If you missed my last blog about my terrifying encounter with a 6-foot pit viper, the fer-de-lance, which is one of Costa Rica's most dangerous and aggressive snakes, you can read it here:
I was joking to someone recently that I have PTSD after the horrific experience. But once I looked up the definition of PTSD, it dawned on me that I really am suffering from some of the symptoms.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event - either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
The image of the giant snake head striking at me is something I replay over and over in my head. I expect to see a snake coming at me when I open the front door, the car door, the pantry, even the dryer. I am always on edge, on high alert, jumpy and ready to flee in terror at a moments notice. Flee NOW, ask later, has become my new life motto. Every time I open my door I expect the worst, and that is not a fun feeling to live with.
I don't want to be afraid to leave my house…but I think jungle hikes will be put on hold for a while. Instead we decide to spend a relaxing day at the beach, so I can unwind a bit and get back to enjoying the pura vida way of life in Costa Rica, although I know the ocean is also a dangerous place...
Playa Hermosa is known for strong rip currents and powerful waves, but I plan to spend the day safely strolling up and down the shore, enjoying some sun and sand therapy. The day is overcast, the dark blue sky swirls above the turquoise water as the clouds roll through, sprinkling the scene with specks of drama.
Above us a flock of pelicans soar in a V-shape, each birds motion matching the one before, perfecting a game of follow the leader. A mirror image, they are synchronized swimmers, the sky their ocean. Ahead of us a group of five horses lazily trot down the sand, coming in our direction, the humans upon their backs sweating and smiling.
I've been bucked off a few horses in my life. They say if you get bucked off, to get back on…so I did. But then I got bucked off again. After that horses and I made a mutual decision to part ways. With their large, powerful bodies and jumpy personalities, I prefer to keep my distance.
But the horses in Costa Rica do seem to be pretty pura vida'd out. I have never felt intimidated by them as they stroll up and down the sand. The wild horses that roam the beaches freely do not appear scary in any way, and we have even managed to take a few horse selfies.
So when this group of horses slowly and calmly surrounds us, I don't panic. I had enough of a warning to their approach that my PTSD from "snakegate" hasn't been awakened just yet. We all greet each other and they lazily continue on their way. No big deal. Look at me, all grown up. Mature and functioning in society again, like a real adult.
I'm lost in the beach, soaking in the colors and the sounds, truly feeling relaxed and safe for the first time in a while. Up ahead we notice a clearing and head toward it. The howler monkeys call to each other and their voices boom through the stormy atmosphere. The thunder begins to rumble over the ocean, and the waves ferociously answer.
As we approach the clearing we observe a lady standing in the shade. Suddenly there is a whirlwind of commotion behind her. A powerful, muscular horse, tied up to a tree, is stomping the ground agitatedly, creating a swirling dust storm. He bucks his body in convulsions, his mane flying wildly around him as his hind legs lash out viciously.
The woman cautiously approaches him to grab his rope, and her movement panics him more and he continues to flail around dramatically. His seizure-like movements eventually break his rope free. Alive with the scent of freedom he turns and peels out, taking off down the beach in our direction, at a full run. The whites of his eyes grow large and crazed, his mane resembles a majestic lions as it swirls in the speed of his labored, calculated sprint. Snorting, slobbering, a bumbling, hot mess, he moves faster than a category 4 hurricane violently approaching shore.
For a moment I wonder if this is what I looked like running from the pit viper, and I briefly feel bad for those who never get to go crazy in life. But then he focuses on me and aims in my exact direction, like a horse missile, continuing at his terrifying speed, with me as his target. With the snake memory now on my brain, taking over all reason and common sense, I can only do what I do best at this point, and that is to go completely nuts, screaming bloody murder like a crazed madwoman, while fleeing another possible scene of death.
"CRAZY HORSE ON THE LOOSE!!" I scream in Andy's direction, at the top of my lungs, as I beeline straight into the ocean, at full speed. My survival instinct has taken over, once again, and I put all my energy into immediately escaping the imposing danger of those deadly hooves pounding toward me on the sand.
As I reach the water and continue to scream at Andy, I look back to see the horse veering away from him at the last minute. I breathe a major sigh of relief. Death avoided, once again. After the horse sprints past him Andy turns to see where I fled to. We make eye contact and he gives me a dirty look.
I slowly return to the scene of the almost crime and as I come within speaking distance he says, "That was so cool, an out of control horse came running right at us and you had to ruin it with your suicide screaming! What is wrong with you?" The only appropriate response I can give, that doesn't involve foul words or obscene gestures, is "Whatever".
The woman who was with the horse approaches us. She apologizes and explains she hates horses and didn't want to go horseback riding today, but her family made her. (Just say no people!) She shows us cuts and scrapes from where the horse violently ran through trees and bushes, with her on his back. Hearing about him kicking and bullying the other horses in the group, I realize he was a trouble maker and maybe I didn't totally overreact by screaming and booking it straight into the ocean.
We all got a good laugh out of my reaction. I wanted to explain my pit viper PTSD to the crazy horse lady, so she wouldn't think I was just a drama queen…but since she was only a tourist I didn't want to traumatize her anymore than the horse ride from hell already had.
Looking back I don't know why I thought the ocean would be a safer choice…rip tides, powerful waves, sharks, venomous sea snakes, stingrays, jellyfish…or one crazy horse on an empty 5-mile beach. Once the panic mode, PTSD, fight or flight instinct kicks in, I can't really control where my feet take me.
I am who I am I, and sometimes I just can't help getting Kari'd away…
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.