Against all odds, Alex and I made it back from Costa Rica alive. We stayed on one of the best surfing beaches in the country, which means I spent the majority of our trip wondering what it feels like to drown. Alex explored on Google Earth and found a river mouth just a couple miles down the beach. This seemed like a good adventure for our first day, so we set out with nary a care.
The entire area was deserted. We were the only signs of life, other than some crabs and a huge flock of pelicans that Alex wanted to run towards and frighten away. We felt isolated and wild and at the very top of the food chain.
A bridge stood in the distance, ushering the river towards the rocky embankment that led to the sea. The water was brackish and opaque from the black volcanic sand. Across the way was a massive rock concealing a cove.
“Let’s swim across,” Alex said.
I eyed the mystery depths, unable to tell how deep it was. I’ve snorkeled off the coast of Kenya and done all sorts of stupid things in water, but I don’t actually know how to swim, so I suggested we find a shallower crossing.
We found an area a little deeper than our waists and began to wade through the water. In that moment, my intuition was screaming. DANGER. There was something wrong with the situation, I just didn’t know what—perhaps a sudden drop off, some sneaky current, or a sting ray that would Steve Irwin me into a less notorious but just as instant death.
But did I say anything? Of course not.
I followed Alex across the river, allowing him to forge what I prayed was a safe path. We made it and explored the opposite beach just long enough to notice a bunch of warning signs we assumed were about rip tides.
As we crossed back over I was once again transformed into a silent siren of anxiety. But we survived, walked back to the resort, and drank many gallons of wine.
The next day we booked a private tour to walk across some bridges in the rainforest canopy. My fear of water was vindicated by Alex’s vertigo—I may think every wave is an assassin but I can still walk backwards across a hanging bridge while taking selfies.
On the drive back our tour guide offered to show us Barranca river.
“Oh yeah, we walked down and looked at it yesterday.”
“Watch out for the crocodiles,” he said.
I started laughing. Ha. What a joke. Funny guy.
He just stared at me.
“You’re not joking?”
“This is the famous crocodile river. That’s where they all live. About 1500 of them.”
Alex leaned over to whisper in my ear.
“Remember when we first drove back from the airport? Didn’t the driver mention something about the crocodile bridge? The one we drove over? Right by the resort?”
“Hold on,” I said, needing clarification that I’d nearly died. “But the crocodiles probably don’t go near the ocean, right? They stay in the river?”
The guide answered slowly, as though English were my second language.
“These are saltwater crocodiles. They go into the ocean to hunt.”
I let that one sink in for a minute.
“We waded through a crocodile infested river,” I said aloud. To no one. To the universe. To God, as a thank you for sparing me once again.
“I will take you to them,” our guide said. “They get up to 15 feet long. You will see them all over the river.”
The longer we stood on the bridge, the more they gathered below, daring us to jump. I thought back to the pelicans Alex wanted to scare, and had a very zen-like realization: We are the pelicans.
That night, over more gallons of wine, I began googling. I read about all the crocodile attacks in the area. About a Nicaraguan man who’d been devoured a few months prior. About surfers being violently pulled below the surface by the sudden clamp of teeth. Everyone seemed to know that boca barranca was where the crocodiles were “famously abundant.”
I have no idea why they chose not to eat us. I imagine them lurking in the murky depths, watching us and debating whether or not to attack.
“I’m afraid to eat them. They’re obviously stupid. I might catch it.”
“But they look delicious—look at the whiteness of her thighs.”
“It doesn’t make sense, though. It must be a trap.”
Obviously I’m used to almost dying overseas, but this was new to Alex—the sort of person who buys travel insurance and insists on sleeping with air conditioning. But he seemed to handle it pretty well.
“We’ve only been married three days and already we’ve had lots of sex and one near-death experience.”
“I know,” I said. “I love it when I almost die but don’t know about it until later.”
So for all of you who worried I was going to get boring now that I’m married? BOO-YAH.
Have you ever realized AFTER the fact that you were just in a dangerous situation? What are you most afraid of? Do you listen to your intuition?
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