Sunday, 9 November 2008

... Central America: Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah

Acrophobics are probably not the type of people you'd expect to be doing canopy tours & hanging bridges.

I am an acrophobic and yet this morning at around 945am I found myself onboard a bus to partake in the rite of passage for those who visit these misty cloud forests.  I'd obviously had this insane wish to be higher than the 1200-1600m elevation than I already was at.

The sensible Nic wants to preach to you all that Zip lines (Canopy tours) are an ecotourism movement of questionable ecological value. The crazy adrenaline-junkie Nic wants you to all know that this was a total balls-out experience and I don't even have any!!

To ease myself in I did the hanging bridges first. For those of you who have visited Capilano Suspension bridge it is basically like that except more than one... in a cloud forest.. in Costa Rica. So really not very alike at all except for the bridge part. It was another nice walk although I didn't really see much wildlife aside from a few multicoloured birds. It was however rather very cool to literally be walking through the clouds. I did well - no tremors and only one quick stern 'Stop bloody rocking this thing' to one member of the group.

As I was being kitted up into my safety harness, helmet and gloves (which act as your brakes!) I chanted my mantra 'No problem. You can do this Nic. YOU-CAN-DO-THIS!'  All I needed was the Rocky theme in the background and I'd've been set! My right knee began trembling whilst I was still safely on solid ground as I looked up at the awfully high platform that I was about to climb. By the time I reached the top of the aforementioned platform and was being hooked up to the first cable by one of the guides it had spread to my hands. Only 3km to go!

The safety harness has two straps - one which has the pulley and the other is your safety strap. Both of these are attached to the cable then you take your weaker hand (my left) and grab onto both straps. With your remaining stronger hand you raise it up behind your head and make an OK signal around the cable. To brake you have to push down with that hand or both hands. As I sat down into my harness and crossed my ankles I was off reaching speeds of +60km an hour. Oh dear Lord help me! No matter how hard I pulled down on that cable I always seemed to speed up not slow down!?!?  Can someone please explain the physics of that to me!?!?

It is actually a damn fine adrenaline rush to be hurtling towards a tree at break-I'm gonna die-neck speeds. Thankfully the guides were there to assist in slowing me down before I ate trunk. Wow! What a rush. What's next?

It was eerily peaceful & relaxing hurtling through the air way above the ground and the broccoli-topped trees. I'd like to think that the smile plastered on my face was from the sheer exhileration of inhaling a cloud as opposed to sheer terror.

At least until we reached the Tarzan-swing. I had to switch my brain off to climb up the stairs.  As the guides hooked me up to the various ropes I was shaking so hard I could pass for a cocktail shaker. I held onto that rail as if my life depended on it. And at that very moment it did. My nerve faltered. 'I can't do this. I want to get down'. Yet as they began unhooking me I followed my refusal just as quickly as I had uttered it with a 'No. I'm going to do this!'  They reattached me, the gate opened.and I jumped amidst hoots & hollers of 'Way to go Nic!'. Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

However, my bravado really is nothing. There were two elderly ladies, Mary & Joan, independant of us who were in our group. Joan, who is SEVENTY-FIVE years old, did every single zip line bar the Tarzan-swing. Now that's someone with some big balls of steel.

And so ends my adventures in Costa Rica and what a way to end them! Tomorrow sees a 9-12 hour journey by bus & boat to Nicaragua.

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