Jungle Family Wiesen

October 15, 2015

I always wanted to go to Costa Rica. We finally went this past spring break (after I sold a kidney and 25 units of plasma) and it was one of those trips that really drove home the fact that I’m just old.  More on that later.  Since my family always tends to take vacations that are not quite like the ones everyone else takes (remember our RV trip?), I knew this trip would be no different.  All I have to do is tell Wayne I’d like help researching where we should stay and what we should do on a trip. Good gosh. The man came home with a binder and tab dividers for a Costa Rican trip. I have yet to find the dossier that I am convinced he has on me when we were dating. He loves to research. And I love to get nervous over the fact that he loves to research (hence the reason I am still searching for that dossier). He is the most prepared human being for any type of anything I know. Just don’t send him to Sam’s without an escort. He’ll come home with a double box of croutons and a 50 lb. jar of jelly.  That wouldn’t be so bad if we actually ate croutons or used jelly very often. But I digress…

We decided to go to Dominical, which is a surf town that literally looks like it is out of the 1960’s. I’m sure if anyone reading this has been to Costa Rica, they went to Tamarindo or one of the more popular and luxurious resort spots. In one of those resorts, I’m sure you’d find nicely dressed waiters serving fancy drinks with a little umbrella. In Dominical, you just pray the waiter has his shirt on.  I personally don’t know anyone who has been to Dominical. But of course, the Wiesens now have. We landed in San Jose and went to the customs window where a not-so-happy immigration agent “greeted” us. I tried to break the ice with my broken Spanish and then my genius 18 year old son thought he would join in on the one sided banter. He wound up jokingly saying “cayate” rather aggressively (which means “shut up” in Spanish) to me in front of the immigration lady. She thought he was talking to her. The look on her already hacked off face told me one thing: my fairy tale life had come to an end and my son is going to finish out his days in a Costa Rican jail.  he acted like Jack said “I am going to kidnap your family and you will never see them again.” Thankfully, we all took the hint and shut up (we all “cayate-d”) and with a wimpy “gracias”, we departed her booth (thankfully all together).


We made the risky decision to rent a car for our 3+ hour tricky drive to Dominical. Right out of the bag, we got lost and wound up going the wrong way on a very narrow street that looked like it was a scene from the Godfather. I swear we interrupted a drug deal. We may as well have had a blinking sign on top of our car that said “Stupid American Tourists”. I was waiting for a Jason Bourne-like nemesis to jump on his motorcycle and terrorize us. This is the place where my kids learned the art of ducking quickly in the back seat. Actually, I think I ducked as well, so it looked like Wayne was traveling alone. Then we got stuck on a roundabout and went around the bout probably 4 times. Finally got our directions right and headed towards Dominical. Either people are going 85 mph or they are going 10 mph on the road. And they really don’t care how close they get to the road if they are on foot (carrying Lord knows what). It’s like there’s some kind of pedestrian death wish pact in that area. Oh, and the most joyous part of the car ride was listening to the kids fight in the backseat when Jack’s leg hair was touching one of his sisters.

We finally made it to our rental house after the white knuckle and nauseating road trip.  As we turned up the road, we passed a shanty. A real shanty. Then I saw a security guard brandishing a gun on a motorcycle. Great. Welcome to Costa Rica. My first thought was “Wayne, why couldn’t we stay where all the civilized people stay up the coast?” But something in me told me I shouldn’t ask that question. I figured he’d bop me over the head with his Costa Rican binder.

Our first activity was surfing and that was great fun.  IMG_8482At least it was great fun watching the kids. I had a feeling I wouldn’t really hit it off with a surfboard. I was right. Wayne got the knack of it, so I stayed on the beach watching the kids and Wayne have fun. Our second activity was zip lining. We got loaded up in the back of a Kia pick up truck (who knew Kia made a pick up truck) with two bench seats for the passengers.  One problem: the tailgate wasn’t high enough to keep the person who was sitting on the end from falling out. Of course I was that person. I didn’t clue in that this would be a problem until we began our 15 minute sheer ascent up the mountain. Jack had to wrap his arm around my neck in a choke hold type IMG_8240position (now I know why he volunteered to “help” me) to keep me from becoming mountain roadkill. Why was I the one sitting back there? We all got strapped into our harnesses to get ready for zipping. Nothing is worse than the positioning of those straps on a woman’s hips. Actually, there is something worse. Someone with a camera while you are having those straps positioned on your hips. They say the straps need to be very snug to be safe. I was about to say I don’t care about safety, so please un-snug those straps. I think the harness is tightened to the point where they can watch the horror on a woman’s face (at least my face). We zipped in the jungle off some pretty high platforms and enjoyed the beautiful sights. We got to one platform and the guide was leaning against a tree and said to us, “Do you want to see a naked indian?” I almost asked for a refund as I was shielding my daughters’ eyes, but he told us he was referring to a tree that looked apparently like a naked indian. Who knew. In broken English, he then told us to get our mind out of the gutter.

