So, let me just start off by saying that today was definitely an interesting day. I have never woken up by wildlife at 1:00 a.m. (and I must say that insects and frogs are excessively loud in Costa Rica), or by rain at 2:00 a.m., or by horses and cows at 4:00 a.m., but now I can cross all of those ridiculous things off my bucket list. However, after my interesting night of half-sleep, I joined Pacho and headed to breakfast. We had to wait for the others for longer than expected, but the food was incredible once we were all there and started eating. After breakfast, we took a short drive to the Rincon De La Vieja National Park, which was absolutely stunning. The park is built around one of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes. The slopes of the volcano are covered in lush vegetation and an impressive primary forest with huge trees including the infamous strangler fig. Right off the bat we encountered a rare bird that our expert tour guide had never seen before. When we traveled further into the Park (or shall I say a rugged jungle) we saw several spider monkeys, caterpillars, spiders, leaf-cutter Ants, centipedes, large rodents called coatis, rare birds, raccoon-like coatimundis, etc. We encountered two large troops of spider monkeys moving gracefully through the canopy with their prehensile tails. Many trees were in fruit and the mammals and birds were having a feast. We also visited a few hot springs and boiling mud pots that produce thermal energy, which contributes to Costa Rica’s 99% renewable energy efficiency. There was a geothermal plant just outside the park’s boundary called Las Pailas (deep frying pans) that helps contribute almost 10% of the electricity used in the country. With all that being said, I would like to acknowledge how good our tour guide Eric is. Eric spotted many of these organisms and was invaluable in terms of his knowledge about the flora and fauna that we encountered on our trek through the park; it is also important to mention Enrique our expert driver, considering he was able to navigate the dangerous back roads with extreme precision. And, after this perfect tour of the jungle, we ended up eating boxed lunches, prepared by the hotel, in the tour bus.
Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel to change and get ready to go horse riding. I must say, I was not completely exactly confident with my horse riding skills; however, I saddled up and volunteered to be the first on the horses. I know I can speak for all of us when I say that riding the horses on the roads and through the fields was an absolute blast. Considering I didn’t know the name of my horse, I called him Sicario (like the movie), and yes, he was an interesting character because whenever someone else tried to pass him he would immediately speed up and maintain his lead. We traveled on these horses for several miles to a beautiful waterfall hidden in the jungle. I want to add that this waterfall was absolutely gorgeous and it was a privilege to have seen it. After soaking in the natural beauty of the breathtaking waterfall, we continued on the horses back to the hotel where we all played in the pool for a few hours before going to dinner. The topics of conversation at dinner varied; however, we all enjoyed each other’s company and found it to be a very good bonding experience. All in all, the day was exceptionally interesting and fun and I know I don’t just speak for myself when I say that I will remember these experiences for the rest of my life.