Ziplining over a jungle...er, a rainforest canopy
Do you have a bucket list, a series of experiences you wish to have before you shuffle off this mortal coil? I will admit that a few of life's possibilities yet to be savored still are on mine. I can now cross one of them off my list: riding over a
jungle rainforest canopy on a zipline.
Wikipedia describes a zipline as:
... a pulley suspended on a cable, usually made of stainless steel, mounted on a slope. It is designed to enable a user propelled by gravity to travel from the top to the bottom of the inclined cable by holding on to, or attaching to, the freely moving pulley.
I've spent the past week in Costa Rica, where ziplines are one of many tourist attractions available for amusement at comparatively modest cost, and with an acceptable safety record. Last Friday, I finally had the time to sign up for an excursion to the ziplines at San Luis, one of the most famous and highly regarded of them, up in the mountains about two hours by bus from San Jose, the capital.
At this particular attraction, tourists are equipped for and guided on a series of 13 adventures, all of them high over the jungles in and surrounding deep ravines. I was fortunate that minutes after I arrived in San Luis, a tour bus showed up with eleven American tourists anxious to share the experience, and we were guided by a crew of four Costa Rican guides in suiting up and proceeding through the course of ziplines, from one platform to another, each of us cheering on the others.
Among the group were six African-American ladies who told me they were lifetime close friends dating from elementary school, and two Arab young women, one of them wearing a hijab. Hijab Lady insisted that a female be located to help her into the harness we all had to wear to hook onto the pulley that would carry us over the
This small group was to prove an absolute enhancement to what followed. The African-Americans were, shall we say, highly expressive. A couple were at first very reluctant, expressing fear and aversion, while a couple of others were extremely enthusiastic and full of joy. There was a lot of cajoling.
The very first zipline was fairly short – a practice run to warm up for what followed. There was a lot of female screaming of the sort one hears when a roller coaster plunges downward. Some faces betrayed sheer joy, while others were simply frightened to death. But thanks to the fellowship that immediately developed after the first collective experience, we started to bond. Honestly, there was no real danger, because we were in the hands of pros, but it felt dangerous, because there you were, dangling over the jungle at a height of hundreds of feet. Overcoming shared dangers is one of the strongest forces for bonding known to humankind.
By the time we got to the first "surprise" promised by the guides, about nine ziplines into the course (which lasted a total of close to two hours), we were all encouraging each other, and even Hijab Lady had loosened up to the point that she didn't mind being pushed by the male guides to gain velocity on the ziplines. Then came the experience the guides called "Tarzan" – a steel cable, at least 50 feet long, that swung from a platform out over a ravine and, when they pushed hard, flew very far and very high.
There was a lot of screaming from the ladies. It was quite exhilarating.
But the final zipline, the second surprise promised to us, was what the guides called "Superman," in which we donned a body harness and were attached to two pulleys so we could lie prone, with our hands outstretched forward (to increase speed), and fly a third of a mile over a deep ravine with whitewater rapids beneath us. We were warned that if we didn't do this arm extension forward, we might not make it all the way to the end. I am not sure if that was true, but it did get all doing our own version of Superman. I had to hold on to my glasses, because if they fell off, there was no recovery possible.
More screaming, but also a rush of relief. Everyone survived. I must say that looking down toward the tops of trees, and then a whitewater stream, and then more treetops for a third of a mile would have been scary if I hadn't been so besotted with adrenaline.
My main worry was not plunging to my death, but rather the elevated heart rate that resulted from all the adrenalin. I am fortunate to enjoy a healthy heart, but I did wonder...
All in all, I am glad to have experienced this zipline excursion, but I feel no need to do it again. I guess that is what a bucket list is for.