Monteverde: Ziplining & Plummeting

On the day we left La Fortuna, we began a journey across lovely Lake Arenal, to a van that would drive us through some very bumpy roads providing views of staggeringly beautiful hillsides.  One of our companions is hung over after drinking far more than the rest of us last night… so this jarring jungle ride isn’t quite as lovely for her. At one point she demands we pull over so she can be sick… but luckily it allows the rest of us a moment for a  photo-op!

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Futher along, on the route to our hotel in Monteverde, we stop for a coffee/sugarcane tour at a plantation.  During the 2 hour walk through the farm, we learn how banana, sugar and coffee farms function and also learn a lot about the plants. We sample a stalk of sugarcane the guide cuts down for us along the way… it’s surprisingly refreshing, though you only get a very small taste… chewing the stalk down to the sweet liquid. After our outdoor farm walk we see the process of roasting the coffee after it’s picked. Walking into the large roasting shed, I inhale the delicious scent of coffee roasting. Hmmm… one of my favorite smells.

Following the tour, some homemade candy making, and a tasty lunch, we’re back in the van, soon to arrive in the small town of Monteverde.  We’ve been told many times that the best ziplining is here so we quickly pop into a small shop to sign up for the activity the next day. The company we choose has a hike consisting of 15 lines varying lengths and heights, the last one done “Superman” style, where you’re attached by your back, stomach down ,and “fly like Superman” the 1 km length across a valley! This company boasts the longest ziplines in Latin America. I nervously agree to join a few other friends on another crazy activity, called the Extreme Tarzan Swing, which consists of plummeting down like a bungee, but in a wide arc instead. After selecting tomorrow’s adventures we walk around tiny Monteverde before an early happy hour at a very cool restaurant called the “Treehouse.” The Treehouse is literally built around a giant tree. Following dinner, a few us spent the rest of the evening around an outdoor bonfire to continue another wonderful night. I’m collecting many great memories.

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 ZIPLINING & the TARZAN SWING

This action-packed day begins at 7am. We’re first taken to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve for a nature walk.  In an unusual turn of events… it’s sunny when we arrive! Literally NO clouds… in the cloud forest… though I didn’t mind. I’m a sucker for a sunny day! A nature guide took us out on a 2-3 hour trail hike, pointing out various creatures and birds along the way. Happily, we see the elusive, rare, Quetzal bird. Considering the excitement of the guide, and a few others around, I noted it was a lucky, special thing. This bird attracts nature enthusiasts from around the globe… and many still never get to see one. Lucky us! It was nice trailing through a real rainforest, full of lush green everywhere you look. Soon we were back in the van for another bumpy ride on our way  to our ziplining adventures.

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parrot!

We arrived at the same time as a few other groups so it was complete chaos. The front desk was the spot to order your video/photo discs, buy tickets, and even place food orders! Just beside us, what another large cluster of people getting geared up to zipline! We had no idea where to go or the timing so finally we all decided to grab a bite to eat and wait for the group to thin. Sitting down, a few of us snapped photos of a beautiful bright red parrot in a tree just next to us. I’m still shocked to find this tropical nature upon me. As natural here, as squirrels and seagulls are back home! Just as we start sipping our coffee after placing food orders a couple of canopy guides rush in to tell us our group is leaving. What?! We had no idea, so in a flurry of confusion and haste we explain the situation to the women preparing our food, sprint out, and get geared up. After a short instruction demonstration… suddenly there we are… flying through the air on a zipline! Tree to tree to tree!  It starts off fairly mild, with the first zipline between a couple of low trees. Later, we zip lined across the valley. An endless path of ziplines. I take many moments to just gaze beyond… over the trees and appreciate that I am finally doing it. Ziplining through the rainforest as I have wanted to do for YEARS.  This is such a fantastic way to enjoy the beauty of the cloud forest! The trees were way below us; the view… and the feeling, was incredible!

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Between some lines, there was quite a hike through the forest. We were after all, increasing in height with each line… working our way through the 15 lines to the final, 1 km Superman line! I was getting exhausted! The ziplining (and hiking) takes three hours. Three hours of flying though the forest and over canyons… and hiking up hills. At one spot we rappel down a tree and do a mini Tarzan swing. I opted out of this one after watching all of my friends jump off the ledge and SCREAM! I just didn’t think I would be able to step off the platform. At this point many of us start getting psyched out considering the extreme swing later. At this point, I’m seriously considering backing out. I’m terrified! With that thought stored away, we soon emerge in the sun and climb to the very tip-top of the hill and get special straps for the Superman. When my turn comes, I’m told to lean forward as they hook me up by a cable on my back and then tie my feet up (this can’t be good!) and push!! There I am… FLYING over the canyon far below… for 1 km. It was such an adrenaline rush. Amazing, amazing view.  The line is so long, I have time to really consider how crazy this is. Here I am, face down over a canyon a mile below me… rushing through the air. It was incredibly peaceful and exciting at the same time! Back on my feet, thrilled from the experience we barely get back to the camp in time to head to the Extreme Tarzan swing!

I’m very nervous at this point, looking at the height (though never before scared of heights). A few others in the group changed their minds too. We all said we weren’t going to do it after all. A couple of guys in the group are supportive and slowly talk me back into it. One of them after all, is terrified of heights, yet he’s facing his very real fear. I remember my motto of “no regrets.” I remember that I CAME here to have adventures I had never had before… so I can do this.Hearing me change my mind… motivated the others who had backed out… and they decide to do it too!

Soon it’s time. I’m strapped up and boarded onto a little cable car with 2 guides, my friend Meredith (who will be bungee jumping!) and another guy. The guides tell me to go first, so I have less time to think about it and freak myself out again. This will also avoid me having to watch the others plummet! The cable car starts moving along the line and soon we’re suspended above a deep canyon, 500 feet below us. Here we go. The guides affix a camera to my helmet (so I’ll have a video of it later!), then I’m told to  sit on the line… extended over nothing but air. I’m trying to figure out where to place my hands when suddenly… I’m dropped!

from a distance!

Our cable car from a distance. Look at the height!

No countdown, no warning. I’m halfway down on the free fall before I really process the fact I’ve been dropped! My eyes squeeze shut, I scream, I kick my legs. In an instant, I’m swinging. Once I’ve recovered from the momentary TERROR of falling, I find myself widely swinging over the beautiful countryside. After some time, while I’m appreciating the moment, yet very away that I’m suspended 350 feet over the valley by only a rope, I slow and the ropes are being dropped back down to me. I hook them to my gear and am finally being pulled back to the “safety” of the small cable car.  Once back on board… my legs shake a bit. I sit back down, still shocking nervous to be so high in the hair, as I watch Meredith bungee jump. It’s horrible! I see her… and then suddenly I don’t! She’s plummeting beneath us, secured by only her feet… diving headfirst into the abyss! Eventually we’re moving back to the starting point… back on solid ground.  I’ve done it!  I head to the front desk to get my video and then back to the observation deck to watch the others. I’m so proud of everyone… as we overcame our anxiety and did it. In the van heading back home, we all agree that we have definitely earned a party tonight!

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Tomorrow we only have a 4 hour bus-ride, followed by a lazy beach day, so it’s a prime night for cocktails!

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