An Adventure of Discovery from Three Decades Ago

The national forest that covers the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua has iguanas the size of jackrabbits. It’s also a breeding ground for bushmaster pit vipers, the largest and most aggressive snake in the southern Americas. They’re joined by cougars, crocodiles, and banana spiders, the most poisonous insect on the planet. It keeps your eyes open. We’d only seen the iguanas, but we heard the high-pitched call of the rare bird called pajaro macua clear and sharp from the treetops. We were searching for a fabled surf spot, Punta Bruja – Witch’s Rock – thinking maybe the forest (or one of those snakes) had swallowed it up.

With no maps to help, we just kept going. The jungle got dense and the road got worse. Friends had told me about this kind of exploration: vehicles sinking to their bumpers in mud. Or rolling over on a steep grade. We were driving on boulders as big as our Jeep. Rains had washed out sections of the road on the cliff; we crept forward one wheel at a time. We could have used a good Macua cocktail by the time we got to the bottom of the cliff two hours later.

The panorama spread out before us. The river emerged from the canyon we’d spent the early afternoon driving down, forming an enormous, beautiful sandbar delta. Out beyond, a solitary four-story rock stood straight out of the ocean like a massive black granite domino, smooth on the sides and flat on top. Time and tides had cut three diagonal slices in the monolith. Our footsteps across the wet, silver sand sent thousands of undulating patterns across the expanse. The sensation was mystic, almost majestic.

We were completely alone. Then the wind began. Through the slices in the rock rose an eerie, high-pitched whistle. The waves thundered, whipped to shapelessness by the wind. It was unnerving. With the sun going low and the wind coming high, we decided our best choice was to make it back to the nearest village by dark. The villagers called it the “magic rock” and told us to try again another day. “Esta perfecto,” they said. We waited and went back when the conditions were right. And it was.