Rincon de la Vieja

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With our last day in Costa Rica on tap, we woke up early and, as we’ve been nearly every day, were the first ones to Parque National Rincon de la Vieja.

A quick chat with the ranger sent us hiking at a quick pace up and down the trails through the dry forest. We would have liked to have hiked clear to the top of the volcano, but that trail has been closed for a couple of years now due to volcanic activity. We even pondered hiking around the signs, but our guidebook announced that people have been scalded and boiled after falling through the thin crust of the volcano. Uh, no thanks, I think the waterfall hike will work fine.

The hike was scrubbier than the ones we’d completed in nearby parks and had stretches of weedy trail, exposed to the hot sun, so we hiked quickly, hoping not to get too sunburnt. At one point, the trail was marked off with caution tape and we tentitively hiked around it, wondering if this trail was going to rupture and swallow us, but a more local looking couple hiked right on through, and so we followed them. It took us about an hour before we dropped into a gorgeous falls tipping into a navy pool.

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It only took about five minutes before I’d slipped into the cool water, paddling against the current of the river. We soaked up the rest of the morning in the gorgeous falls which we had all to ourselves.

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Before making the return trip, I drenched my shirt and my hat, hoping it would keep us cool up the rocky hill that awaited us. It worked like a charm and in less than an hour we popped out of the forest near the ranger station.

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We flopped down on a picnic table to regroup when a guy from New York came by wondering where he might buy some water. I didn’t know about buying any but he quickly verified with the ranger that the spout next to our table produced potable water and so we all settled down to chat a while. Michael is from Staten Island, on vacation in Costa Rica for three weeks. Since he was early in his trip, we filled him in on where we’d been and spent a lovely hour chatting with our new friend.

While we chatted, a troop of black biting flies descended on us, and we idly swatted at them while we chatted. It wasn’t until later that night that we realized the damage. Ben had 72 welts below his knee on just one leg. Mine were swollen and itchy for weeks.

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Our conversation finally got interrupted when I spotted a shiny armadillo waddling through the nearby brush. I dragged everyone over the fence to check it out. Then, we bit our new friend adios and headed back to the beach for sunset.

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With a limited idea of where we were headed, we followed the signs all the way from Liberia until we ended up on Playa Ocetal, where there was plenty of parking, tide pools, and a powerful rip tide. I took a quick swim, nearly got dragged out to sea, and settled in on the beach for the evening.

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Shortly therafter, a family with two tiny kids was swimming in the same spot, when a nice man came down to warn them of the dangerous conditions. Perplexed, Ben asked if the beach had a lifeguard, at which point we noted that in fact, he was just the local snowcone vendor. He’d abandoned his snack shop to make sure the kids were safe. We’ve found people here are so helpful and kind.

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After a while, we tired of sitting, so we meandered over to the tide-pools where we waded and sat as the tide came in the the night sucked away the daylight, leaving a brilliant pink clouds as it trailed out.

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We’d abandoned the warning not to drive in the dark, and the next hour was spent frantically trying to spot rogue pedestrians and cyclists moving along the narrow dark road. We were thankful to finally hit the bigger highway where the going felt a little safer.

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As a final order of business, we filled the car with gas and snagged our last plata del dia. The sign clearly said beans and rice, so I’m still not sure why the plate contained chicken, salad, rice and beans and some unidentified juice, but it was good food. Ben fed his scraps to the most adorable puppy who was paroling our table and when we went to go back to the car, he clearly though he was going to get to  come home with us! We waved him farewell in the parking lot and headed back to the hotel to get an early start on bed. We had a 4 AM wakeup call for our flight home. 

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