While staying at La Factoria just inland from the coastal town of Manglaralto we were told of a national park just two kilometers east towards Dos Mangas. Deciding to check it out, we strolled along the country road, banked on either side by pastures filled with various cattle and horses. There is a relaxed sense of ownership with farm animals here and it's not uncommon to see horses meandering along the road, coming and going as they please, wrangled in only when someone wishes to ride them.
There are two options to hike at the park, one called La Cascada the other called La Piscina. The first option hosts a waterfall at its end, the other featuring several natural pools that were good to swim in. Choosing the pools due to the fact that it hadn't rained in quite some time, we feared the falls might not be active and once we began the hike, our guide Luis confirmed the fact that it has been too dry and the falls were a mere trickle.
We were outfitted with seemingly ridiculous rubber galoshes, but once we realized that part of the hike was through through the stream and deep mud of the forest, the protection was welcome, and thankfully the boots were more comfortable than they looked.
The damp earthy smell of the forest was complemented by the sweet fruits we were able to eat while walking along the trail. The hike begins with a mostly flat stretch that soon gives way to rolling hills and an ever narrowing path that eventually becomes a slick path covered with moss as you begin the ascent towards the pools. There is a rope handrail that provides a bit of assurance from slipping off the side of the path into the narrow rock crevice to the right, and Luis' proffered hand was accepted by myself more than once as we scrambled up carved rock steps towards our destination.
The pools were a welcome respite after the humidity and effort of the hike, slipping into the cool sunlight dappled water a welcome relief. A small snack of mango and avocado were had as we relaxed on the cool rock, feet dangling into the pool. Watching songbirds flit to and fro above our heads, their song punctuated by the trickling waterfalls. We realized that at La Piscina, you get waterfalls and pools, but the falls are not as grand as those you might expect at La Cascada.
After our rest, Luis encouraged us to continue hiking up the steep incline, recommending that we not double back, and suggesting that the view from the top was something not to miss. We continued on to the top, surrounded by banana trees, using our arms as much as our legs as we hauled up the rope, feet slipping on the dark earth beneath our feet. Finally reaching the outlook Luis had spoken of and able to see the ocean from our vantage point, we knew we had made the right decision continuing forward.
The remainder of the hike was continued in the sunlight, and we splashed ourselves with water from the stream to keep cool. A highlight of the hike came when we passed a pineapple farm, the farmer was there and Luis asked if he had any ripe fruit. After several minutes of searching, he found a perfectly ripe fruit, and for the price of one dollar cut if free from its plant and handed it over. Luis sharpened his machete on a flat rock, rinsed it in the stream, and peeled and sliced the fruit, still warm from the days sun. I won't wax too poetically about how incredible it was, but it may have been the best pineapple I ever tasted. I'm fairly certain Joe agrees with me. We rinsed in off and continued towards home, worn out from our 10 kilometer hike and ready for a siesta in the hammocks of La Factoria.