We traveled to the popular Arenal volcano the second weekend of our trip to Costa Rica. We all were happy to be finally out of the city and felt like we were in our element traveling down rocky roads with the lush Costa Rican landscape surrounding us at every turn of the camera lens.
The first day the volcano wasn’t visible because of cloud cover. I knew that when people travel to Alaska their chance of seeing Denali outside of the cloud cover was minimal, but I didn’t know that this particular volcano also had the same reputation. So on the second day, when the glorious sun came out, the volcano wasn’t shrouded. It was spectacular and it put us all in the mood for some exploring… not heavy duty…the kind of exploring that you do with a 1-year-old.
Sammie likes riding in her sturdy backpack and is really interested in toucan’s tails and baby geckos crawling up trees. My sweet Samantha loves everything, but fights sleeping. So basically we all needed to stay flexible and knew that that we wouldn’t be doing the ‘major’ hiking scene. We decided to look around for a hike that seemed reasonable and found a waterfall that you started up at the top, traveled down about a bunch (about a million) stairs and landed at the base of the falls. Of course, we knew that if we went down the stairs, we would eventually have to come up and that isn’t so much of a problem for us, usually. We were just grateful for the waffle looking stairs and the chains in place so we wouldn’t tumble over into the rainforest. This definitely was a tourist attraction and we knew that we could handle it with the baby.
The first part was a swinging suspension type of bridge. Exotic plants, moss, flowers and birds climbed everywhere. The very moist, very warm air enveloped us every step of the way. I felt like I was drinking the air and I was under water swimming. Before we started the descent I saw a small sign. In English it said,
“If you have high blood pressure, you are at risk.”
I blinked at the sign and the couple ahead of us stopped near the muddy stairs, turned and said that they were thinking about turning around. I judged them to be maybe ten years older than us, and after all, I thought,
” I’ve been doing the elliptical all summer and I felt like I did a decent job keeping up with Jeff when I was in Denver. And we may have high blood pressure, both of us, but we take medicine.”
Looking down at my feet I was worried only a moment because I had my flip-flops on- no boots. Dave was carrying the day pack with our camera…that was the important thing. We had just had our lunch, so no need for snacks even though Em always had something for Sam. We were off.
I just determined I would go slow and hang on to the chains on the opposite side of the narrow walkway. We got down easily to the base of the fall. People were jumping in and swimming…kids having the time of their lives. We clicked a few pics and were ready for the return up. Sam was sleeping in the pack and all of us wanted her to stay that way. I asked Dave if he was ready, I noticed that his shirt was sopping wet, not from swimming but from sweat. He looked at me and said, “More than ready…let’s go”.
He started out behind me because I guess he is always expecting me to slip, break a wrist, break a leg, have 10 million blisters littering my feet, or maybe getting hypothermia- less likely in this blazing hot and humid climate, but nevertheless, he is always my protector, my encourager, my -go to – in disaster.
So when he said, “uh, Nanc”. I turned around.
His ashen face was staring at me, “I don’t feel so great.”
Now Em, John and Sam had quickly left the old folks in the dust, ambling up the cliff at a twenty something pace. I felt a wee bit panicky, but calmly said to Dave,
“I’ll take the pack, you go ahead of me….I need to take this slow too. Let’s just set a goal and then rest.”
Well after about only ten stairs , before our goal, Dave stopped. When I looked at him, I was so upset inside…no water…no asprin…I’m a fool in flip-flops ! What could I have been thinking?
We rested, set a new goal and started off. We made it to the next goal. Dave turned to me and said,
“I’m not used to being the weakest link, I don’t like being the weakest link.”
It wasn’t a hard stretch to make the inference…he was referring to our many trips together where I always was that weakest link. I wasn’t irritated with him, but it made me determined to be there for him just has he always has been for me.
After the next goal and the resting, Dave started telling me that his neck was hurting and he was having difficulty focusing. He said,
“If I start to go down, bend your knees, put your heels together to form a ‘V’, whatever you do, don’t let go of the chains…I’ll try to go backwards…that way you’ll be able to break my fall.”
He didn’t pass out, thank goodness. I thought to myself and started praying that the kids, long at the top by now, would be getting worried.
John miraculously appeared suddenly, coming down the stairs. He looked at me and said, “Did you fall?”
“No,I pointed to Dave and said, could you go back up and try to find anything to drink and maybe an aspirin and then bring it back?” Since my heart attack, aspirin has always been my best friend, but, on this trip, I was woefully unprepared.
He came back with two Gatorade bottles. Dave started sipping. Joyfully, I thought,
“He is going to make it, and so would I, as the strongest link in the chain, for the first time ever!”
PS Some of you may be wondering what happened next. We didn’t talk much about that scary episode until we were in the airport waiting for the return flight. Dave wondered if the episode was a reaction to some medications. I thought it probably was heat stroke and after reading ‘Elsie’s (LC) scary post about passing out on her trip’ I was more certain. However, when we got home our Doc did order a stress test. Everything was okay….thank God, because I need the strongest link in my life for as long as possible. I guess come to think of it we need each other.