a couple nights in less-than-perfect accommodations of Montezuma,
we finally woke up in a hotel worthy of its $35 per night asking
price. Hotel La Cascada had hardwood floors, half a dozen
hammocks, and a nice little attached restaurant made it perfect
in our eyes. Priority One for the day turned out to be a great
breakfast of Gallo Pinto and pancakes overlooking the last part
of a jungle river flowing into the sea.
After la cuenta was paid, Oksana and I decided to
set off for the waterfall we'd heard so much about. Called
simply "La Cascada," this is the same waterfall
from which our hotel takes its name - in fact, the trailhead
is right across the
bridge. Oksana already had her purse and I had my camera
bag. What more would we need?
The trailhead was quite easy to find. From the road we could
see a Tico relaxing in a hammock behind a large pile of coconuts
and a couple coolers. Of course, as soon as we approached,
he was standing behind suddenly open coolers displaying all
his refreshing wares - soda, water, pipas
- all glistening in unmelted ice.
Oksana and I walked right on past (no gracias, no gracias).
We had everything we'd need, right? 30 meters down the red,
dusty, blasted path I turned to Oksana, "Water?"
"Water!" she confirmed.
I don't know what the Tico did to make the trail so uninviting
for the first few turns, but it really worked. We returned
to the coolers and dug out a liter of distilled water. 250
colones later (less than a dollar), we really did have
everything we'd need. I'm sure that Tico was feeling quite
smug, but at least he hid it well.
We set off again and this time made it past the dusty section
of the trail - in about 30 seconds. From that point on, the
trail opened up and, well, disappeared. While we were debating
whether to climb the veritable rock wall in front of us or
backtrack and look for a trail around it, a gaggle of local
teenage girls chatted right on past us and up the wall. Okay.
We secured our bags a little better and started up.
Luckily, it was a lot easier that it looked. When we reached
the top, we could see the river meandering through the jungle
ahead of us. To tell the truth, it had a striking resemblance
to the upper reaches of Ketchikan Creek. And, just
like Ketchikan Creek, no sign of a trail in site. Oh,
well. There are worse combinations than shorts, Tevas, and
Fifteen or twenty minutes later we were still hopping the
rocks on the shoreline when a guy coming back from the waterfall
comes walking down a beaten path on the opposite shore. Seeing
Oksana's unease he remarks, "There's a trail up here
Okay, so we took the trail. It really was easier from that
point on. Less fun, though. And the spiders,
were also harder to see
In short order we rounded a corner to find ourselves looking
up at a majestic
waterfall about 30 meters high. Cooling spray filled the
air and below it all was a very inviting swimming hole that
instantly reminded me how sweaty I was. While Oksana was finding
a place among the scattering of tourists and craft vendors
(yes, even there, a 20 minute hike into the jungle), I was
scanning the rocks bordering the swimming hole for good diving
It didn't take me long to get
into the water. The first splash was quite cool, but nothing
the body wouldn't adjust to in 15 seconds or so. I made a
beeline for the
spot where the water crashed down into the murky green
pool; fighting the current until abruptly it changed and started
to draw me towards the waterfall. But I managed to
divert myself to a little offshoot of water on the left hand
side that turned out to be perfect for taking a little tropical
When I arrived at the sharp, black rocks that made up the
sheer wall supporting the waterfall, I noticed that they contained
not a bit of algae. Closer inspection and a few tentative
handholds and footholds revealed that, even though the rocks
were soaking wet, they weren't at all slippery. I hauled myself
out of the water and climbed my way under the waterfall.
Ah, ha! Under the wall of water I noticed that thousands
of snails were clinging to the rocks. Directly under the cascade
they were so densely packed that it was impossible not to
step on them. Fortunately, they weren't sharp enough to hurt
under the water was awesome, even if I couldn't stand
directly beneath the main torrent. Trying to keep the water
out of my eyes, I looked back to see Oksana sitting among
the tourists on the other side of the swimming hole only about
15 meters away. I had an idea. I dove
through the falling water and headed to the opposite shore.
I wanted to show Oksana how cool it was under the waterfall.
Earlier she had shown some hesitation about getting into the
cold water, but I was fairly sure that I could coax her in.
We were a little worried about leaving our cameras, wallets,
and passports out in the open, but after thinking about it
for a minute I had to admit that it was pretty unlikely that
someone would attempt to run off into the jungle with them
Oksana did indeed want to go check out the waterfall. I intended
to join her, but I just had to take some pictures of her under
the falls first. She jumped
in and swam right up to the left hand wall (just like
I did) but then had some trouble finding a good foothold to
climb out. After a few minutes, of the local boys taking turns
doing high dives from the rocks came down to give
her a hand. Unfortunately, after helping her to climb
a couple meters out of the water, he abandoned her. It became
obvious to me that Oksana was stuck.
I tucked her camera away and covered our bags with Oksana's
shawl. A quick swim against the current brought me to Oksana
- and she was indeed stranded
high on her perch. I set about correcting the situation.
Pointing out good hand and footholds, I had to direct Oksana
with my voice raised in order to be heard over the din of
the water. Gamely, my bikini-clad girlfriend worked her way
to the right and ended up standing next to me under the full
onslaught of thousands of gallons of water. It was exhilarating!
