By CHANTAL COOKE
All I want to do is swear – loudly, again and again. My uncouth vocabulary becomes a mantra blocking out the messages from my brain telling me I am definitely going to die.
Of course, swearing isn’t going to save me, and if I am in the least bit rational about this – I am not in any real danger of dying.
It’s just that zip wiring from one mountain top to the other, across a valley in Costa Rica, really feels like one of the more stupid activities I have elected to take part in during my life. The wire stretches for, what seems like, miles ahead of me, and the ground is so far away I’m wondering if there is enough air to breathe up here.
There are eight lines at the Sky Adventure’s Sky Trek in Arenal Park, the longest is, in fact, only 760m and at the highest point you are 200m above the ground. The rest of my small group is whooping with adrenaline and one guy is clearly enjoying it so much I am pretty certain he’ll be dragging his wife around the course a second time.
Costa Rica has much to offer the tourist; wildlife, beautiful scenery, cloud forests, beaches, bird watching… and lots of soft adventure opportunities.
If you prefer your feet to be touching something while you dangle from a wire then try rappelling down a waterfall (or four). I tried this while staying at El Silencio Lodge in Bajos del Toro Alajuela.
After a short uphill hike through the forest, you reach a staircase of four waterfalls. Emilio and David carefully fitted our harnesses and clipped us to the relevant wires and ropes. David disappeared over the side of the first waterfall and then it was my turn. The trickiest part is keeping your footing on the wet rocks. I kept slipping and sliding from side-to-side – but the ropes are secure and the worst that can happen is that you end up dangling, spinning slowly from your rope, as you bump into the rocks. I’d nearly reached the bottom of the first waterfall and David called out ‘well done – you’ve made it’ when suddenly I lost my footing and fell over – into the pool at the base. My boots filled up as the water sloshed over the top and I struggled to my feet. What do they say? Pride comes before a fall?
This is a beautiful setting, and so very quiet. The only sounds are the birds, the water, and us humans on the waterfall. The rappelling is suitable for beginners and you get some variety: very tall; shorter; almost vertical; lots of obstacles. The guides are excellent and fill you with confidence that your safety really is their first priority.
For something without wires – try taking to the water. At Puerto Viejo you can take a gentle trip, with Nature Riders, up the river into the jungle, watching sloths slowly, very slowly, climb the trees, and kingfishers flash their bright colours as they dive for dinner. Then carry your kayak a few paces across the beach and you’re in the ocean with the waves pushing your kayak in the air and giving you the exhilarating sensation of flight.
Talking of exhilarating … there’s white water rafting. The Sarapiqui Outdoor Centre in La Virgen de Sarapiqui, Heredia offers white water rafting for beginners through to experts. After a short briefing we take off down the Sarapiqui River screaming with delight as our tiny inflatable raft crashes through the water and bounces down the rocky rapids, showering us with spray and ensuring every inch is drenched. By the end of the trip we’re exhausted, we’re wet – and we’re buzzing!
Horses have been a large part of Costa Rican life for many centuries and although they are no longer the main form of transport (having been superseded here, like everywhere else, by the car) they are still an important part of the culture and for rural Costa Ricans learn to ride is as inevitable as learning to walk. As a tourist horseback riding is a great way to see the countryside and the wildlife. Wildlife that might scurry or flap away as a hiker approaches, seems unconcerned by the hoof beats of a horse, so it’s much easier to see the birds and other fauna. And you’re higher up too – which often affords a better view.
By the end of my ten days in Costa Rica I had conquered some fears, seen incredible wildlife, added a few bruises, met friendly locals, expanded my comfort zone, and, most importantly, created incredible memories that will last a lifetime.
- Nature Riders, Puerto Viejo – https://www.facebook.com/natureriderscr
- El Silencio – http://www.elsilenciolodge.com/
- Sky Adventure’s Sky Trek – http://skyadventures.travel/skytrek/
- Sarapiqui Outdoor Centre – http://www.costaricaraft.com/en/
- Visiting Costa Rica – www.visitcostarica.com
About the Author:
Chantal Cooke is an award winning journalist and broadcaster with a passion for the planet. In 2002 she co-founded the award winning radio station PASSION for the PLANET and in 2009 Chantal was awarded London Leader in Sustainability status. Chantal also runs a successful communications agency – Panpathic Communications.