I’ve previously mentioned that Costa Rica is expensive and overrun by tourists. However, I would make an exception to one activity that exceeds all expectations and leaves you with a grin from ear to ear for days. That is Ziplining in Monteverde. Coming into Costa Rica from Nicaragua, I didn’t have much of an idea on what to do in Costa Rica except for going to the beach and hiking and spending lots of money for it. I was still travelling with Sarah and Ben and Ziplining was high on the priority and after volcano boarding in Leon, I was pretty keen to get the blood pumping again.
Monteverde is in the north of Costa Rica and a bit of a hike to get to involving a long bus ride through a mountain range which isn’t surfaced. It’s well worth the slow and bumpy ride however and you wouldn’t want it any other way. If it were too easy to get to then the place would be crawling with even more tourists.
There are a few operators that offer zip lining packages and through various terrain and length of zip lines. We ended up opting for Monteverde Extremo, not because I had researched thoroughly but any company with Xtreme in their name SURELY must be good!
It turned out to be a pretty good choice. As relaxed as the Central American attitude towards safety can be, these guys were professional (American tourist influence perhaps?), had good equipment and wee also interactive could have a laugh at the same time. All up there are 12 zip lines, with the longest line at a kilometre long, a tarzan swing and a giant rappel of 90 feet.
During the briefing session, the guide showed us how to keep control and slow down. Simply, with your back hand make a loop between your thumb and forefinger and extend your back arm to keep yourself facing straight down the zipline. Otherwise you’ll find yourself spinning around and riding backwards. Whilst in full control using your back had, the front hand is used as a brake. Everybody is given a set of leather gloves and the palm of each glove is fitted with a thick strip of contoured leather that fits along the line. To slow down, you just need to press down onto the line surprisingly, you slow down.
The first few lines are fairly short, simple and easy. Getting from some lines to the other requires some form of hiking in order to get to higher ground resulting in more SPEED. It was a cold morning and I had a sweater on and by now, I was cooking up some gravy but couldn’t take it off as we were all strapped into the harnesses. All part of the fun I guess.
Towards the end, there is a tarzan swing just to throw in a curve ball if you’ve gotten too confident ziplining by now. It’s not to hugest swing such as the ones you see in New Zealand, but it’s enough to play tricks with the your mind where you feel sick in a stomach and soiling yourself. While we were waiting for the rappel to take us to the swing, we could hear some sickening screams. Not everybody had a go but those brave enough line up on a long plank where you are strapped in and then let go. A bit like lemmings really.
Somehow I ended up going last. So far nobody had managed to damage any vital organs or fall victim to a broken rope. Walking up the plank you just can’t help but think about the law of averages and how things will eventually go bad if you do it for long enough. Gripping firmly on the railing of the plank with my toes curled over the edge whilst being strapped into the harness , I can already feel myself somehow leaning back, angling away from the edge. The guide calms be down and lures me into a false sense of security and before you know it I’m free falling for what feels like forever. To make things worse, everybody who has had a go or chose not to participate (ie everybody in the group now) is positioned, waiting below me so what could possibly be the final thing I see on earth is myself free falling towards this innocent mob of tourists. Thankfully after 5 metres the main chord saves the day and the beauty of physics hurls me away from danger and through an opening in the forrest canopy and back again.
It’s hard not to wipe the grin my face as we hike up to final line which is the Superman XTREME line. They call it that because for this particular line, they swing the harness around the torso so that you are facing down and away from the line. It’s the textbook “Look mum no hands” maneuver. As a result, you become like a circus clown being shot out of a cannon where there is no way to slow down. At first it’s a bit uncomfortable getting strapped with my man bits finding a safe place to hid deep around my kidneys somewhere. Then before you know it they push me forward and shooting out over the valley. There’s nothing to do except scream and take in the surroundings, catch my breathe and recommence the screaming. No trees to go through this time. Just a huge drop into a valley should Superman lose his cape along the one kilometre flight. At the end I’m are flying at a rate of knots and have no idea how to stop. The entry point into the final hundred metres of the line is like a narrow corridor of bushes. All of a sudden I hit a lead weight on the line which tightens the grip the harness has on me and sends me to a stand still. I make it out alive.
For the next few hours we are all beaming and high fiving each other….then go to the pub to celebrate.
So my friends, what’s the craziest, most extreme thing you’ve ever done. Did it take much to coax you into taking the plunge?
Trying to put on my best Tarzan impersonation