There we were: Arm-in-arm on the winter solstice, thousands
of miles from home, in a Costa Rican jungle, being doused
by warm, massaging water
Standing there, we looked out
through the curtain of water at the tourists on the rocks.
Was it my imagination that everyone seemed to be looking back
at us with envy?
I leaned in close to Oksana and, even so, had to almost yell:
"Maybe now would be a good time to ask you a question."
Barely hearing me, Oksana replied, "Depends on the question,
"Ты выйдешь за меня?" I asked, trying to precisely
enunciat the line in Russian that I'd been practicing in my
head all morning long. For, you see, December 21st was our
one-year anniversary of being together and I had decided today
would be the day that I would ask Oksana to marry me.
"Ты выйдешь за меня?" - "Will
you marry me?"
Half-way through the question, Oksana's jaw dropped and,
as she looked up at me, her chin almost touched her chest.
I smiled back - obviously I'd pronounced the question correctly,
I needed only to wait for her answer. She considered the implications
just long enough for me to start to worry (with my mind racing
as it was, that was only 5-10 seconds, though.) And then
with a nod of her head (mouth still open, by the way) she
made me the happiest guy in Montezuma!
In the next few minutes we kissed, we hugged, and then we
self-consciously started to wonder what the tourists were
You see, they'd come to see the waterfall and
I felt like we were becoming the center of attention. Oksana
must have had the same thought because, looking through the
water, she said, "They must think we're crazy
Time to go.
We sidled a little to our right to find a ledge that overhung
the water a bit more. Joining hands, we counted to three and
jumped through the falling sheet of water. As we surfaced
together, I realized that we were still holding hands. It
seemed strange to me (but oh, so good!) that we'd entered
that waterfall as boyfriend/girlfriend
and left it with a promise to spend the rest of our lives
From where we had stood in the waterfall, it was impossible
to tell if everyone was actually focusing their attention
on us or the waterfall itself. Before our leap, I'd surveyed
the group of about 20 tourists and
guy have a video camera? Yeah! Seems that someone had arrived
sometime after we'd jumped into the water and started videotaping.
Oksana and I discussed it briefly and decided
that opportunity was knocking.
A quick swim across the pool and we hauled ourselves up on
the bank near our stuff - luckily, nobody had run off with
it. I dried off just a bit and then tiptoed over the sharp
rocks to the spot where the guy was still videotaping the
waterfall. I approached and asked, "Do you speak English?"
You never know when you're traveling.
"Yes. A little." Turns out he was from Austria.
I explained what we had been doing under the falls and expressed
my interest in getting a copy of the tape. He understood exactly
what I was saying, but I think he felt a little uncomfortable
with his English skills. Smiling, he turned to two others
that I didn't know where traveling with him, and he said a
few things that I certainly couldn't understand.
One of his companions spoke perfect English and she told
me that they'd be happy to make us a copy of the tape once
they returned home. In fact, she indicated that a third companion
was taking a bunch of photos of the waterfall and that they
could e-mail those to us, as well. Wow. Feeling great about
the decision to approach them, I returned to my bag to get
them a copy of my name and address.
When I returned to give them the information, I tried to
slip in a $20 bill for copying costs, shipping and handling,
etc. They wouldn't have it. Instead, they gave me two Internet
addresses to contact them and wished us well (as of January
20th, though, we have yet to hear back from them.)
I returned to Oksana and so began our Day of a Thousand Goofy
Grins. There was a lot to think about, a lot to talk about,
a new future to warm up to. While we were still sitting on
the sun-warmed rocks, the Austrian-with-the-video-camera came
up behind us and indicated that he wanted to videotape us
"You want us to do it again?" I asked.
"Yes. We make movie! Again!"
Uh, okay. I turned to my fiancée, she shrugged and
grinned: What the hell!
So, ten minutes after proposing to each other, we did it
all over again! We swam over together and even though Oksana
now knew how to climb over the rocks like a pro, I pretended
to show her where to find the best footholds. We took our
time climbing back under the waterfall and then we had to
go through the motions all over again. I leaned in close and
said, "I think I said something like, 'Can I ask you
a question?'" We acted the whole thing out up to, and
including, the hand-in-hand jump through the waterfall. Let
talk surreal, shall we?
At that point, I'm sure that the tourists thought
we were crazy.
Afterwards we thanked the Austrians and they went on their
way. We hung around the waterfall for a bit longer and I took
some photos for the ol' Costa Rica album and website. On our
way out, we decided to check out the vendors' wares. We didn't
need any handcrafted lighters or pipes. No cheap bracelets
or necklaces. But we did splurge and spend $1.50 on a little
ring carved from a coconut. Call it a temporary engagement
ring - we'll use it until we can get home and pick out a real
I'll not bore you with the details of the rest of our day.
We searched the beach for shells,
relaxed in our hammocks,
had a great dinner and watched a movie. During it all, our
minds kept coming back to our new future together and we would
share new realizations with each other as they came to us
(Where will we get married? How will Oksana's parents participate?
WHEN? Green cards? Alaska Dividends? Oksana Midgett?!)
That day, and for the rest of our vacation, (and hopefully
"for ever after") we were happy.
As they say in Costa Rica: ¡Pura Vida!