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Published: November 11th 2017
Our brave day!
At 8:00 we piled into the vehicle and drove to into the park to go zip lining. None of us had ever done it before, and we suffered from varying degrees of fear. The family-owned business and facilities were obviously very professional. Everything we had except our shirts, long pants, and shoes went into the lockers, including (sob!) my camera. The guides put on our helmets and tightened them appropriately. We stepped into the waist and legs harness, and they tightened the straps. We were given thick leather gloves and a contraption that would join us to the zip line. Everything was numbered, and the helmets had a bar code to identify us.
We waited a short while for more customers to come, then we received operating instructions, demonstrated on a short cable by a guide. The correct “zipping” position was to sit way back in the harness, lock your arms straight, and bend your legs crossed at the ankle. The “stopping” position was spreading your legs wide and waggling the cross-bar handhold. The first zip line was fifty metres long, a training exercise. I did feel terrified but willed my body to relax – hanging
over the tops of the trees is not natural! The next line was longer, about 400 metres. On its own, the wind of zipping pushed me around, so I had to concentrate on looking along the line to stay straight. I wanted to look down, but that was terrifying! The third line ended in a platform that did allow us to bail out, but we were all in it for the whole way.
At the fifth platform we were offered juice, water or coffee. Our “action shots” taken by the company were displayed in digital format – we agreed to buy one flash drive for US$57 and to share the files. The sixth line was the longest, more than a kilometre! We could see Lake Arenal in the distance, giving us some sightseeing pleasure as we whipped through the mist. From there we walked down sixty tight spiral metal mesh stairs, which previously would have made me extremely nervous. I guess I just needed to experience something even more terrifying, because they didn’t bother me at all! The last 70 metre line seemed almost tame. Once done, my thighs had the strength of jelly.
Half an hour away
was the Mistico Arenal Bridges National Park
. Again, previously a cause for anxiety, the hanging bridges now seemed like just a good adventure. Ollie suggested we could bring our raincoats on our walk, but that he was Costa Rican and would not. Because I felt hot, I decided to be Costa Rican too. The walk was 3.4 kilometres, one way. (I noticed the price was US$24.)
As we entered the rainforest, Ollie talked about the plants, particularly about how the leaves were pointed down to direct water to the tree roots and how the moss also collected water for the trees. Since the ground is so wet all the time, the trees do not need to sink deep roots.
Light rain began to fall, although it was hard to know if it was rain or merely leaves dripping. We crossed a couple of fixed mesh bridges over short distances. The soft forest path led uphill. Looking over our heads, we could see light from the sky; looking into the trees and ferns and bushes, we could see ever deeper green.
Rain was falling quite definitely as we approached our first hanging bridge. The very wet pathway here was not slippery because
Easy for tourists, easy on the plants
the walking surface was improved by cement paving blocks with drainage holes. The bridge deck was metal mesh, and the sides were chicken-wire about chest high. The cables were an inch or more thick. Looking down, I could see huge ferns with fronds 8-10 feet in length! Rain poured down, producing a thundering racket as the torrent hit the gigantic leaves. And rain continued to pour for the rest of our walk.
The hanging bridges crossed the deepest cuts in the landscape, ranging from about 20 – 90 metres long and about 15 – 30 metres deep. We trod carefully because our movement created some swing, making footing difficult for us all. Talking and exploring ceased. Since we couldn’t get any wetter, and the temperature was reasonably comfortable, we walked steadily without rushing. I risked my camera and took pictures of this extraordinary experience. Spending so much time in the natural setting of the wet forest lifted our spirits.
Exiting the forest into the reception building, we changed into dry outer clothes; Ollie had advised bringing these because he had feared rain during the zip lining. Fortunately, he succeeded in getting a hand towel for each of us.
Of course, our underclothes, socks, shoes, skin and hair were soaked, so nothing was truly dry. Happily, we ate lunch right there. We were really hungry! I had a typical Costa Rican dish, chicken and rice stirred together in a light sauce, served with wedge fries and salad, followed by pineapple in orange syrup.
We drove back to the hotel, and Ollie and I went on into town to collect our laundry. When I returned to my room, it was a delight to have absolutely dry clothes. Today’s clothes are hanging all over the room and bathroom, nothing really drying in this saturated climate.
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