The fourth dispatch from Expedition Cloudbridge 2017, by Jack Burton
Waking up early trekking up mountains everyday through perpetual humidity carrying lots of equipment is exhausting. For a physical and mental restoration we needed a break. We heard some people, which I now would definitely refer to as friends, from the reserve were heading to Domincal for the weekend – we decided to join the club. Word got round the reserve and basically everyone decided to join, it was a perfect and spontaneous communal holiday.
After a tiring 5-hour trip, still sweating from the two clammy bus journeys, we had arrived, and only had one thing in mind when we seen the long stretch of sand separating us from the spectacle of the sea. After dropping our bags off at Cool Vibes Hostel, which by the way is very cool, we got our swimwear on and ran into the sea like excited kids. A true moment of exhilaration hit us at different angles. The sea was warm… very warm – I’ve never been so perplexed and contented at the same time.
The landscape was open and vast and we were happy dots in a layer of sea, sand, mountains and forest. The sky was smoking black. It felt wrong to be so warm in such an emphatic dark landscape. Sea spray drifted onto the land and formed a haze around the pine trees. It started to rain and the waves were crashing hard onto our bodies. What was most special was that we had this moment to ourselves, the beach was completely empty. All my senses were heightened. We laughed at the exhilaration – the weekend had only just begun.
We left the sea, as it was getting dark, hosed the salt water off our bodies and headed back to the beach to meet the other interns/students from the reserve for a drink. Accompanying the group was Frank, the reserve manager who also joined us for the weekend away. We sat by his VW Van, drank rum, talked/laughed and watched the Milky Way materialise over the pacific sea.
Waking up to a cup of free coffee and a bowl of fresh fruit, we headed back to beach… of course we did, and played Frisbee in the sea for over an hour. Something I vividly remember was bending down to get eye level with the sea, anticipating the next crash of the wave to hit me. I would have my eyes open until the very last moment – it was somewhat elating to see this rush of energy coming for you -and then as the wave had taken me under water, I would relax and allow the wave to drag me far back. It was all thrilling until I was submerged, then it was tranquil, quiet and peaceful. Coming back up to the surface I could hear laughter’s around me as people were still playing frisbee.
The minor hangover disappeared and was replaced with a fulfillment of life. We dried off in the sun and dispersed into different groups, doing our own things – reading books, sun bathing, exploring the area, surfing, drinking beers and eating tacos. We even found some vegan ice cream – man it was good. We treated ourselves throughout the day with items of clothing and lots of snacks; life was easy… it was fun. I had the pleasure of being the photographer, capturing everyone’s moments of nirvana and excitement is something I learned to love that weekend. I looked back at each photo, giggling with empathy.
Sitting on a log of driftwood, reading a book I picked up from the reserve, I was suddenly distracted by a tint of orange that hit the corner of a page – the sun was setting magnificently over the horizon. Michael, a volunteer from the reserve was sat next to me, also reading albeit drinking a beer, shared the moment with me as we acknowledged the beauty of the scene in silence. The tide was out and a seam of seawater formed a reflection of the sun-setting sky. It was beyond beautiful. I took the opportunity to enquire for some team photos before the light had disappeared. The photos are a bit cliché but it had to be done.
That day was far from over, it turned out to be a very special day for one of our teammates, Chloe. It was her birthday celebration. We headed back to Cool Vibes Hostel to get dressed to go out. The night begun with rum and card games, which continued for an hour or so with additional beverages and more card games. It was here where we met Bob, also known as Barefoot Bob or Doctor Happy. He sat down a few tables next us and played guitar, we appreciated his talent and applauded his music. He then started to take song requests from our group and played for us whilst we continued to play our card games, one of the songs being ‘Jailhouse Rock’. We were a collective manifestation of cool vibes.
We headed to one of the local popular bars, danced to music, played snooker and table tennis. Bob decided to join us after the joyfulness shared back at the hostel. It turns out that he was probably the most interesting man I’d had ever come across. Holding all of his belongings in two bag packs, he travels the world earning money through the music he plays as well as partaking in humanitarian aid. He provides workshops for educational purposes as well as addressing people’s issues on life. People call him Doctor Happy for a reason, he was a genuinely enlightening person. You could sense his spirit in his contagious smile. Completely indulged by his personality and way of life, I spoke to him for a chunk of night, conversing about world issues, spirituality and his life experiences. I hope to see him again in the future. It turned 12oclock, it was Chloe’s Birthday and everyone wrapped their arms around her in celebration. The night continued with lots of dancing, but it was eventually time to retreat back to the Hostel.
Waking up the next day, the vibes were less cool, it was quite funny to see the juxtaposition from the previous night to that morning – let’s just say people were fragile. It was Chloe’s birthday however, which meant a special breakfast for all. Pancakes! Chloe started to tear up as we started singing her Happy Birthday, presenting the surprise plate of pancakes to her. She may have been crying because of the predicament of trying to eat pancakes with a queasy stomach, or it was genuine joy and appreciation. I think it was joy and appreciation. It was time to leave that morning; we waited around for our bus to arrive and chatted about last night’s antics.
On the bus there were limited seats, which meant we had to disperse and sit next to strangers. I sat next to two ‘Ticos’, a word I learnt as I conversed with the two strangers. They smiled at me as we struggled to understand each other’s language. One word that stood out to me however was ‘Pura Vida’ (Pure Life). As they said it they both raised the fist, an invitation for a fist bump. After I accepted their gesture, I laughed and reflected upon the weekend. It was then I understood the phrase. Not a single bit of negativity occurred to me that weekend, no stress. Costa Rica is known to be the happiest country in the world, we fully embraced that element of its culture and the only way to put the weekend into words would be the country’s renowned phrase – Pura Vida.