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From 'Waterfall' to 'What, a Fall??'

Updated: Aug 23

Sorry for that bad pun but it's the best I can manage right now. Yesterday's fun 'experience' certainly was memorable, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think.


You see we went to what is considered to be one of the best attractions here in La Fortuna - the Catarata Rio Fortuna, aka the La Fortuna Waterfall. This 200ft high waterfall is accessed via a 500 step trail from the top to the bottom, leading to a truly beautiful and stunning waterfall and pool, that you can swim in, and a river (that is a lot easier) to swim in.


Just check it out...


Video courtesy of a certain Mr Ali Ruane :-)


Stunning right? It was a 'must see' of the area. So I forced Ali and Esme to come out and see it while we had the perfect weather that morning. Neither were keen to leave the hotel that day but they seemed okay about it once we were here...



It had been a dream of mine to swim in a waterfall. I even went all 'Timotei' and had my hair down (for the record, that advert has a lot to answer for! - and if you're too young to know what I'm going on about it's this ad. Looking back on it now I see just how cleverly they shot it to influence an impressionable young girl such as myself - the actual shampoo was no better than fairy liquid!).


But you know that thing where expectations don't meet reality? Well, this particular waterfall fits the bill for me on that. It had a tonne of slippy rocks to walk over to get to the water, then a load more rocks in the water that just disappeared (until you kicked your toe on them trying to find them again). Meanwhile the water was simultaneously trying to crush you against the rocks and draw you back into the waterfall. Here's a (very rare) photo of my in my swimming gear as it beautifully portrays how I felt once I was finally in the water and about to discover all of this.


I have to say that, Esme's reaction wasn't much better. Considering it's difficult usually to get her out of a pool, this was her reaction to the whole thing.


Ali on the other hand was loving it!




Which makes what happened next so unfair.


Disappointed in the overall experience of waterfall swimming, Esme and I headed to the river around the corner for some more relaxed swimming (and lack of rocks, though there were a load of fish to contend with instead - not sure we're cut out for natural water swimming...). Maybe doesn't help that we also saw this on the rocks not far away...



If you had sound on you would have heard me saying it had stopped moving now I was videoing it. It wasn't. And I didn't realise that until watching the footage back. It was just so loooooong that I didn't realise it was actually shifting!


[Turns out it's a black rat snake. Non-venomous and interested in rats not humans, but I also only found that out later :-D]


Anyway, after a few minutes we wondered what was keeping Ali. He has a habit of striking up conversations with people wherever we go, so I figured he was practising his Spanish a bit more.


Turns out he was very much not doing that. As we were happily splashing about in the river with the fishes, marvelling at the fact we were at the bottom of a gorge and how beautiful it all was, Ali had lost consciousness and collapsed on the rocks at the waterfall behind us.


Luckily for Ali he fell in front of a nurse who was there for the day with her son (who spoke great English). So between them they got him laid down, head supported etc, and someone sent to find us. Luckily I was already heading back to find him.


I have to say that the staff at the waterfall were amazing. We'd signed a waiver before heading down saying that any injuries or accidents were entirely on us, and the venue held no liability. I thought at the time 'hah, as if we need that'. It wasn't until this happened that I realised, 'hell, we could be in trouble here'. As it was I needn't have worried. Everyone was great. They came down with a stretcher and a bunch of guys to take Ali back up the 500 steps. I did joke with Ali at the time that this was an extreme way to get out of walking back up all those stairs.


We met quite a few people on the way down the stairs as our little group was making its way back up and I did wonder what they were thinking. Maybe they would tread carefully themselves when going into the waterfall?


One ambulance ride later and we were at a private clinic in La Fortuna, where Ali was X-rayed and an ECG done. Luckily we were just a 5 min walk from the hotel as you know what we didn't have on us? Any ID for Ali.


Top tip when travelling, take photos of your passports so you have all your official details with you at all times!


The good news is that there were no breaks and his heart is strong. It seems that what Ali has is something called Cold Urticaria. When he came out of the cold water he went red, his body swelled up and cut off his blood supply, causing him to collapse. Luckily he was sitting when he passed out so didn't fall far (though did fall onto rocks so is a touch sore today). We'll be looking into it further when we're back in the UK. For now, he's fine. He's resting today and we're all good.


A closing thought on this whole affair. Okay, well a couple actually.

  1. the health service here in Costa Rica is good. The staff were quick, efficient and friendly. The costs (which will be covered by our insurance) weren't cheap but were WAY cheaper than the same thing happening in the US.

  2. I follow a lot of different travel blogs and feeds and love seeing amazing places around the world. Yes they probably are amazing, but the reality can be very different. It's important to see the value in the places close to you, not just dream of places far away.

  3. and my final point is a bit of self awareness for me. You may think I am very very strange when I say this but, I was starting to think that things here were a touch, well, too awesome. I think a dose of drama was actually what I needed (though not what Ali needed!). I was feeling very very stressed earlier that day, and having an emergency actually helped to really calm me down. This tells me one of two things - either I need a certain amount of stress in my life or I'm so addicted to stress that I can't be happy without it. If it's the latter then that's not good. If it's the former then I see this a good news, cos I can use that knowledge to find positive stressful situations to put myself in. Something I'm sure Ali will appreciate.


Pura Vida everybody.

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