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adventures of a not so grey nomad

how scary can it be??

COSTA RICA | Friday, 30 July 2010 | Views [569]

Monteverde Costa Rica July 23

Today was the day to feel the fear and do it anyway-ziplining in the cloud forest of Monteverde. I am not at all happy with great heights so the thought of hanging off a steel cable at tree top level was not a comfortable one. But I had good Team Central America support-I was not the only nervous one so that was reassuring. We caught the Adventure park coach and made our through the steep little back streets picking up other zipliners along the way. When we arrived we paid up $US40 for the pleasure of scaring ourselves silly and went out to the harness area where we were fitted up with a harness which we stepped into-providing us with a series of straps around the waist and groin. Attached to this were a couple of steel safety clip things-pretty heavy and reassuringly strong looking! This stylish ensemble was set off with a fire engine red hard hat and a pair of smelly heavy duty leather lined gloves. We had a safety briefing where we were told what and what not to do-Don't put your hand in front of the line mechanism (which is basically a n enclosed roller for moving along the steel wire).Do put your dominant hand up on the wire behind you to act as a brake. If you're a righty put your right hand back and head to the left-keep your knees up. Relax and enjoy!!!! Yeah right!! Off to the first line-this was short and not far off the ground. We had to jump in the air on the platform on command so the guide could clip us to the line. Now we were suspended from the line held up by steel wire, a clip and our harness- which acts as a seat type arrangement-knees up, hand back -around the wire not holding it, head sideways and go! Actually it wasn't so bad-I glided along smooth as silk and slowed up as I reached the opposite platform using my brake hand by tightening it around the wire. Now to get off this line and onto the next-with the help of the guide who used his knee to lift us so he could unclip us we changed lines and set off again. The lines got longer and higher and the platforms were more obviously just attached to a very tall tree!I found the best way to manage was not to look down-that way I fooled myself into thinking I was not metres above the forest floor! The guides were all lovely young men who encouraged us and joked with us putting us at ease. It was all very well done and safety was obviously the number one concern (thank goodness!). By the time I reached the last two lines of eleven I felt quite comfortable and even managed to look around as I zipped along the line. The second last line about 400 m long and 100 m high and it looked a very long way from one platform to another-but it was fabulous-great views of the forest and a chance to feel totally alone and enjoy the beautiful green environment. We had other challenges to face before this point though-namely rappeling which is a fancy name for going down a rope very fast! I was coming across a line and Lynn was just at the end and getting onto the platform. As I got to the end I could see her out the corner of my eye-one minute she was there then-she fell over the edge! Well thats how it looked-in fact she was being let down a vertical rope down the side of the tree. OMG it was the only way down! No choice but to do it! I went down so fast I was at the bottom before I knew it-it was so fast I couldn't stay upright and ended up flat on my back on the ground much to everyones amusement! But wait there's more-the biggest challenge of the day was still to come-THE TARZAN SWING!How can I describe this apparatus of of terror? It was a hugely long rope dangling from a very tall tree in a small clearing. It involved climbing a set of steep metal stairs-hard enough in itself for a height phobic person such as myself-being attached to the rope by a clip and stepping off the edge! There was a queue of people and everyone seemed to scream as the safety gate opened and they went over the edge-not confidence inspiring at all! I almost backed out-one girl did -but I thought no -don't be such a wuss. I got attached-held on for grim life, closed my eyes and stepped forward.- it was the most terrifying moment of my life! I didn't even scream-I was frozen with terror!Those one or two seconds of free fall felt like an eternity-but someone was looking out for me from above-the rope picked up the slack and there I was swinging like Tarzan in the jungle. That bit was fun -just swinging back and forth until the guides stopped us by catching us in a rubber sling contraption. I felt very pleased with myself-who would have thought I could do it-I will probably NEVER repeat it but I felt good. A few more zip lines and we came to the end. The last line was 750 m long and nearly 400 ft high and crossed a valley-it was sunny and quiet and there was a great view of the farmland below. It was amazing-what a great morning. After dropping back our gear we were rewarded by viewing photos taken at the Tarzan swing and on one of the zip lines-unbeknown to us. I certainly hadn't noticed any camera-too much of the fear factor going on! Needless to say the photo of me plunging to the depths on the swing was not a flattering one-my eyes tight shut and my face screwed up in fear-not one to pass around-but it did create some laughs from the crowd!

After all that excitement it was time for lunch-a big bowl of Aztec chicken soup-basically a tomato soup with chopped avocado, white cheese and broken tortilla chips in it-and a pork tamale. The tamale was pretty bland but the soup was spicy and tasty. We fancied a more sedate afternoon so we went off to the frog and butterfly house. Amazing frogs-all shapes and sizes and colours-green, brown, red and -my favourite -the red eyed green tree frog who has blue stripes on his legs and orange hands and feet. There were 25 species on display but there are so many more in Costa Rica. The little poison dart frogs were very cute-only about an inch long and some a beautiful red colour with blue legs (aka blue jeans frog). The native Indians used them for their poison darts-hence their name. There were even some cane toads there-they are not a pest in Costa Rica as they are in Australia. I didn't know the difference between toads and frogs-toads have dry, bumpy skin and frogs have smooth, wet skin. All in all an interesting afternoon. No butterflies as the afternoon was cloudy and cool and it was getting onto evening.

We wandered into town and went to the supermarket where we met Elvis-the Hercules beetle. He was massive-he had a very smooth and shiny shell and was very content sucking away on a piece of sugar cane-that plus bananas is their diet so they are found in large numbers in the cane fields and banana plantations-harmless to humans but a pest in crops. We bought some food and wandered back up the steep hill in the dark-after some initial confusion in the tangle of streets that is Monteverde. After tea in our room it was time to pack up again ready for the next day -a morning departure heading towards Costa Ricas most active volcano-Volcan Arenal-just another day in Central America.

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