One of the reasons we met in Costa Rica, other than the ridiculously low airfare and my attempt to maintain my diamond status on Delta, was to try the zip lining. Jenni had been in Hawaii and was a big fan. I also wanted to go horseback riding. I did not want to go rappelling or cross any hanging bridges, so we ruled that out completely.
I’d booked a package deal from Arenal Mondo Aventura and the van to take us there arrived a little after 9:30. There were two other couples staying at our resort who were also taking the tour. As soon as we arrived, they gave us a brief demonstration. And when I say brief, I mean it was very quick but long enough for Jenni to whisper to me, “in Hawaii, there were built in brakes. We didn’t have to do that ourselves.” They showed us the hand signal for brake, don’t brake, pick up your knees, go faster or you aren’t going to make it and OMG STOP MORE! They said there would be a guide on the landing platform and we shouldn’t do anything unless we see them giving us a signal. They also told us if we stopped before the end we would need to turn backwards and pull ourselves hand over hand to the other side.
I still wasn’t real clear on exactly what to do, but they loaded all of us up on a big yellow school bus. There were the two young couples staying in our hotel and another Indian couple from Portland. The young couples were going zipping and then rappelling. The Indian couple were going on the horseback ride with us. I made it very clear I had no interest in rappelling (or hanging bridges). There were also a lot of guides who sat down and pulled out what looked like their lunch which they then enjoyed as we bounced our way up the volcano.
The ride on the bus was fantastic. It reminded me of the Indiana Jones ride at Disney. The bus went straight up the side of the volcano on rocky dirt paths I think mountain goats might have struggled to climb. This was not a new bus, my friends, and some parts of that trail seemed nearly vertical! I thought the ride was fantastic; Jenni was a lot less enthusiastic. When the bus stopped, we all got off and Melania pointed to a steep set of steps set into the hillside and sent us marching up. A few meters up we stopped and they put us in harnesses and attached pulleys that probably weighed twenty or thirty pounds. We also had a hard leather hand brake that strapped to our wrists and fit over the cable. This was our “braking system” Then we started up again.
It was a 700-meter climb. I don’t know if you’ve ever climbed up 700 meters of extremely steep stairs, I live in a third floor walk up but I was completely unprepared. Once I finally arrived at the top I discovered Jenni waiting for me. And also about 58 college kids lined up for the first line. I wasn’t at the very end of the line, but I was pretty far back.
I still didn’t really understand what to do, but when my turn came I hopped up on the platform, stood still while they attached the pulley, and then held on for dear life. I didn’t look around at all; I was focused like a laser on the guide on the other platform in case he was sending me a signal. I wasn’t sure what I’d do about it if he was but I really, really didn’t want to miss it!
Melania had told us the first one was sort of a practice zip and one of the few that had a built in brakes, but it felt real to me! I flew down that tiny little wire until I collided violently with the hard plastic piece at the end (that was the brake). I didn’t even have time to think about it much before we were hopping up on another platform and zipping down the next one. The first four were really quick and I was starting to think, no big deal. Then we came to a screeching halt. They wanted all the college kids to stay together. There were 8 people in our group so we had to wait on the platform until all the kids took off… All 58 of them.
When we finally took off again, I’d clearly forgotten something. Halfway along the line, my body started rotating. As the treetops were whacking my shins, I panicked and took my brake hand off the line. When I realized what I was doing I tried to put it back on, but I smacked the top of my fingers on the line before I got it right. I still made it across without stopping, but it was a painful lesson! And once I arrived at that platform, I had to wait a couple of minutes for my turn on the next one. The wait was intensified by my sore knuckles and the sight of some of the college kids zipping by the La Fortuna waterfall just beside us. That zip line was 120 meters up and half a mile long!
When we got to the sixth platform, our guide told us she had a special treat for us. We were going to go rappelling! I thought I’d been very clear on the fact that I had no interest in rappelling or hanging bridges? The rappelling involved a sheer drop down the side of a mountain and then an intense hand over hand climb back up. Somehow I ended up in a different harness, dangling from a rope 90 meters above the ground.
I only went down 30 meters to “try it out”. Jenni and an Indian girl in our group did as well. When we climbed back up, our guide said, “Wasn’t that fun? Now you can do the full 90 meter drop!” I decided to pass. No way! No How! Jenni was game and gave it a shot.
The Indian girl was on the fence, but eventually decided to hang out with our guide and me. Everyone else made the leap off the platform and then slowly climbed back up. When they finally arrived, Jenni said it was intense and though she was glad she did it, she didn’t think she’d ever do it again! I just felt refreshed.
We started walking to the next line, which was up a steep hill and across a hanging bridge. I was nervous; after all I’d been very clear about my position on hanging bridges. I’ve seen Romancing the Stone!
Then we had six zips left and since the college kids were gone, they went pretty quickly. It was a good thing because Jenni hadn’t eaten and you know how she gets when she’s hungry! On the next line, the guides told us to start to slow down half way. This was even more difficult because rain suddenly started pouring down and you apparently zip much faster in the rain. When it was my turn I waited until the halfway point and then began squeezing the line for all I was worth. I didn’t slow down at all.
When the last guide made it over, I told her I thought my hand protector was broken since I was squeezing as hard as I could and I never even slowed down. She said, “You aren’t supposed to squeeze it, you could hurt yourself that way! You should be putting body weight on it to slow yourself down.” Since there were only two lines left that seemed a little late, but oh well!
After the last line, we walked past an indigenous village and the guides told us we could go in and see a short presentation or we could head back and have lunch. Since we’d been scheduled to have had lunch at noon and it was actually just past three, our choice was unanimous. Jenni and I and the Indian couple were riding horses back, everyone else was riding the bus. They gave me the tallest horse and there wasn’t anything to stand on to get on his back. Thankfully the guides boosted me up. They handed me the rope and then said go. I was like “what? Go where?” But the Indian guy just took off. There was a kid riding with us and he skipped around all of us to lead the way but then he took off and I never saw him again. We passed the bus and I guess the Indian girl was uncomfortable so she got off and got on. The rest of us just kept plodding along.
It was tricky when the bus had to go past us and we had to get off the road and into a line, but it soon got sorted out and we ended up arriving at the café just after they did. Lunch was a chicken sandwich. Poor Jenni had told them no dairy but they didn’t realize that meant in the sauce too. She must have been the hungriest one of all of us, she was certainly the most vocal, but they had to take her sandwich back and make another.
We bought the CD with all of our pictures and some videos from the day. It’s a damn shame neither one of us has computer with a CD drive on this trip!
We rode the bus back, put on our bikinis and walked through the pouring rain to the hotel’s hot springs and do you have any idea what time it was? Happy hour!