November 23, 2017

After leaving Monteverde, during our four-hour drive to Arenal, we’d stop numerous times along the road and turn off the car and the lights. The night was pitch black and there were no streetlights. We’d pull off and sit quietly, recording the songs of the frogs and cicadas, while watching the illuminating sparks of fireflies. What a magical drive! The huge variety of singing frog symphonies made the long drive feel deeply therapeutic.

Until … the time we stopped on the side of the road, and the usual: we stopped, engine went off as we sat in the darkness, windows rolled all the way down, with the recorder hanging out the window. Simultaneously, I heard a sound outside my open window, as if something was approaching the car from the darkness, and Taylor heard the exact same noise approaching from the other side. “Go, go, go, go!” Car engine on, stepping on accelerator, electric windows rolling up as our hearts thumped away.

WTF! What WAS that? Such an eerie feeling. Animals? People? Spirits? We suddenly felt like we were being watched. We had to take a few deep breaths before we could shake the weird feelings that loomed around us. We continued on the road and … that kind of put a damper on our amphibian choir recordings.

After another 45 minutes of swerving down the dark, spine-jarring pothole-filled roads we arrived at our destination - a beautiful, sustainable farm with bungalows.

costa rica hammockcosta rica farm

We checked in and made our way to our place with the security guard on the golf cart who explained that he’d recently seen a black panther on the property. There was a grasshopper the size of a sparrow in our room, with massive wings. We left him there and went to eat dinner that the kitchen had saved aside for us.

We spent the night with the windows open, wrapped up in mosquito netting around the beds, listening to all the sounds of the deep jungle. At first it was comforting, but then during the middle of the night I woke up with a funny feeling. What were we doing here? We were out in the middle of nowhere in the jungle! If anything happened to us, no one would know where we were.

I drifted back to sleep and awoke later to noises outside, shuffling in the huge green leaves and tapping on the porch around us. I bolted up and went to the window, listening. Taylor also woke up to the eerie sound ... she grabbed the Zoom recorder + grabbed this sound clip. Listen + see if you can you hear the footsteps too! It sure doesn't sound like a 4 legged animal ...

After a while I crawled back into bed. In the morning, I awoke to a nightmare, also unusual for me.

red torch ginger

We got coffee and walked around a bit. Even though there were many beautiful flowers everywhere I felt bizarrely stubborn, apathetic + disinterested in making flower essences. Both of us felt weird about staying there any longer, so we checked out two days early, even though they wouldn’t give us a refund. We listened to our hearts and sixth sense and loaded our suitcases into the back and rode off down the pothole-filled road, on our way to the hot springs, never to look back.

costa rica farm

We spent part of the morning trying to figure out why we felt such a creepiness at the place we just departed … as we checked in to a fancy hotel with crisp white sheets. Sterile, quiet, with no windows to the jungle. We remembered why we don't like sleeping at hotels. Then we got over it and went to the hot springs.

costa rica hot river tabacon

First we went to the ‘free’ hot springs river … the one the locals go to, under the bridge.

costa rica tabacon hot spring

It’s so beautiful, and after Iceland + Yellowstone, hot spring rivers are my jam! But this one had special magic … the waiter had warned us about venomous snakes. Where? Well … on the ground, in trees and in the water. Jeez. And they are the brown snake called terciopelo (velvet), which blends right in to the color of the ground and the snake-like tree roots. Hmmm. And we didn't exactly have the necessary jungle attire: big rubber boots.

snake tree roots costa rica

So even though the photos look blissful, I was watching where I was stepping, every. time. We combed the river down to the bottom, braving the currents, and all the way up on the other side of the bridge to the top with no luck. No orchids. And we weren't willing to go too far into the jungle to keep looking.

costa rica tree top

costa rica tabacon hot spring river

After the hot springs river au natural, we plodded back to the hotel and experienced the five star version. Wow, you gotta hand it to the owners for doing a great job. It’s beautiful and yet the river is pretty natural looking with black rocks and lots of little areas to lounge where there are zero people. And most importantly - no snakes!!! We draped ourselves at the edge of a small waterfall, letting the warm water stream through our hair.

costa rica tabacon hot spring river

After soaking until our fingertips wrinkled, we tried literally everything at the restaurant’s buffet, especially loading up on piles of sweet plantains. We climbed into those sterile, stiff white sheets that night, grateful that we were in a safe place, that we had listened to our sixth sense about the place we had previously been.

Lesson: you don’t have to know why. You don’t need to know why. You just need to heed the warning + the creepy feelings. Just act on them; no need to figure out why. Who cares about a refund? You might be saving your own life.

The next day we left, making our way around the volcano and its beautiful lake. We saw a random handwritten sign for a 500-year-old tree, so we veered off. We parked and walked up an enormous hill to the sounds of roaring howler monkeys.

costa rica tree of life

Growing on the 500 year old tree, we found an exquisite colorful orchid (yes, we collected the flower essence!) that looked like a bee, jaguar, ant, dragon, coi fish and a baby. Also, the flower looks like it is looking at a reflection of itself.

costa rica orchid tree of lifecosta rica flower essence

I felt a growing desire to develop new connections ... not just be a tourist, but experience new friendships and perspectives. And that's exactly what happened next - check it out.

Happy thoughts + flower petals,

katie hess

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