Friday, September 02, 2005

"Zipping" Through Costa Rica

I didn't want to post this without photos - but I have scoured this house and I cannot find them anywhere. I am certain to locate them soon after I hit "post", so I will edit to include the photos, when possible.

Do you know about zip lines? Should you ever want to test your mettle, hop a plane to Costa Rica and sign up for a rainforest canopy tour. Several years ago, my daughter and I travelled there on vacation. Having watched nearly every documentary about rain forests that the Travel Channel or National Geographic had produced, I was very interested in doing the canopy tour. Little did I know what was in store! The ones I had seen before were people walking on wooden walkways, or being carted up into the trees in large wire buckets.

We reserved our spaces and were told to meet the tour vehicle in the front of the hotel at 10 am the next morning, wearing long pants and mosquito repellent. I was determined not to catch malaria or any other mosquito-borne disease, so I slathered Deep Woods Off all over me. We boarded a small bus with about 6 other people and set off on the 20 minute ride into the jungle, where we met up with tours from other hotels, totaling about 14 people altogether. The guides were 5-6 young Costa Rican men who all spoke English well enough, and they set about telling us what to expect on the tour and showing us the gear we would be donning shortly. The harnesses and zip-line connections looked like things I had seen on mountain climbers, so I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into.
Eventually, after everyone was strapped into their harnesses, we began the climb up into the forest, headed for the first zip platform. We walked steadily upward for about 15 minutes; at some points our climb was almost straight up on stairs cut into the hillside. It was grueling for most of us, and for a woman my age - breathtaking. Literally breathtaking. I turned beet red and heaved my chest to get more air into my lungs. The heat and humidity did not help that cause, even though it was technically their winter, it was 85* or more, everyday.

As we reached the first platform, it dawned on all of us that this was no child's game; no jungle gym on the school playground at 6' off the ground. The platforms were 100' above the forest floor. At this point, one of the participants (a 14 year old) bowed out. Her dad had to escort her back down the mountain, and thus missed his chance to do the zips too. The guides asked for volunteers to go first and someone spoke up (not me). We watched as the guy was hooked onto the zip line and told what to do and more importantly - what NOT to do. His time came; he stepped off the platform and suddenly he was soaring across a great divide between us and the next platform. Some of the guides had already assembled on the 2nd platform to help get the guy onto it, in case he had a problem gettiing across. Momentum doesn't always carry you the full way, and if you drag your gloved hand on the zip line too hard, it will stop you in mid-zip, which is to be avoided like the plague.

Several more people took their turns, including my daughter and then it was fish-or-cut-bait time for me. Since my daughter had done it and suffered no ill effects, I decided I had to swallow my fears and "just do it". As they hooked me to the line and went over the instructions yet again, the pit of my stomach felt as if it were dropping to the ground without me. I had to do it, though, or I'd be holding up the people after me. So I paused at the edge and finally I let go. The rush of air going past as you begin the zip is surprising in its speed. Suddenly, you are soaring across the jungle with only a cotton harness and a hook or two holding you up. It was fantastic, amazing, exhilirating - and instantly - I wished I could do it everyday for the rest of my life. For the rest of the zips (about 10 in all), I was frustrated at having to wait for those in front of me to finish their zip before I could get back onto mine. The last one involved rapelling 90'down a tree to the forest floor. The guides showed us how to do it, and it was also an amazing experience. At the end of the tour, the one thing I kept thinking was how proud I was of myself for not chickening out. They told me that the oldest person to ever do it was an 84 year old man. There's no way he could have been prouder than I was!

23 comments:

deputyswife said...

Hello, Michele sent me!

You are a braver person than I! But the zip line sounds kind of fun. Even though I am a scaredy cat.

srp said...

I thought you said you were afraid of heights.

utenzi said...

I don't know, Judy. The thought of dying in some south american jungle isn't all that appealing. LOL I'm glad you were able to go down that zip line though. It must have felt... great.

Vicki said...

Hey, Judy! Abby and I did this in Costa Rica in February this year. Such a beautiful country. And yes- the key is to not grip the line!

e said...

I think that sounds absolutely awesome! Here from Michele's tonight...nice to visit!

Heather said...

We have a zip line running across our back yard for Bump and Crash to play on. They sail through the sky like super heroes! ;-)

Nickle Annie said...

Omg! What an amazing experience!

Carol said...

It scares me just reading this...

Peter said...

Reminds me of the experience of my first time ab-seiling down a Quarry face in West Australia, a mere 100 foot vertical face.
I'm not sure whether I took heart from the fact that my 32 year old son was conducting this event, or whether I let my mind dwell on his many mis-adventures as a child!
To his credit, he handled the task admirably and everyone involved enjoyed the experience, and returned alive!

MistressMary said...

Wow! I am very impressed. I'm not sure I could have done that.

Carmi said...

Hi Judy. Thanks for taking us on the journey with you. I can just feel the exhileration in your words.

Here from Michele's - this time.

chatty said...

Oh no...not me. I would have hyperventilated myself into a fainting spell. Heights is not my thing. But good for you!!

OldHorsetailSnake said...

You some kind of natural born athlete, Judge. You did 10 of those? Zounds.

dena said...

That sounds awesome! And Costa Rica has been on my list of "Must Visit Places" for over 15 years now! I've got to go.

visiting from michele's this morning.

Morah Mommy said...

What an experience! I would love to visit one day. But you'll never catch me doing that! :)

Here via Michele, today.

Angie said...

Yay for you! I would have been scared to DEATH! I am sure I would have chickened out! :)

Michele sent me. :)

Suburban Turmoil said...

Michele sent me- and now I'm dying to go to Costa Rica. I never thought I'd say that since my college roomate got an amoeba there and could eat nothing but rice and plain pasta for three months! Ewwww.
Thanks for a great post!

Simply Coll said...

This sounds like an amazing experience. I am not sure that I would have had your courage.. but I hope so :-)

Amanda Matilda said...

I wonder if you would have gone if you had known what was up before arriving there. I guess it's good that you didn't!

sophie said...

What an exhilarating experience! Sounds wonderful.
Here from Michele's.

Laura said...

OMG wow!!! My stomach got tight just reading about this experience!
ahhhhhhhhhh!
If I ever get to Costa Rica, I'm going to remember whatyou said, and Im gonna do it too.
Just remember, you better come lookin for me if I fall into that forest floor! LOL

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of my trip to Costa Rica two years ago. WOW. Loved every minute.

Yaeli said...

Sounds like an exciting adventure!!
I'm back from Michele's again!