The first time I walked out of a cave— really walked out of one—was like the first time I really walked out of a tattoo parlor. I was instantly addicted. I wasn’t about to rush into a chain of caverns, just like I haven’t yet added more ink to my leg, but the impulse is still there, surprisingly similar.
I’m not claustrophobic enough to call myself one in good conscience, but, like most people, I did not think I’d be up for crawling through a tunnel in the rocks so narrow it has the tongue-in-cheek name “The Birth Canal.” But when I was down there with an American couple, and the guide who we thought was joking disappeared ahead into the crevice, and the way back seemed daunting without the guide leading the way, saying, “No, thanks,” didn’t really seem like an option. It almost feel rude to opt out, and if not rude then simply lame.
So I got down on my knees, put my left arm through the barely-human-sized hole as instructed, then shimmied my way through, keeping my eyes on the patch of cave illuminated by the little light on my helmet. It wasn’t nearly as hard as my imagination told me it would be, and coming through unscathed on the other side elicited a thrill, probably the baby brother of invincibility, a feeling that I could overcome anything the cave threw my way.
Guano, bats, tarantulas, rushing water, tight spaces, the possibility of snakes, a jokester guide who would ask us to shut our lights off then not say a word for a minute, practically begging us to turn our headlamps back on out of panic. It was about a two hour tour through the caves, and probably the highlight of my trip to Costa Rica.
Which isn’t to say the rest of my time in Costa Rica wasn’t great. Groupon led me to a lovely hotel in the cloud forest of Tenorio National Park, near some volcanoes and Rio Celeste, a river that is sky blue. I got to see some monkeys, a 1,000-year-old tree, a hike to a waterfall, even got some pool time under the sun. If there is anything to complain about the trip is that it was too contained (nobody’s fault but my own). I wish I would have seen more of Costa Rica.
Traveling in general evokes the same “I’m not full yet” feeling found in spelunking and tattoos. As soon as I return from whichever place I’ve been temporarily calling home, I feel the urge to see more, do more, expand the list of places I’ve seen, subtract from the much longer list of places I haven’t.