Last weekend, I had the joy of receiving my delightful niece, Jen, who was my first houseguest in Costa Rica. I had done research prior to her arrival, and we decided to go first to La Paz Catarata (The Peace Waterfall), where, I was told, we would also find a park with butterflies, hummingbirds, and other denizens of the rain forest. I rented a car and, with Waze on my cell phone, we set off.
With Jen as my co-pilot, we navigated the windy roads for about an hour and a half and were happy to see a sign saying La Paq Catarata Restaurante. After driving down a dirt road, we found an open-air restaurant with a pretty patio and a small waterfall. While pretty, it was hardly the dramatic waterfall we had expected. So, we enjoyed a pleasant lunch, which was interrupted briefly by a duck flying onto the table of the tourists next to us. Not so exciting.
Next, we went in search of the butterflies, known here as mariposas. We asked at least six people where to find the mariposas; some said that they had no idea, while others graciously gave us directions which were near the cemetery and the collegio, or agricultural school. After some discussion at the entrance of the campus, the guard let us in and pointed to the area with the butterflies. Two young ladies, happy to practice their English, gave us more specific instructions. Finally, we found what appeared to be a greenhouse with the access closed. We gave up and returned to the car.
On the way home, I reached my friend a local travel agent to ask where to find the elusive mariposas. She said all we had to do was go to the front desk. When I told her that there was no front desk, she figured out that we had been in the wrong town. Apparently, I was supposed to type in Waze La Paz Catarata Waterfall, which, though redundant, was a completely different place. As it was too late to turn back, Jen and I went home and planned the next day’s excursion.
After some discussion, we both realized that we needed to complete our mission, and we once again drove off in search of butterflies. The drive provided us with stunning vistas, and we arrived at a lodge (with a front desk) which opened onto a series of walkways leading to exhibits of butterflies, frogs, snakes, monkeys, wildcats, orchids and sloths. However, at the start of the exhibits, I managed to drop and destroy my cell phone, which left me without a camera and, even more important, without the ability to access Waze, which was our only way to get home. Jen had her IPhone, but no charger, so we had a camera. I was hopeful, however, due to the fact that I still very occasionally get texts and calls on my US cell phone, I try to remember to keep it in my gym bag. So, not knowing how we were going to get back home, we put aside our worries and explored the park and then did a pretty grueling (and very wet) hike through spectacular waterfalls. Now I understand what rain forest feels like. And at last we had our mariposas.
At the end of the hike, we returned to the car, where I found my other phone. We switched SIM cards and thought we were on our way; however, for some unknown reason, I didn’t have Internet. We drove around looking for a store with Claro service (my local wireless carrier). Ultimately, we found an Internet café in a small town called Sabanilla, where we found a young man who configured the phone and WAZE. Finally, we were able to return home and celebrate our adventure.
And we laughed remembering all those nice people in that unknown small town who tried to find butterflies for us.