I woke up early in the morning. The first thing that came to my mind is that today is my last day in Arenal! I felt a mixture of emotion - I was both sad and excited. I was excited because I will travel to a new place today – Manuel Antonio in the Pacific coast. But the excitement was overshadowed by sadness that I have to say goodbye to David and family. Saying ‘Goodbye’ has been always tough for me, especially when I get emotional. David, Jorge, Carolina have built a special bond with me, showering their unconditional love and friendship; and I know it will be difficult to depart from that strong bondage with an emotional ‘Goodbye’ when I leave. Well, true love and friendship never die. And this one won’t die either, - I told myself.
I came out of the room and stood on the balcony. It was a crystal clear morning. Sun was shining over the Arenal volcano. Hummingbirds were jumping from one branch of tree to another. It was the perfect portrait of happiness all around; only it was blanketed with a shadow of sadness for me. I recalled Hardy in the Mayor of
Casterbridge –“Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain
.” I smiled.
My flight to Manuel Antonio was in the afternoon, so I had the morning free. David invited me to see their farmland that they own. Hey, I love such off-beat trips without any fan-fair. It was a vast land David and his family owns. Local people, mostly Nicaraguans were working in the farm. A creek flows dancing through the rocks in one side of the land and the boundary ends there. Bush and shrubs cover that stretch of the land for a few hundred yards. Dave and I hung around there for a while and went back to the hotel just before noon. It was almost time and my luggage was packed. I was about to say ‘Goodbye’ when I suddenly realized I lost my cell phone. And it must be in the farm when I last took it out from my pocket. David rushed with me to the farmland and we started searching for the phone in the bush near the creek. It’s about half a mile stretch of bush and shrubs, and searching for the cell is like searching a
needle in a haystack. Besides, the phone was turned off, so we were out of luck for a quick ‘lost and found’. But it was David who spotted the black cell phone lying inside the bush. Is it my good karma or what? Oh well, we are done here. We went back to the hotel, and thank God, I didn’t miss the bus to the airport. “No worries, I would have dropped you to the airport in that case,” David told me. My heart flooded with love for him. My eyes welled. “Goodbye to you, my trusted friend
,” I gave him a tight hug. I turned my face away in case my eyes gone wet. “Good Bye, Tab,” David told me in return. The bus rolled on towards the airport. I sighed. It reminded me again, there are few pristine things in the world that money cannot buy. David’s friendship is one of those. Manuel Antonio and a bit of setback
I cramped inside a small aircraft that left Arenal on time. It was a short flight for about an hour or so to Quepos, Manuel Antonio. The plane flew over the palm-tree covered
countryside by the side of the Pacific coast and landed in a nifty, small airport surrounded by coconut trees in Manuel Antonio.
The Best Western was not too far from the beach. I was going to stay for a day and half in Manuel Antonio and the next day I kept aside for the catamaran tour in the Pacific with some snorkeling. The rest of the afternoon was free for me. The beach was not too far from the hotel and I took a short walk on the beach. I rented a taxi to go to the National Park. It is a conservation park stretched from North to South, hugging the coast line and slowly gaining elevation. The pathways for the hike are well maintained and the views of the Pacific from different elevations are spectacular. Costa Rica has few different varieties of monkeys and I watched some squirrel monkeys and white headed capuchins jumping from one branch of tree to the other. It was a good couple of hours of enjoyable hike that made me fresh. I came down from the elevation before dark.
The story from here takes a twist that would not be a memorable
one for me to cherish. Rather, it’s funny and umm…how should I say, - perhaps a bit silly. Well, the story goes this way:
The catamaran company picked me up from my hotel in the morning. I was scheduled for a few hours of Pacific tour and enjoy some snorkeling before catching my late afternoon flight to San Jose. The tour was great! We enjoyed some hide and seek with the dolphins and the food was good. But the snorkeling was a disaster for me. Now here comes the truth. I don’t know how to swim. I can’t even float in the water. I don’t know where the problem lies, but the bottom line is I am just a piece of rock when I’m in the water. Am I ashamed? Not really, because I took a number of lessons for many years, but nothing worked. Every time I start a new lesson with other newbie’s, we all are the same. Halfway through the lessons, they swim and I watch. Anyway, whenever I tried snorkeling, I have always informed the companies in advance about my handicap and they have graciously helped me and I managed somehow. I did the same
here. So I told the guide,
“You know, I can’t swim; so I need a bit of help.”
“Yeah, yeah, it will be okay, try with others, and I’ll be there.”
So I jumped in the water with one float, I tried to float with the gear, but I couldn’t. I looked up for some help close by, I found no body. Water started pouring in through my tube and I started choking. I tried to swim to get to the boat with whatever little training I had; but I guess I went further away. I panicked…I’m sinking, I’m sinking. In the last few minutes before I was going to pass out, I remembered the face of my wife, and I said “Sorry” to her. Things were slowly getting dark in front of my eyes. Then I grabbed something. It was a pair of legs. One helper was enjoying a smoke sitting on the starboard of the catamaran; his legs were dangling inside the water. He thought it might be a shark that was pulling him down and he started screaming. For me, that was my last straw and I clung to the pair of legs and
eventually dragged him down in the water. He thought he was dying because the shark won’t let him go. That triggered a pandemonium in the water. Anyway, needless to say, I’m still alive and so is the helper; but my Go Pro camera was not that lucky. The GoPro was strapped to my chest. That was still there, but I don’t know if I forgot to seal it completely or whether the cover came open during the time when I was wrestling under the water; the camera was soaked with salt water. The power supply was cooked and the camera was history. Damn! That was the last thing I needed during the trip! I was pissed, but there was nothing much I could do. “Forget the camera, I should be thankful that I am alive,” I told myself. Yesterday, my eyes were wet because I was emotional. Today it was wet due to salt water! I realized that the water sports are not for me and thereafter, I focused on the sports anything above the ground, and I stick to that! Soul searching:
The late afternoon flight from Quepos was well into its course to San
Jose. The plane was flying over the beautiful coastline of the aqua blue Pacific on one side and the vast cultivation of palm trees on the other. I was deep in my thoughts. I was thinking of my near drowning experience while trying to snorkel. Why did I jump in the water without knowing how to swim? Many would call it total stupid. Perhaps, they are right. Perhaps, there should be a ‘lessons learned’ for me from the miss-adventure. All are true. But let me confess, whenever I see a thrill game, I can’t control myself. Dancing Dave has jokingly called me once an ‘adrenaline junkie’. Jokes aside, Dave was so right. It’s in my blood. My father was like me. Correction, - I am more like my father. He once told me “Walk away from anything that does not interest you, but always enjoy doing what you want to do. Remember, you only live once.” When I was a kid, I remember once my father was reading to me the Ulysses by Tennyson. It was a rainy night; I cuddled to my father and was listening to the verse as he was reading. I didn’t understand much of the
poem, but I enjoyed listening to my father. I still recall the line: “I will drink life to the lees
”. I asked, “Dad, what does it mean?” My father looked at me and then calmly said, “Live life to the fullest,” my son. Sure, I got my father’s gene as a gift. I continue to travel when I can and I pursue the thrills those I enjoy. As Hemingway wrote: “I had an inheritance from my father, It was the moon and the sun’ And though I roam all over the world, The spending of it’s never done.”
That is so close to my heart!
The pilot’s voice broke my thoughts. We were about to land. The Nature Air flight flew over the rolling hills of Alajuela in Western Costa Rica and made a perfect touchdown in San Jose. I looked in the horizon. A vibrant twilight has painted a collage of seven colours on the Nature’s canvas in the distant horizon.
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