11.28.2010 - 11.28.2010 82 °F
Today we are awoken at dawn by bird songs--the cheery chirps and trills of birds enjoying a rainless sunrise. This morning is clear and warm. We sit side-by-side on our porch, listening to the cacophony of birds and smelling the distinct smell of the rainforest: a clean scent of wet foliage. It smells like life.
After a quick breakfast (tamales for both of us), we drive south of the volcano to the Sky Trek ziplines, which Felico claims are the highest and the most exciting. We join a group of about 5 other couples, many of whom are Americans but there are a few others mixed in. There is an Asian American couple, a couple of native Costa Ricans who speak only Spanish, an Englishman whose wife/girlfriend who is so terrified of heights that she ends up riding tandem with the guide most of the way down, and a New York couple--with the husband who is not outdoorsy and is clearly not thrilled to be flying hundreds of feet across deep valleys.
We ride the tram up to the top of the mountain, which is an experience by itself. The guides are very sensitive to the fact that tourists get excited about exotic animals and make a point to stop the tram’s ascent whenever they spot an interesting bird or, far in the distance, a howler monkey hunched into a black ball of fur at the top of a tree.
Once at the first zipline platform, we are given some quick instructions (lean back and cross legs up into your chest; spread legs out to slow down; don’t slow down too early or you’ll slide right back to the middle of the line and get stuck; etc) and, after a couple smaller practice lines, come to a more than one-thousand-foot long line suspended 600 feet above the ground. The feeling of flying so high above the treetops at such a fast speed is exhilarating, truly unparalleled. We are pretty close to Lake Arenal and have a great birds eye view of it, and we would have had a fabulous view of the volcano if the cone wasn’t covered in some haze. But we could not have picked a more perfect day to do this activity. The sun is shining almost the entire time, and except for a few stray sprinkles, the entire morning is clear and gorgeous!
Ziplining is terrifying and exhilarating and the biggest adrenaline rush I’ve experienced. Matt and I jokingly say that we should do the other two Arenal zipline courses as well since we loved Sky Trek so much, and I know that I am at least half serious.
On the drive back from the ziplines, we come across a bunch of tourists stopped to take pictures of a group of coati that were standing in the road begging for food. These animals must be used to people because they come right up us and, when they see food, will sometimes climb on someone’s legs to get to it. Up close, these coati look like a cross between raccoons and anteaters, but they seem to be really gentle and meek. Apparently, I'm told, they make good pets and are easily domesticated.
We come back to Kokoro to munch on our leftovers from last night’s dinner (which we eat at a cute table with a thatched umbrella outside our cabin) and relax before our next tour. Once we come down a little ways from the mountains, we realize how hot and humid the rainforest is when the sun makes its rare appearances. We spend a little time at the hotel’s pool, cooling off in the water and relaxing in the chaise loungers.
At 2:30 we head back toward La Fortuna for an ATV tour. While I thought an ATV tour would take us through intense terrain to get to a particular destination, this tour takes us around a huge privately owned ranch with a series of mud pits, streams, small jumps and other little obstacles that, as a passenger on Matt’s vehicle, scare the crap out of me. We go airborne a couple times, speed down steep slopes and climb back up some hills that almost seemed like we might backflip. One time is definitely a close call; we barely avoid falling backwards on ourselves while climbing up one particularly steep riverbank.
Part of the tour takes us through cattle grazing pasture, so we zoom within 15 feet of cows that look at us as if we are disturbing their grass dinner. Of course, I wave and apologize to a lot of them for confusing them or interrupting their peace and quiet. We also explore to a section of stream where there are large camen lounging on the riverbank or watching us from the river. They don’t seem to care that much that we were there, though.
We also drive through some streams that soak our shoes or skid through mud that kicks dirt all over our clothes. At one point I get chunks of mud all over the side of my face, in my hair and even in my ear! (But it's more likely that, since the tour is on a cattle farm, that isn't JUST mud.) At the end of the 2 hours I am splattered in mud, my hiking boots even covered in mud and soaked to my socks. Somehow, Matt isn't quite as muddy as I am, even though he was up in the front.
Once back at Kokoro, I make an attempt to wash our muddy clothes in the sink, rinse off the shoes and blow dry my hiking socks (since now both pairs of socks are soaking wet…which in the rainforest means it will take days to dry). After hot showers we order dinner from a place called Lava Lounge in La Fortuna. I get a Santa Fe wrap, which is a delicious mixture of chicken, avocado, cheese, onion, rice and beans. Matt orders a steak salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing and also gets garlic-friend yucca for us to share. It takes all our strength to save some of the food for tomorrow’s lunch.
Today was a great day, largely due to the unexpected beautiful weather. After yesterday’s all-day, on-and-off rainstorms, I did not expect to see sun or to be hot enough to use the hotel pool. The only way this day could have been perfect was if the last bit of mist from the cone of the volcano cleared so we could see the tip.