Swinging above the forest

Trip Start Dec 12, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday 2nd September:

We arrived at the bus station just before 3am! And had a dilemma. The original plan was to spend the night in San Jose and take a bus tomorrow to Monteverde. The buses going there leave either at 6:30am or 2:30pm. Depending on how tired we were, we'd decided the night before.
Now however, we were thinking of just hanging around and getting the 6:30am bus, because to pay for a nights accommodation for just a couple of hours seemed silly. The bus station wasn't in the best part of town, and it was more of someones garage than an actually bus station. Luckily though, with a little Spanish and begging, the night guard agreed for Si and I to sit and wait for a few hours. So more waiting. And at 3am, we were pretty knackered!

Eventually the sun came up so we walked around the corner to get the other bus. Thank goodness there were tickets available – think I would've gone crazy if there weren't.
At this stage, both of us could barely keep our eyes open. So as soon as the bus started to move, we both passed out. It wasn't a very comfortable bus, but it didn't matter. I kept opening my eyes every now and then, thinking wow its beautiful outside, but my eyes felt so heavy that I didn't see much.

The bus stopped half way for food and we both woke up then. The rest of the journey was stunning to watch go by! We were getting higher and higher up the mountains, the roads were getting worse, more like a dirt track – but that didn't matter. We both got that wow feeling, just like we did when driving around Guatemala.

Eventually, after 23 hours of waiting and buses, we arrived in Monteverde. It was a great little place. Tiny village – but definitely catering to holiday makers wanting to do activities. Which is the main reason we came here, to do some Zip Lining.

And afternoon siesta was required, and it was really good! Not hot here like in Granada, so we got to put our warm clothes on again. It was absolutely pouring down with rain, so didn't get much of a chance to walk around town, although its not very big. Some souvenir shops, a few restaurants and a supermarket... So we'd pretty much seen it all in a few minutes. Booked our tour for tomorrow, got some soup – Yes soup! - for tea and got to bed early, for our early start tomorrow.

Saturday 3rd September:

Pick up for the Zip Lining was at 7:30am, so after a tasty included breakfast, we were ready to go.
The package we'd booked included a Canopy Bridge walk and guide, plus the Canopy Zip Lining. I was hoping to get the Zip Lining out of the way (as those of you who know me, will know I'm not a massive adrenaline junky and was actually a little petrified of doing this)

But it wasn't meant to be – first up was the bridge walks. Which was actually pretty amazing. Monteverde Forest is known as a Cloud Forest... There are 18 different types of forests in the world (who knew) and Costa Rica had 12 of them. Different to a rain forest, its higher and the plants and animals are different. This tour was 3km long, trekking through the forest and also included 8 bridges going through the canopies to make you appreciate the height of the forest. Ranging from 5 – 20 meters high... Pretty high stuff. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. We saw an Agouti which was a huge rodent type thing. A sloth – which was just kinda lying still and look like a big mass of hair up in the tree. And the most beautiful butterfly I've ever seen, Morpho (cool name). Its really big and an incredible blue colour. The guide took us off the trail to try and get a tarantula to come out of its hole, but it wasn't playing games... Not that I minded to much! The bridges were really high and got quite wobbly, but it I was so immersed in the forest, that the height didn't bother me.

Near the end, towards the last bridge, we saw a huge tarantula just sitting on bench – turns out it was the skin that had been recently shed... Still looked so life like. Even though you know its not alive, you can't help but get the heebie-jeebies. Si picked it up for a photo, but I had trouble just taking the photo!

To get up to the last bridge, no stairs, instead we had to climb up a hollow Ficus tree, also known as a strangler tree, which was pretty cool. Then over the last bridge and we arrived at the humming-bird  area. They put out some sugar water and the place was filled with humming-birds. So amazing to see them flying around, you can actually hear the wings beating – sounds like mini helicopters!

That was it for the bridge walk, now onto the scary stuff. The bus took us to the reception area, where we had to sign our lives away and get strapped in to some sexy looking gear and get our helmets and gloves.

