(cue John Lennon):
You may say that I'm a screamer...but I'm not the only one.
Living in Osa Mountain Village, in Costa Rica, we see many brave zipliners zipping past us on the canopy tour that weaves through our community. During our three months here I have come to realize there are two kinds of zipliners, and two kinds of people in the world: the screamers and the silent ones. The brave versus the fearless.
Some people are scared of everything, like me, and they scream freely and loudly while doing anything remotely frightening. Then there are the stone-faced silent types who appear fearless to the rest of us scaredy cats, with their illegible poker expressions.
To me bravery is not the absence of fear, but the overcoming of it. If I'm doing something death-defying, then I have the right to shriek about it hysterically. Keeping it together is so 2008. If I'm about to die in the jungle, then I want everyone within a 30-mile radius to know. And whatever is trying to kill me will have to complete the job with ruptured ear drums.
A scene from Jerry McGuire pops into my head, with Tom Cruise saying to a room full of his co-workers "I'm not gonna do what everyone thinks I'm gonna do….which is just FREAK OUT!"
Oh wait, yes, yes I am. I am totally going to freak out.
Two days ago Andy and I decided to hike down to a nearby waterfall in our village. It is an easy hike but it was obvious the trail hadn't been used in a while, as the jungle had swallowed up sections of the path. Andy expertly hacked our way through the overgrown foliage with his machete.
When hiking in the jungle we are always on the alert for snakes, especially since they are known to live near rivers. But in this moment snakes had slipped my mind and I was more concerned with keeping a safe distance from Andy's swooping machete swings.
Just as we reach the river and begin to hike along the creek bed I suddenly notice a sharp movement out of the corner of my eye. I turn to face a 6-foot pit viper, known also as the ferdelance, or terciopelo, coiled up defensively, and striking out aggressively, coming within inches of my bare leg. Never have I moved so quickly in my life as I flung myself backwards into the river, while the giant snake attempted to strike at me a second time.
Andy claims to have an internal-Kari-scream-richter-scale that he uses to judge the severity of each situation I continue to find myself entangled in. He instantly calculates my level of panic, the volume of my shrieks and gauges the urgency of each of my random jungle screams. He was up ahead of me on the trail and later said he knew immediately from the sheer intensity and volume of the noises coming out of me that whatever was happening, was VERY, VERY BAD.
Andy turned to see me crying, screaming, yelling, sobbing, panicking, cussing and bumbling like an idiot, as I shot through the jungle past him like a bullet. He said the look of pure horror on my face was incredibly startling, although he still had no idea what happened because my communication skills had also fled the area.
Finally I managed to scream "SNAKE!!", as I continued to sprint down the path at the speed of light. Of course fearless Andy wanted to go back to get a look at him, so I screamed louder in order to help him see reason. (Sometimes you have to go bat shit crazy to make a point.)
The snake's camouflage was impressive, I nearly stepped right on him. If he hadn't moved to strike me I never would have seen him. This thought floating into my mind suddenly made everything around me look like a snake. Every tree branch, every vine, every pile of leaves. They could be anywhere, everywhere!
The adrenaline had obviously taken over my body and had carried me through the jungle up to this point. But as the severity of the close call sunk in, my body became paralyzed with fear. I began shaking, my legs turned to jello, my arms became noodles and I couldn't stand up, let alone continue my chaotic flee to safety.
I fell down 5-6 times during our messy escape, and when we finally re-entered civilization I looked down and my hands were covered in mud and jungle debris. It looked like I had viciously clawed my way up and out of an early grave…and maybe I did.
I am thankful to have had Andy next to me, keeping it together, through this close call and all my other near-death experiences in Costa Rica. And to answer your question, Andy is not a screamer. He remains level-headed and calm in tough situations. Thank god because I do enough screaming for both of us. And that is why opposites attract.
I wrote a creepy, foreshadowing blog on these vicious snakes a while back, including how to prevent snakebites and what to do if bitten. You can read it here:
One suggestion I shared in that post was to rub a crushed garlic clove on your legs and boots to repel snakes. Before we left on this hike I had the overwhelming instinct to do this, mainly to repel mosquitoes, but I also had snakes on the brain. And maybe that is part of the reason the snake did not bite me, because he was certainly close enough to have made contact. A reminder to always listen to your gut instinct because it only has your best interest at heart.
We sure have done a lot of living in the past year in Costa Rica. I've been sliced open by a stingray barb, stung by a jellyfish, startled by an 8-foot crocodile, stranded at a volcano, nearly sent to the hospital by a vicious pit viper, and I found the world's most venomous spider in my bedroom (it was the size of my hand).
I've watched my dog being poisoned by a cane toad and a poison dart frog, I've seen her eat a tarantula, and I've witnessed her eat a scorpion whole and puke it back up, still in one piece. I've almost drowned in a massive wave, I've been lost in a sketchy section of San Jose at 3am, and I've nearly been robbed a couple of times.
I've done more living in the last 365 days than I have my entire life. And when you're living on the edge of life, you'll be surrounded by scary things. I just hope that if I keep screaming loud enough, they will all leave me the hell alone.
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.