Up in the Clouds

We finally escape hospital after a stressful settling of accounts. Our insurance provider has paid 90% of the costs but they are querying a CT scan and say I must pay it myself in full. I am confused, then angry and I have a wide range arguments that I am keen to put forward and escalations that I would like to make, but I come up against a wall of bureaucratic inertia which proves to be insurmountable. The hospital has already taken a large deposit on my credit card and the outstanding amount is simply deducted from this; my indignation is immaterial. It is a hit of nearly two thousand dollars and I loudly promise, in my poor Spanish, to take this up this at the highest levels, shaking a sheaf of invoices theatrically at the poor clerk, who shrugs and smiles helplessly.

We drive straight out of San Jose that afternoon and up to the cloud forest retreat of Monteverde some two hours away up in the mountains. It is an atmospheric and otherworldly place, mossy and beautiful, teeming with butterflies, hummingbirds and orchids. It is not perhaps the best location for a recovering patient however, perpetually cold, damp and covered in a fine cloud mist. Convalescence be damned anyway, I mutter to myself. The whole thing was over in a couple of days. I feel absolutely fine and slightly fraudulent after the whole hospital experience. Who ruptures a vessel coughing up peanuts? It’s embarrassing.

We hunker down in our hostel by the fire (a log fire! In Costa Rica!), eat pizza, shoot pool and play poker. Arthur is coming of age these days and busy developing a moody skater-teenager brand. He surprises us all by being quite the hustler on the pool table, prowling around, sizing up angles, flicking his blonde mop ostentatiously as he lines up a shot. I let him beat me first game and he gets very full of himself, I resolve not to do it again.

From the relative normality of this little hilltop village, Menna and I can finally look back on the last week with a sense of closure. The jungle wilds of Corcovado, slaloming down dirt roads, blood stained sand, macaws at sunset, choking nights, the rush for hospital – it is already unreal and distant, the emotional toll slightly excessive. It is a lurid scene from a badly written novel. I feel guilty to have caused so much fuss.

I am not allowed to do anything strenuous for two weeks while my lung heals, so I am left behind for the zip-line tour. This puts me in a foul mood. I have already done the zip-lines twice on our previous Costa Rica trip and I have spoken often and eloquently about them to the kids, embellishing and building up the experience until I have started to believe my own hype and now see the whole experience as the ultimate fusion of adrenaline and breathtaking wonder: swooping bird-like through the emerald forest canopy on a never-ending series of gliding descents, while quetzals and orioles soar alongside, monkeys await on the platforms and armadillos potter around far below on the forest floor (yes, last time we were here our guide did at one point dive into the mossy undergrowth and emerged with a timid armadillo balled up in his hands – this much at least was true).

Deprived of the role that I had envisaged – half fatherly guide and half giggling co-participant – I drop Menna and the children off sulkily and then mooch around town in the rain for a couple of hours, unable to find a good coffee.

The zip line tour was just amazing it turns out. Over lunch I sit with a fixed grin while I hear about Arthur’s many rides on the Tarzan swing and how Matilda bravely climbed up inside the hollow tree, Menna’s heart-stopping moment as she gathered dangerous momentum above the abyss. The rides went on forever! It felt like flying! Some of the lines were so long and dangerous that the kids had to be harnessed together or they wouldn’t have survived! They are all flushed and damp from the forest, talking over each other, reliving shared moments. I realise how much I hate to be left out.

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