After our safety briefing it was time to go. There was a big group, and the wait to the first line made me start to shake! No backing out now! I went before Si and got to the top. They told us that the first few lines were short, not very high and not very fast – just to practise. Well, my not high and their not high are two totally different things. But strapped in, gloves on and away I went. Once the first line was over, the nerves seemed to settle a little and I started getting used to it and enjoying it more. The lines did get higher and longer as we went along, but there is a guide at each platform and they don't really give you time to think about it too much – they just strap you to the next one and away you go. After about 5 lines, there was a rope bridge... Not my favourite cup of tea, but got over it in one piece. The planks of the bridge were spaced quite far out, you didn't want to look down because of the height, but you had to look down to see where you were going! After the bridge there was 1 more line and then a rappelling down 15 meters to the ground. Which if you have no idea what this is, which I didn't, is basically a free fall drop and a guy below controls your braking! Well, there was no other way down – so strapped in, I didn't look down, the guide laughed and then pushed me off. Stomach hit my throat, but it was quite fun and over in a few seconds.

We were all gathered then and told now the fun really starts. The next lines were the real ones! And first up was the fastest one of the tour. To brake, they give you gloves which you put behind your pulley and have to press down hard on the line. And when you have guides saying don't forget to brake all the time, it made me nervous again. Climbed up the ladder and then saw the line. You couldn't actually see the ground or the end of it... It just went on and on and on... OK... butterflies in the tummy moment. Si went first this time, and he just kept going and going! Didn't see him get to the end. Then my turn... 1, 2, 3... go! It really got up to quite a speed and this height was something else! Eventually got to the end, remembered to brake in time without smacking into the tree, then strapped to the next one and go... OK, now this height... ARGH! You looked down and felt like you were a bird above the canopy... the butterflies started to disappear and enjoyment replaced it! It was great. Such a rush! We did a few more long and high ones, then it was time for the last cable. Its optional, and called a Superman. And the reason - because you fly like superman! You're strapped on by your back, so your legs and arms are free. This one is also the longest and highest of all the lines. I thought the last one I did, at 400 meters was pretty long – but this is nearly double that. Its 720meters long, and 80meters high!!! I started to shake going up the steps... but wasn't about to chicken out now! I loved it all so far, so was sure I was going to love this one! I decided to go first, less time to think about it, or so I thought. They strap you up, and tell you to let go of everything. That feels so unnatural just hanging on the platform, not holding onto anything! And I had to wait and wait and wait... The girl in front seemed to take forever. And this waiting was killing me! I actually think it was the most scared I've ever been! I closed my eyes, and eventually I was off. 80Meters above the ground, higher than the trees, everything looked so small in the valley below – actually flying! It was the most incredible feeling ever. Not like scary rides, this was so much fun! The height didn't scare me, and it just kept going on and on... So awesome!
With the superman, you have no brakes – the guides at the other end stop you... But its an automatic brake and when I got near the end, it looked like they weren't paying attention, then all of a sudden you're yanked to a stop! I did it! And so glad I did! It was incredible!!!
Si came after me and he too thought they weren't ready to stop him, so he was yelling out!
But we had done it! And we were alive!

That was me done! But not the end of the tour, there was one activity left. However, I know my limits, I know what I can and can't do... And this was not my cup of tea. Si however, was a brave monkey and got re-strapped and walked to the Tarzan swing. Sounds easy, they strap you in, then you jump off a platform and swing like a pendulum. It is however, 40meters high and you swing even higher! Its pretty close to bungy-jumping!
The walk out on the bridge was scary enough... But he did it, looked quite green when it finished, but Simon had done it! Si told me he couldn't look down, so asked the guys to push him and it was more relief than enjoyment whilst doing it! And it was the scariest thing he'd ever done! Well done Si!

And that was it! What an incredible day, adrenaline was surging round our bodies, we'd made some fantastic friends. One guy was from just outside Liverpool, and he was the most scared out of all of us – even me! He said that he doesn't even like walking across normal bridges, let along flinging yourself of platforms... But he did it, and everyone was great at encouraging him. It was a fab day, something I'm so glad I did – even though I was petrified, it was cool!

The group all went for a drink when we got back into town, which was definitely needed! Had some lunch and then relaxed back at the hostel as it was raining again!
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