The first potential accommodation I had spotted for this trip really stuck with me. The photos immediately had me . I was completely sold. The entire trip was planned around going there.
Literally nothing, no photos, no descriptions, no reviews could prepare me for the breath taking beauty of this place when we actually arrived. I must have spent the first hour walking around with my mouth wide open just completely speechless.
When you have outlived one of your children, your perspective of everything changes. Like I mean, everything. I have spent much of the past 8 years searching for little signs and beauty to show me my little boy is near me in spirit. I have a passion, a need, an uncontrollable urge to travel. I need to make memories and live like everyday is the last, I am painfully aware that it can all be taken at any moment. Then, I have this craving for natural beauty. Places where I can feel and sense my boy all around me. Places that take my breath away just like he did when I first saw his beautiful little face. I need that. It’s a feeling that’s been with me ever since his passing. Travel is my medicine.
Arriving at Santa Juana, . We were literally in the clouds. So so high up, on a mountain covered in deep rainforests. Green for as far as the eye could see with clouds sitting below and above us. Silence other than the noises of the birds and insects. Words alone can’t do this place justice.
I had read that it was best accessible by 4×4 so I went with the transport option. This was a good call as we went over tiny wooden bridges, through streams and along mountain edges to get there. The views were stunning and the journey was actually pretty fun.
Our room was stunning. On huge stilts to the front, it was built from wood and had an entirely open front with a mosquito net shutter leading out onto a balcony complete with a hammock. The double bed looked out over the rainforest covered mountains. Our guide pointed out a tree opposite our balcony telling us to watch it for toucans!
Included in our stay was 3 meals per day. These were lovingly prepared by the locals in the onsite kitchen. Meals tend to be tricky with a small person who lives almost entirely off of chicken nuggets, chips and bread. As always we tend to juggle things as they happen but to my complete surprise, while all caught up in the love for this place she actually tried some new foods-this literally never happens and we eat out a lot! The food was a real treat, a typical Costa Rican meal which right now I really miss.
The following morning after breakfast, we were told to get ready for our trip and to pack swimming stuff. We jumped in a car and were driven to a local traditional sugar making plantation. The kids got to watch how it was made and got to have a go themselves. We were told that only in the past 10 years has any electricity been on the mountain so it’s very much kept it’s traditional rural way of life.
Crystal clear water flowed from a waterfall and at the rocky edge, two jumping spots were waiting for anyone brave enough to throw themselves off.
As an underwater photographer, my youngest was just a few days old when she had her first underwater photograph. We love water and any activity that can get us in the sea or a pool. The kids have been swimming weekly since birth, so it was a shock when the littlest developed an intense fear of the water below the surface. The way the rippling water made the lines on the floor look although they were moving and the unknown was just all too much. It took many months of a balancing act between acknowledging the intensity of her fears all while ever so gently encouraging her to overcome her anxiety.
At around the same time (and lasting much longer) she developed an intense fear of trees and bugs and basically nature!
To arrive at a place full to the brim of unknowns, trees, water, noise and bugs, I wasn’t sure she would even consider getting in the water.
And this is why I travel. There is no classroom that can teach this. There is no lesson that can give opportunities such as this (although, I do give huge credit to her teacher who has given her so much this year, her confidence has literally doubled)
And before anyone else, she steps out, standing tall at the top of the platform. Peering over the edge giggling and squealing. My heart is in my throat. I have risk assessed this for what feels like an eternity but it is, in reality, seconds. I see the areas of rocks where she could bang her head, to me they look massive. I’m mentally replaying how I will get to her if anything goes wrong. But I can’t let her sense this. For this fear I feel is for me. This fear is the bereaved mother in me. This fear is that which I keep locked inside while on the outside I shout out encouragement. My girl needs these moments. She needs to feel excitement and achievements, not my anxiety.
She turns and heads back to the stairs. I breath a sign of relief. Then she lets out this crazy deep scream, turns and runs to the edge, throwing herself off the 4meter drop to the water below. Camera in hand I get the shot below. In shock but laughing and screaming a happy sound, I grab her to pull her in for a hug.
This was a feeling I won’t forget. Everyone was laughing. It was the scream and the sudden turn back, it was so unexpected. This is why I travel. These are the moments. This is memory making. This is everything. I live to watch these times, the times when my girl can see that everything is possible.
Later on in the afternoon we had a cooking class with another one of the locals. We learnt to make and cook ‘Empanadas’. The kids loved this. What I loved was how with the ladies minimal English and our minimal Spanish, we managed to have a laugh and communicate through cooking and random hand gestures!
At around 4am I was suddenly woken by what I immediately knew was a earthquake. I don’t know how I knew as I’d never experienced one before but for maybe 5-10 seconds everything shook and was strangely loud but calm at the same time. I lay dead still wondering what I should do but it was over as fast as it started. Knowing we were in the ‘Ring Of Fire’ and being an anxious kind of person, the thought was constant that we could experience earthquakes while in Costa Rica but I still couldn’t quite believe it. A quick google confirmed it was a small earthquake!
Waking in the morning we felt pretty devastated to be leaving. This was more than the usual sad and gutted feeling of returning from holiday. Like this literally ached to leave and we teared up when saying our goodbyes. It was such a intimate place with the staff so involved, it felt like we had made great friends and then it was time to leave already. I spent my last hour taking in the stunning beauty of everything that surrounded me. We hugged the ‘staff’ who felt more like friends and got back into the car to head to the airport.
Still now, I feel completely blown away by this place. This is 100% one of these places that I need to revisit. That can’t be a one off. A place where we were so close to the clouds, we could actually touch them. A little piece of heaven on earth