Thursday, September 8, 2011

The second time I almost died in Costa Rica

It was a harrowing vacation, to be sure, but even weeks later Costa Rica still holds its place as Most Likely to be Visited Again in my yearbook of life. Despite repeatedly brushing with death while there, the Mister and I are shopping for schools in Costa Rica so we can be surrounded by beauty 24/7.

Anyway, I need to tell you all about the second time I almost died in Costa Rica. This particular instance was significantly less drawn out and exponentially less terrifying than the Waterfall from Hell. It was one of those moments that I didn't realize was super dangerous until hours later, sitting at dinner with my husband and thinking, "Whoa. That was a close call."

A few days before we left the rich coast, the hubbins and I took an ATV tour. Neither of us had ever been on a 4-wheeler--we both have nurses for mothers who had taken care of ATV accident patients a few too many times--but we were super excited for the adventure that awaited us. Thankfully we'd inadvertently decided to vacation during Costa Rica's wet season, so we were the only 2 tourists on this particular excursion. I had read a review on TripAdvisor from an avid ATV'er who complained that the beginners on her tour had made it boring for her. I didn't want to be that person, but I also didn't want to take my ATV'ing experience from 0 to 11 in the matter of a few minutes. So I was more than happy to poke along on the mostly paved, completely cleared paths we were told we were going to take without ruining the vacation of more experienced fellow tourists that could have come along on our tour.

Doesn't he look intrepid?

The trails ranged from this.... this!

Unfortunately, we'd inadvertently decided to vacation during Costa Rica's wet season, which meant the paths were deeply rutted by the mini-rivers created from the rains of the past few days. Being that I'd never been on a 4-wheeler before, I had no prior knowledge of how to handle it when my wheels tried to follow the rut instead of going in the direction I wanted. Luckily, I got the hang of it relatively quickly and was blaring up and down those mountains, tongue sticking out of the corner of my mouth, with a maniacal grin on my face.

I even got confident enough to snap a selfie while operating my all-terrain vehicle.
Don't tell my moms.

Let me pause the story to let you all know that my machine pulled to the left, but it was only really noticeable when we were on the asphalt surfaces. Obvious foreshadowing is obvious.

So we're trucking along passing by some of the most astonishingly breathtaking vistas I've ever seen in my life.

Like this one.

This was the view out one of the windows at a little restaurant at the top of a mountain where we stopped. The owners lived in an attached building. THIS IS WHAT THEY SEE EVERY DAY!!

This was a much less terrifying waterfall. I liked this waterfall. We were already at its base.

This is a Costa Rican farm. The cows say "Los Moos."

The tour was perfect for two beginners because we would be on a semi paved, mostly smooth path/road for a while where the biggest obstacle we had to worry about was mega pot holes for about 45 minutes and then we'd turn onto a super rutted, mostly uphil, narrow ATV path of awesomeness!! It was the best combination of adrenaline, culture and nature. We were often times riding on ridge trails: look to the right and see nothing but a sheer drop, look to the left and see nothing but a steeply sloping mountain face. It was terrifying and awesome at the same time.

Anyway, about 5 hours into our 8 hour day of awesomeness, we were blazing our way up a trail that was wooded on the right and the other side had tall grass, a bit of an embankment and CERTAIN DEATH! The path was also pretty vertical, which I had learned that I enjoyed. I loved being able to just open up the throttle and bump my way up the side of a mountain, spraying red mud up my leg all the while.

So much fun!!

As I said before, the path was deeply rutted and, as ruts will do, these mini ravines led right off the trail and down the mountain. I hit a rut which wasn't all that deep but for some reason my 4-wheeler headed left, in the direction of the embankment. That's when I had a very Rob Dyrdek kind of moment. Because I was going along full speed ahead, my ATV treated the embankment as a BMX ramp and I was on my way to becoming airborne. In the split second it took me to realize my current trajectory was going to send me flying down the side of a mountain, I let off the throttle. Only thing is, in that same split second, my front wheels were already on their way into the air and when they lost all their oomph, they started to somersault backwards taking me and the rest of the ATV with them. I was about the be crushed by an ATV in one of the most beautiful placed on earth.

Directly behind me, also going full speed ahead, was my husband. I think he was watching this whole thing unfold and had come to a stop so he could watch his wife almost take herself to her grave for a second time in a week. I had also come to a stop but because I was flustered, I hadn't put on the brakes yet so I started rolling down the path. I didn't want to collide with my husband, so my old bike-riding instincts kicked in and I promptly put my feet down. Experienced ATV'ers know that putting your feet down will do nothing but scratch your legs up and possibly get your feet tangled in the snowballing mess that is you and the ATV. But what did I know!?

Eventually (and by "eventually" I mean .25 seconds later) I came to my senses and threw on the brakes. Now I was very nearly vertical on an ATV that was halfway up the embankment. I was afraid that if I kicked the throttle into full speed I would end up finishing the trip down the face of the mountain I'd very nearly started.

But I had bigger things to worry about than that!! On the muddy trail in front of me, right in the middle of an imprint of the tracks of my tires was OUR BRAND NEW CAMERA!!

Yes, the one we had accidentally dropped down the side of another mountain during the hike back from the Waterfall from Hell (I didn't tell you guys about that part of the story, but there's the short version). Today, I had been riding with it between my legs so I could snap quick shots without having to fiddle with trying to get it out of my pocket.

Somehow in all the confusion, I had come off my seat, the camera had flown through the air, my front right tire had landed and skidded on the camera and then rolled backward down the path just enough to reveal my pitiful camera barely peeking out of the mire.

Now I had to get off my 4-wheeler...but I couldn't do that without risking sending my machine into my husband behind me. Our guide was trying to tell me how to get myself out of my current situation, but that entailed me running back over my camera, possibly killing it for good this time.

Long story short, our guide got off his ATV, we wiped off the camera and continued on the trail.

Here's a grainy webcam shot of the scratches on the screen of our camera. Our souvenir from our awesome day of ATV'ing in Costa Rica.

Moral of this story: 4-wheeling is awesome, even when you almost die in the process...and Olympus Tough TG-610s really are tough, even if they don't take the best pictures in the world.

Vicariously yours,

No comments:

Post a Comment