When I stepped on a Stingray and We fell in love with the people of Costa Rica.
When we arrived in Costa Rica, we came from Nicaragua, which meant a notable difference. On the one hand, everything looked much more developed, but on the other, everything was much more expensive too. The first night we arrived, we toured the city of Liberia for hours looking for the cheapest accommodation possible. Still, we spent the daily budget only in accommodation.
That night, and because of the same, we set out to leave that place as soon as possible, and because of the difference in prices, we had to make sure that the budget was not out of control.
In front of our hostel, there was a travel agency with a very nice couple ready to help us even though they knew we didn’t have the capacity to pay anything they offered. They recommended us to go to an area where there was a “beautiful beach” where we could camp for a few days while enjoying the beach a few meters away. Something we consider ideal.
The next day we left early, with just a few things, as the hostel allowed us to leave the rest in a warehouse they had, which made the trip much more enjoyable.
When we arrived, it was around 11 in the morning, and it was raining as hard as you can imagine. We got off and ran to a roof where there were several shops. Luckily, some were under reconstruction so there were no people to bothered because of us.
After a few hours, it stopped raining and we were able to find the campsite where we would stay. Upon arrival, it was a fairly pleasant place, with grills for cooking, and a large field to install your tent, although it did not have roofs or some kind of protection against rain. As it had rained, they gave us something to cover the ground, to prevent the tent from getting wet underneath.
As it was still early, we agreed with Gery to go to the “beautiful beach”, which was supposed to be the best in the area. It was quite hot at this point, and the beach was about 5 kms, with some hills on the way, so by hitchhiking and thanks to the help of a nice couple, we could arrive without a problem.
Upon arrival it was spectacular, a very long beach where we could see even dolphins swimming relatively close to the shore. We started walking, enjoying the sand on our feet and the amazing view. Finally, we ended up at one end of the beach. There was a large tree that provided shade, so it was the perfect place to stretch our towel and sit down.
We were quite hot, so a few minutes later we were on our way to the water. When we touched it, it was very hot, probably about 40 degrees or more. While we were walking in and although the temperature decreased, it was still hot. I went ahead, while Gery followed me. I was telling her to be careful because there were many stones, which could cause injury or fall.
In that, I feel something bite my foot. The first thing I thought was that it had been a piranha or something like that, but a terrible pain, probably the greatest pain I have ever felt. Obviously I screamed and tried to walk back towards the shore with my foot bleeding. Arriving at the shore, and due to my screams, people who were relatively close to us approached to ask what was happening. I explained what had happened to me, I showed my foot and every one as if it were obvious, told me that it had been the tail of a stingray and that I should go to the hospital urgently because they were poisonous.
The only thing I knew so far about Stingrays was that Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter, had died by the tail of a big Ray. I didn’t know if it was really true that I could die, but if they sounded so convinced, maybe it was true.
We were quite far from the entrance of the beach, so we started walking. My foot was hurting a lot, it was a very intense and permanent stabbing pain that wouldn’t let me step normally at all. With the idea of death in mind, there was nothing left but to enjoy that journey, which could be the last. Would it really be like that…
I told Gery that she could rebuild her life, I asked her to give my bag to someone who needed it, and never forget me, as we approached the entrance.
Upon arriving at the entrance, I sat down and as my foot was notoriously affected, some people approached to see what was happening to me. They told us that this had happened before and that I could call an ambulance from the person who parked the cars. I sat there looking at the horizon and enjoying my last moments, while Gery was looking for help. A salesman approached to me and said that the same thing had happened to him and that he would assure I wasn’t going to die. He explained that the poison generates a sensation of internal freezing, so the only way to stop the hurt was setting the foot in hot water.
This left me much more relaxed, although the pain was still very intense. Gery arrived desperate to tell me that the ambulance was on its way. She looked at me and as now I was very calm and happy she didn’t understand anything. When I explained that one of the vendors told me what I had to do, it seemed invalid to her, so it was not enough for her to calm down.
A few minutes later, the ambulance arrived and told us the same thing, they recommend me to put my foot in hot water, and then just wait until the poison doesn’t hurt anymore. If I was taken to the hospital, we would have to pay and would not solve anything. Which we obviously didn’t want.
As I wasn’t going to die, and I had very clear priorities regarding existence after such an intense experience. I decided that the pain was not so important and that I should enjoy my life and not go to lock myself in a tent, so we returned to the beach. We sat while I tried to hide how I literally writhed in pain. Gery asked me if I wanted to leave, but I insisted on saying no.
At one point, I couldn’t anymore and I told her to leave. As we walked, one nice lady with whom at some point we talked, approached us to ask how we would leave. When we told her that we reached the beach by hitchhiking, she offered us to take us back to the camping in her son’s car.
Upon arrival, they gave me hot water, and I sat in one of the common areas to enjoy the relief of the pain I constantly had for the last two hours.
A man I had said hi when we arrived at the campsite in the morning, came to ask me what had happened, and when I told him he offered me to buy me pain relievers. I didn’t accept it but he went anyway. Gery went to get some firewood because although I couldn’t move, the only way to eat was to make a fire on the grills.
While I waited, a strong rain came for about 15 minutes. Our tent got wet, the wood and the grills were also wet which left the chances of eating almost in zero and I still couldn’t get out of the hot water because of the intense pain.
The man who arrived with the medications told us how he had escaped from the rain, and offered to eat together with him and his family. It was a true miracle, since minutes before we thought we would starve.
The family was very nice and pleasant, so we had a very nice meal in which they ended up offering to take us the next day to Liberia, where we had the rest of our things, which was even more than ideal.
In that moment, the lady in charge of the campsite, and the hostel next to it, offered us a room for the same price that we were paying for the tent as it had got wet. We couldn’t believe it, it seemed like a dream come true.
After eating, we said goodbye and went to our room. Upon entering, we both agreed that it would have been better to sleep in the wet tent, but now we couldn’t say no, as it would be very disrespectful. It was full of spiders everywhere and who knows what else, I still had some pain, but much less intense. Without thinking too much, we lied in that bed, hug ourselves and disposed to sleep, after a long day.
The people of Costa Rica are really warmer than any other society with which we have had the good fortune to connect, and we will be forever grateful for how we were helped in this moment and throughout the time we were in this wonderful country.
A few months later, on that same trip, when we were in Galapagos, I had the opportunity to be at sea, with several striped blankets swimming around me. It was a magical moment, which meant something much more intimate, just for having lived this story some months before.