Our craziest adventure was waterfall canyoning (rappelling) the next day. The outfit we used was Costa Canyoning in Uvita and they were great. It was just the five of us in the middle of the jungle with two very jovial local guides. After we rode up a mountain in the back of the truck (this time with a nice tailgate to hold me in) over the river and through the woods, a thought hit me: we don’t know these two guides from Adam and we are following them in the middle of the jungle where nobody else in the world knows where we are. We could all die. These are the kind of thoughts I now have since I’m older. But annoyingly, nobody else in my family thinks that way.

After going through the same lovely routine of getting tied into our harnesses, we started walking through the middle of the jungle towards our first waterfall. My hands were starting to sweat and my heart rate started to pick up. I knew what was ahead of me and I didn’t want to do it. But it was too late to turn back because the only way home was down. When you approach a waterfall to rappel down, you can’t see how far down you will be going. If you look over to see, you will fall down the waterfall and die, and that pretty much defeats the purpose of rappelling. After each waterfall we rappelled, we scrambled across boulders to get to the bigger and bigger falls. Image 1Our last one to rappel was 80 feet tall.  80 feet. If I had seen what I was about to do, I would have said, “This jungle looks livable. Let’s just become a modern day Swiss Family Robinson and be the Jungle Family Wiesen.”

My hands are actually sweating as I type this and recall that 80 foot waterfall. But, as always with challenging things in my life, there was a lesson to be learned. More on that in a minute. One guide would be waiting at the bottom of the waterfall controlling the rope you were attached to. The other guide (or skipper, for lack of a better term) would stand at the top giving you instructions. Actually, yelling the instructions very seriously to you over the loud sound of rushing water. This is where he was all business (no more Mr. Funny Guy) and told me to listen to EVERY WORD he said. If not, you would bounce off the rock. With your face. So I intently listened to every word to prevent the need for non elective plastic surgery. All three of my children were at the top laughing their heads off at me because my face was so intense. I say intense, they would say panic filled. My husband was smart enough not to join in their little fun.Image 3

I did exactly what was I was being told (ex: walk your feet down the wall, straighten your legs and lean back…). As I lightly fell into the water at the bottom of the waterfall, I have never been so relieved in my life. I looked back up at what I had just come down and ventured to guess this company couldn’t have had near enough liability insurance. Here’s what I learned: the more I listened to what the expert had to say, the less I focused on my fear. When he told me to lean back with my back parallel to the water, everything in me told me “no!” because it was against human nature to be suspended 80 feet in the air with your back parallel to the water. However, my mind remembered that the guide told me to trust him and the rope was there to tighten up and keep me from free falling all the way down.

I had to push my fear to the side, because there was only one way down and if I listened to my emotions, it would have been a disaster. But I focused on what I knew to be true – the advice of the expert. When I made it down safely, I have to admit it was quite exhilarating. But don’t ask me to do it tomorrow…ha.

It was a fabulous trip. Probably the most adventurous family trip we have ever taken. I highly recommend going off the grid a tad (not extremely). Guess I didn’t really read in Wayne’s binder that we were taking the red eye flight home. Oh, I had red eyes. Apparently, everyone else did as well, as evidenced by my son and my husband crashing on what I’m sure was a pristinely clean airport floor in San Jose at 1 a.m.

FullSizeRenderThe entire water rappelling experience made me think of a spiritual parallel. It’s like God was the guide and the Holy Spirit was the rope…my connection to God. I cannot always trust my emotions (which can swing wildly within one minute sometimes), no matter how strong and convincing they are. What I know (truth) has to be more important than what I feel. This has been proven time and time again to me.  So why do I seem to forget that? Often, He asks me to let go and just trust Him, especially when I have a death grip on the rope (life). And when I finally surrender and do let go, I am able to see He was there the whole time waiting to catch me and remind me that He alone is trustworthy. A lot of times for me, I hang on too tight to my children (emotionally, not physically – ha). I can have a tendency to fret and worry and hang on when God reminds me that they are ultimately His and He has their best interest at heart. Once I surrender, it does feel like I am free falling out of control without a harness for a nanosecond, but that’s all it ever is. Just a nanosecond. And then I’m caught. And most of the time, I’ve found refreshing water to my soul in the middle of a jungle!

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  • Diane October 15, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Our favorite thing in Costa Rica was waterfall rappelling. Terrifying – yes, amazing – yes! Matthew was only 6 years old at the time. Looking back that seems crazy. He was the least fearful by far. He didn’t know the difference!!!