Afraid of the Dark?

We’ve had quite a few water adventures the last month in Costa Rica, but we hadn’t had the opportunity to do any inland travel.  We read about the Santa Ana Ice Caves in the Barra Honda Parque Nacional about 1.5 hrs from Tamarindo, so we rented a car with our friends on Kini Popo to check them out.

We arrived at the park, which was absolutely beautiful and green!  I’m not sure if it is technically a rainforest, but that it what it seemed like.  We told the administration that we wanted to see the caves, and they explained that the caves were a drive farther into the park and that we had to have a guide.

We paid the fee and piled our guide, Miguel, into the car with us.  We were pretty happy we had a four wheel drive vehicle because our car barely made it up the steep, muddy and rocky roads.  We even had to reverse and get some greater momentum to make it up one of the hills.

We arrived at another small parking lot where we would begin our hike up to see the ice caves.  The hike was a good workout, especially because the amount of mud that caked to the bottom of our shoes felt like weights we were carrying around.  Miguel pointed out various plants along the way that were used for cooking or medicinally, such as aljillo and anise. We could hear the howler monkeys in the distance but unfortunately did not see them.

We finally arrived at the descent into the cave.  We all had helmets to put on and some very worn harnesses.  Then we saw where we were going to descend!  There was a single guy belaying a rope through a ring attached to our harnesses while we had to go down about a four story ladder.  The ladder looked like old Home Depot ladders that were just lashed together at the joints.  There was so much mud on them that you had to be careful not to slip and had to hold onto the sides rather than the rungs.  We all laughed a bit and said this would not be Cal OSHA approved!

The top of the ladder…

View from the bottom of the ladder looking up…

One by one we made it to the bottom of the ladder where Miguel gave us all headlamps.  The caves were damp and muddy and required some serious negotiating of where you stepped.  But, the scenery was fascinating.  The long stalactites and stalagmites gave the cave its name, as it did look like icicles all around.

We wandered further and further into the cave, admiring the interesting structures and contemplating how mother nature can create something so incredible.  Finally we reached a dead end in a big open part of the cave.  Miguel had us all sit down and together we turned off our headlamps.

Have you ever experienced real darkness?  There was not a hint of light in this part of the cave.  It was so dark that your eyes almost play tricks on you making you think you can see something. We sat in silence for a few minutes just listening to the drips of water echoing from somewhere in the cave.  The dark and silence creates a surreal sensation of almost floating.  I admit I am not really a fan of the dark, but this wasn’t scary.  It was one of those experiences that makes you aware of your senses and makes you feel alive!

We made our way back through the cave to the ladder that we now each had to climb up to get out of the cave and back into the sunlight.  We hiked back to the car and stopped at a lookout where we could see the green valley below the park and the Gulf of Nicoya far in the background.

It was a fun trip to see something unique in nature, and we were all happy to have a day out of the water!

~katie

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