Adventures in the Rain
The morning's cool mist collected on the stirrups as I reached my right leg across the saddle. The horse, a Paint with black and white spots, whinnied in response. Led by two guides, Diego and Andres, we rode out of the corral and onto the cobblestone trail toward Sueño Azul's cascading waterfalls.
Outside, the leaves glistened with moisture as if covered with a thin plastic sheen. Drops of water beaded off the trees, surrounding us with the small, splashing thuds. It hadn't yet started raining, but the clouds stained the sky a pallid grey; an ominous sign.
Riding at slow gait, Diego explained the Caribbean never really has a dry season; it's really just slightly less wet. Although Feb. to June see less rainfall than the rest of the year, morning and nighttime showers are common. This day was no different.
Frogs croaked and birds chirruped as we rode beside thick, old-growth rainforest with twisting trees of different sizes; some with thick straight trunks and full canopies, others with crooked, thin trunks and branches sparse with leaves.
We crossed over a hill and took a shortcut among the ferns riding on a small trail in the midst of a reforestation area. Diego said that the resort had re-planted the area just ten years ago and already it was overgrown with plant life. Still, it looked different than the old growth forest; all of the trees were the same – hundred foot tall oaks.
Back on the main trail at the top of another hill, we dismounted and strapped on harnesses for the next leg of the journey: A zip line tour spanning across 8 cables through the tree tops of old-growth forest ending near the cascades.
The rain started as we reached the fourth platform, roughly a hundred feet in the air. The sound of the water splashing against the canopy sounded like a stampede. Already attached to the zip line, I looked at Diego for reassurance. He smiled and said "Welcome to the rainforest".
Zipping across the line, I emerged unprotected from the canopy. Below me the Malatoba River coursed between the trees, above me sheets of water pelted me like I was underneath a faucet and all around me I felt I was seeing the rainforest for the first time; wet, vibrant and full with life.
After thoroughly soaking me, the rainwater continued on its path through the canopy, onto the forest floor, into the river toward our next stop.
The water from the Malatoba River cascades over the falls into eight spherical pools, created thousands of years ago from bubbles formed in cooling volcanic lava. Guests often swim and relax in the natural Jacuzzi-like pools, but we just took in the views listening to the muffled roar the falls.
The area surrounding the falls has an awning for picnics and a large, man-made pool with a water slide using water from the river. We strolled around the grounds and headed for the nearby butterfly garden.
Andres, the other guide, led the way pointing out bright pink Romalia flowers budding in the bromeliads hanging in the trees; nearby a flock of Montezuma's Oropendolas (brown, black birds w/ yellow tails) nested in the naked branches of another tree.
Inside the butterfly garden, the water had absorbed through the thin-net walls of the green-house dripping onto the orange, red and yellow flowers below. Each of the 12 butterfly species has its own particular flower it pollinates and as we walked through the garden Andres explained each butterfly's preference. Black and red; neon orange; and day-glow blue butterflies' danced through the humid air around us, landing on nearby flowers to drink their favorite nectar.
After, we circled back to the cascades where our horses waited in a clearing. They stood grazing among the dew-laden grass, behind them the trail led out of the forest. With my hand on the saddle horn and my left leg in the stirrup, I climbed onto the saddle as drops of water trickled off my jeans soaking into the forest floor.
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