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Published: December 20th 2009
Nov 30, 2009
The bus to Costa Rica left a little before midnight, so we were both able to sleep some before we arrived to the border around 5:15AM. Unfortunately, Customs didn’t open until 6:00AM, so 50 groggy bus riders stood in line waiting. Ironically we waited longer for an exit stamp from Panama than an entry stamp to Costa Rica (same for all Central American border crossings based on our short experience).
After about two hours of waiting, we were able to continue on to San Jose. A few hours before San Jose, the road started twisting and turning, going up and down jungle mountains - very pretty.
In the early afternoon, we finally arrived to San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. It certainly wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the Miami-like Panama City, but it was riddled with US restaurants and culture. People come to Costa Rica to see the wilderness, not the city anyways!
We got a cab to our hostel, Toruma, which used to be the house of one of the former Costa Rican presidents. The former President was famous for abolishing the Costa Rican military and giving women the right to
vote. It was a very nice house with a very good staff.
There are many tours and activities you can do from San Jose, so it was a little overwhelming trying to decide on the best one. We asked the Hostel for the best canopy tour. He recommended the “original” canopy tour that was used by National Geographic. It cost more and didn’t include some of the other packaged items from other tours, but the ziplines were supposedly the most intense. Since this was the Number One thing we wanted to do, we decided to book with his recommendation.
Dec 1, 2009
The tour company came to our hostel first around 8:00AM. We drove around San Jose for another hour picking up people from other hostels. There was a family from Cincinnati, a man from Norfolk, some other Americans, and a German couple. Everybody was really nice and it made for a good group.
The drive was about 90 min long into the jungle. We learned later that Hollywood films a lot of movies there. They named a few big movies, but the only one I can remember is Mel Gibson’s Apacolypto. The site was very
impressive and everyone was wondering if we would really zipline down the visible cables between gigantic radio towers. Surely not??
You wear a basic rock climbing harness with an additional chest harness. The company was very legit, requiring two safety cables. The gear supporting us was tested for 7000 lbs. No problem. We donned the gear and took pictures of each other awkwardly walking around with cinched harness around our groin areas (slightly painful).
All of the guides spoke English very well. I imagine most of the tourists are English speakers, but it was very strange for Rumi and me because in South America this tour would have been in Spanish (and we probably would have been the only English speakers). They kept singing US pop songs and everyone wears Americano Football jerseys and shirts.
The guides told us there would be three long ziplines (250m, 450m, and 750m) but failed to mention that the long one was the one that looked like a power line over a canyon. Rumi and I were in the back of the group so we went last for the beginning of the canopy tour.
The first zipline was in the
jungle and only about 28m long. This is where the guides started to learn Rumi’s name…I think it was the only name they remembered. The zipline was slow, but everyone made it across smoothly…except the feather-light Asian girl! So Poor Rumi had to pull herself across the very first zipline (she took it very well).
Everyone kept whispering about Rumi’s bug bitten legs. The funny thing is I could hear them very well, so we laughed about it.
The next zipline was around 100 meters and Rumi had no problems getting across, but she discovered that braking hurt her hands. On the next zipline (another long one through the jungle), she remembered that braking hurt her hands, so not wanting to brake, she practically body slammed into the tree (Her gloves were much thinner than mine, so we switched…I didn’t like braking anyways).
We went through a couple more 100-200m ziplines right through the trees before arriving at the “Tarzan Swing.” There was a cable connected to the top of a huge tree - we weren’t sure what how that was going to work! We simply connected our harness to the cable and they literally swung us
out over a valley; the ground fell beneath us at easily 30m+ (100ft). The guides were able to swing Rumi higher than anyone I think. I tried to lean back a little bit and ended up flipping upside down for all three swings.
After the Tarzan Swing, we did another series of long ziplines through the canopies. The last canopy zipline was 250m long - so much fun.
After what we thought was the last zipline, they said we had two more. We were shuttled back to the main lodge to face the radio tower ziplines that we thought HAD to be power lines. We hiked up the mountain and were literally at the base of a radio tower on top of a mountain. The cable went from the top of the tower over the valley (and through the woods) to an opposing mountain. The distance was 750 meters (~2400 feet)! There was a middle age man in our group that claimed to be “comforting” his wife by constantly repeating that she didn’t have to do it. Personally we think she did want to do it, but to save her husband’s ego because he obviously was scared to
death, she thanked him for his “sacrifice” for her and they opted to not do it. Very funny. There was a Dad and two younger sons from Cincinnati that did complete the scary zipline. The younger son was very apprehensive (understandably) but was happy to brave through his fears. We were all impressed. As far as our experience: Awesome. It’s probably the closest humans can be to flying like a bird.
After the 750m out-of-this-world zipline, our last zipline would be a tandem (two-person) 400m cable. Rumi and I got to race. She took a really cool video too. So much fun.
The lunch provided was fantastic as well. I got a typical “Costa Rican” meal with plantains, rice, beans, and eggs. Rumi got some really good spaghetti. The best part was the fresh juice - so thick it was like eating the fruits whole.
We headed back to San Jose after lunch and decided to attempt and plan the rest of our trip. Unfortunately the internet was not working - the hostel claimed it was the whole San Jose without internet?? We went to a very good Mexican restaurant for dinner. I think Mexican food is
my favorite Latin America food.
Dec 2, 2009
Today we didn’t do much but plan the rest of our trip. We knew that the chances of making it through Honduras safely were very good, but there is always a chance. Not only did we hear stories of buses getting harassed (even some violence), but Honduras did close the borders for a few days. With our tight timeline, we needed to push through on schedule. We worked on every possible combination to fly around Honduras cheaply; it was quite a task. It was almost cheaper to fly to Florida, take a cruise, and get off in Belize or Cozumel, Mexico. Very strange that flights were so expensive in Central America. At a very late hour, we found a cheap round trip airfare from Managua, Nicaragua to Belize City (hopefully we won’t get penalized for not utilizing the return ticket).
Happy with our purchase, we attempted at planning the route from Belize home and the stops we wanted to do on the way.
Our only outing for the day was downtown to get bus information. The downtown is OK, but we definitely like the jungle and beaches of
Costa Rica better than the town. We stopped for a pizza which ended up being about 24 inches in diameter…HUGE.
We took it relatively easy the rest of the day and got ready for our departure to the Pacific beach side of Costa Rica.
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