Standing on the side of the road with our bag of chicken we start to look around for a sign to Finca El Paraíso (the hot springs). There is no sign anywhere but I do remember being told there is a tiny restaurant at the entrance so we walk up a small dirt road towards an old building. There is a man sitting on the edge of the stone wall and he sells us tickets to enter the park. It has been overcast and raining all morning so as we walk down the trail we are dodging mud and puddles everywhere we step. Halfway down the trail we encounter a family of pigs. A few adults and five little piglets! Super cute but they aren’t too sure about us and scamper off. It’s about a fifteen minute walk until we reach our destination.
The trail comes to an end and where you would expect there to be someone to take our tickets there is only a steep staircase made of logs dropping down into the jungle. Carefully navigating down the staircase I can start to see the waterfall. A hidden gem. Finca El Paraíso is all natural with only a few locals swimming in the pool under the waterfall. Steam rises up out of the pools and drifts away in the breeze.
We find a spot to set down our bags, take off our clothes (most of them anyway), and then find our way to the water’s edge. The water is a tad warmer than bath water when I first get in but the closer I get to the falls the warmer the water gets. I’m floating in the water looking up at the waterfall with the jungle canopy looming overhead. It’s like something out of a movie. I feel completely relaxed. I can’t count how many times over the past months I have felt this way. The one reoccurring thought I have during times like these is where would I be had I not gotten sober, surely not here.
Underneath the waterfall the rocks open up and there is a small space to poke your head up. Floating underneath the rocks and inside the waterfall there is a young boy. Adventurous and fearless as we once all were this little boy leads us farther back into the darkness and shows us a small passageway to another pool. The passageway is maybe two feet by two feet and half full of water. I start to squirm through the hole and my claustrophobia sky rockets. I want to back out but instead I take a few deep breaths and push on. I make it through to the other-side and am surrounded by falling water everywhere. The pool is deep with a few boulders under the surface to stand on. I do a three sixty spin of the pool and hot water rains down on me from every direction. Come to find out I could have gotten here from the main pool but where’s the fun in that? I slide out back to the main pool and tell everyone they have to try it!
There is a path to the right of the waterfall leading to the top. It’s caked with mud and is extremely slippery. As I’m making my way to the top I am overtaken by the horrid smell of bat guano. I see a small cave to my right and can hear what sounds like a thousand bats inside. I quickly get past this part and move to the top. At the top of the waterfall there is a small stream coming out of the brush and a trail leading into the woods. I heard there is healing mud here and I am on a mission to find it. I start-up the trail not knowing where it will lead. I’m barefoot and the trail is spattered with slippery rocks. After a few minutes the trail splits in three directions. Go straight? Maybe left? How about right? I decide to go left first. It doesn’t seem like the trail is leading me anywhere until suddenly it opens up to cleared flat area overlooking another stream. Not what I was looking for but pretty nonetheless.
Turning around I make my way back to the split and decide to go right (the way I was originally headed). It doesn’t take long until I find what I’m looking for. I can see that this is where the hot springs break through the ground. The mud I’m looking for is in two different spots, both are surrounded by scolding hot water. There is a makeshift bridge of two logs sunk in the water with the tops of the logs barely above the surface. I start my balancing act across the “bridge”. Reaching the middle of the first log I realize the second is completely submerged, so in one quick movement I hop to a rock on the right and then over to the shore. The mud is still farther back in the spring so I make my way over the tops of rocks and find a place to put my feet. Hunched over applying mud all over my body I feel like a kid from Lord of the Flies. I make my way back to the shore and assess my return to the trail. I can’t hop on the same rock and onto the log because the log is too unstable. I take my chances anyway. My foot plunges into the water and I let out a roar as I clamber to dry land. A hot spring indeed. Now fully caked in “healing mud” I make my way back to the waterfall.
I climb back down the slippery trail past the stinky bats and slide into the pool. A plume of brown surrounds me as the mud washes away. I scrub myself clean and feel my silky smooth skin. I don’t know if its smooth because the mud helped or because the mud was greasy and I will probably never know but I am loving every second of it!