand, it took me ages to catch the fucking fish and walk it out to the tide and at this time Rissie started screaming, “Mummy the tide is coming in, we will be stuck here forever, oh god mummy!”  Once again my children have a sense of theatrics that I find exhausting.  No idea where they get it from.   We saved two puffy fish.  My camera bag was soaked.  I had used Rissie’s hat as well this time so we had two stinky fish hats.  Archie was trying to reconcile in his little head the fact that Skippy was a violent thug with the fact he had hurt Skippy’s feelings.  And to top it all of the tide seemed to be surging in at an alarming rate. As we were leaving the rock pools to avoid being swept away to permanently sleep with the fishes I noticed about 5 fisherman sitting near the cemetery watching us and having a good old laugh.  I am so glad I cannot understand fucking Spanish.  We made it across the concourse in time before it was covered up with the incoming water.  The kids found their favourite swing and I found an old tyre which I lay down on and accidentally fell asleep.


I have to pack but I might do it later.  I actually don’t want to leave The Howler Monkey Hotel which has become like a little home for us. There are hours left before the day is over. At 7.30am in the morning we have to catch a bus which may or may not be operating depending on how pissed the bus driver gets tonight.  Then we have to catch a water taxi which I spotted the other morning looking alarmingly small on the big blue ocean but I refuse to look ahead and will worry about it later.  I was sitting watching the ocean yesterday evening and pretending to read my book when Archie said to me, “Thanks for the adventure mummy.   In case I forget, every day is amazing.”   I looked at my little kid sitting bare chested, covered in bites and with weary eyes from a day in the jungle and he made my little black heart beat with joy.  Pura Vida.


#Journey #CostaRica #Motherhood #Travel #Travelingwithkids

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