Joaquin, our adventure guide, said, “When you come to Costa Rica you must zip line.” But he was preaching to the choir. The six of us were eager to throw ourselves down a hill.
Joaquin has been a zip line guide for many years at different resorts, but had been at Blue River Resort for just a few months. He said when he first came to Blue River, he wanted to run away. That’s because there is nothing besides this resort for miles.
Those miles are difficult ones too, up (or down, depending on whether you’re coming to escape or leaving to escape) an ungraded, steep, windy cobblestone path. For a Gringo male in a rented 4×4, it can fulfill his fantasy to be a rally car racer… or pretend he’s one of the Dukes of Hazzard. Probably Bo. I found this out when two young guys on dirt bikes came up behind us on the road, J-M in his best southern accent said, “Uh oh! We’re in for a heap o’ trouble now!”
The geographic personality of Costa Rica lends itself to zip lining. The dramatic peaks and valleys and sweeping scenery is breathtaking. We would get to experience it personally, travelling approximately 4 kilometres, hanging from a harness, attached to pulley with mountain climbing equipment that could hold up to a tonne of weight. Joaquin assured us we’re in good hands.
Our Ottawa friends, Eugene and Erica, had signed up for this activity as well and it was nice to be just the six of us, including their two kids. Any nerves I had dissipated when seeing how enthusiastic children under the age of 10 were. We hopped in the shuttle, got back on that rocky road and moved higher up the mountain.
Where we landed to put on all our gear and receive basic instructions was underwhelming. We seemed to be in a pasture, which, while picturesque, does not get the adrenaline pumping. We’d soon find out that each of the nine lines had a different temperament. Some short and steep and too exciting to try and look around you. Others, long and steady and perfect to view the different landscapes: dense rainforest, thunderous waterfalls, chattering wildlife, and most remarkably the Blue River the resort was named after, the earth’s minerals giving it a fresh tinge.
At each stop Joaquin offered a gratuity, a nugget of interesting information about Costa Rica, its geography and ecology.
Did you know pineapples are part of the bromelia plant family natural to Costa Rica, however the fruit itself is not indigenous and needs to be planted. The bromelia do not naturally grow fruit. Pineapples are a major Costa Rican export.
Did you know that the flowering Guanacaste Tree is the national tree of Costa Rica and is part of the pea family. It is also called the Devil’s Ear or Elephant Ear because of the shape of the pods. It grows tall in the rainforest, but spreads out wide in other parts of Costa Rica, adapting to its surroundings. We swung from a few Guanacaste trees.
At one point Joaquin was looking over and around the platform we were standing on for a certain type of snake, to show us how beautiful it was. I was completely uninterested in him finding one. “Is it dangerous?” I asked.
“Of course! It’s a pit viper, but very beautiful.”
“I really don’t need you to find one then,” I said.
“But it’s very beautiful! Of course if it bites you, it’s called the ‘Kiss of Death’. Unless you get treatment, it’s lethal. But very beautiful and you can get up close to it. Just don’t make it angry.”
All in all the zip line was a one-hour of exhilaration. We were all giddy and happy for having completed it so expertly. Did you see how I hung there? Did you catch my awesome form? Didn’t I look cool? Joaquin acquiesced, “Muy bien.”
You should know that they advertise that this activity requires no athletic ability. Even so, Eugene always seemed to fall short at each run, he perhaps braked too hard or too often, or maybe was too athletic for this activity. He always stopped a foot or two from the platform. He then had to then turn around and hand-over-hand his way to us, the jeering crowd. He made us all feel better about our zip lining skills.
But the real fun came when Joaquin announced the Tarzan Swing. Sounds quaint, I thought, but probably not for me. Till he told us it’s adults only. When Joaquin explained the danger of the process, using much more caution than he did with the pit vipers, I was all sign me up for that! Zip lining gave me a taste of adrenaline and I wanted more!
Keeping your zip line equipment on, you are attached to a line that leaves you to free fall for about 50 metres and then move into a wide swing over the river, back and forth, gently coming to a stop. The ride takes about three minutes total; the first three seconds of which are sheer terror.
How interesting were our individual reactions to fear. Eugene let out an appropriate and manly “Wooo!” on the way down. He made this ride look easy; he was vindicated. I was next. I lost my cool completely and curdled blood with my scream, which, when I returned to reality, tried to cover up with a fun-loving “Yippee! Ha ha!” But I wasn’t fooling anyone, I’d revealed my inner wimp. Erica was silent, completely silent. How could this be? She later explained that she was feeling so much during the fall that she didn’t know how to let it out. As for J-M, before he even left the platform he was questioning his choice to partake. I videotaped him saying, “I don’t know if I can do this, Lor, it looks pretty steep…” I told him not to look down, but to trust Joaquin, who had roped him in.
Of course he did it, he is an expert at mind over matter. But did he scream? Unfortunately, if he did, you couldn’t hear it because of my commentary: “You OK? Proud of you! Good boy! Give me a smile! You did it!” When he viewed the video afterward he said I might have emasculated him in that moment.
That’s OK, he’ll 4×4 his way back to macho on the way down the mountain.