When I think back over today and my first experience of the world’s adventure capital, it feels truly surreal. It has been one of the most incredible days of my life for certain.
We got up early in the mind of going to the Extreme Park in Monteverde, and as Anna, Kai and I had made a pact yesterday to make sure we matched each other adrenaline-wise, I was expecting a tough day. The breakfast was great, with rice, beans, toast and pancakes, which made sure we were prepared for the day ahead. The weather was pretty windy so we were concerned about the activities not going ahead, but apparently most of the park is not closed off unless the rain is seriously bad, or if there is a storm. As we are so high up in Monteverde’s cloud forest too, the weather has been comparatively chilly to anything we have previously experienced – which actually made a nice change for once!
We headed off to the park at a ridiculous 7.20am, and when we got there we had to pay up front for what we wanted to do. The three musketeers Anna, Kai and I decided to sign up to everything (the superman zip lining, the extreme Tarzan swing and the bungee jump), paid and signed the waiver. We were locked in. I was both terrified and excited!
The first activity was the zip lining, to build us up to the bungee ‘slowly’. I felt fairly confident as I have done zip lining before, however, it was completely different to the zip lining I have previously done. It is the longest canopy tour in Monteverde with the total distance travelled at 4km, with the longest single line at a crazy 1km! We started off with a couple of low, easy lines, which were tame enough, but the difficulty was stepped up slightly as we went higher up in the jungle canopies, and we then had the idea of braking introduced to us by putting your hand on the cable behind you. There were a couple of lines which you went in pairs on – I went with Anna – and they were great fun, as your combined weight makes you go very fast. Before the final ‘superman’ 1km line we did a quick abseil and then a mini Tarzan swing, to get us used to it before we took on the extreme one. It was great fun except as I jumped off, the initial swing made my stomach drop massively – which made me a bit concerned about the upcoming bungee. I had a chat with an American man too, who asked if I was happy with the name of the royal baby! Then onwards to superman. You get strapped into the harness with your legs up behind you on the cable and your arms outstretched, with no braking. I went incredibly fast, luckily I wasn’t scared and the view was absolutely fantastic as you could see right across the hills, rivers and into the jungle below. Amazing.
As soon as my zip lining fun was over though, the fear began to creep in – bungee time. We walked over to the cart, where three people get into it at once along with two staff, and you get pulled into the centre of an 143-metre bungee drop (the highest bungee in the whole of Latin America) before you begin. A quick note here about the staff at Extreme – they were all fantastic. They were so friendly, they chat to you to make you feel comfortable and explain everything so clearly in excellent English. If they saw you were confident too they’d have a joke with you, which was funny. This one guy told me that I’d have to bungee jump barefoot as my shoes were wrong, and I actually believed him!
When it was my turn to get into the cart with Kai and Anna, we were all terrified. I kept telling myself not to look down, and knew that the hardest part would be jumping off – you have to dive outward from the platform as if you are jumping into a swimming pool, so it’s daunting to say the least. Anna went first, and her confidence inspired me, as I knew she was as scared as I was. To be honest, everything that happened next was just a blur. They count you down from five to one so quickly that you don’t have a chance to say no, and you just go – none of us didn’t do it. It was crazy, mental, terrifying and incredible. My stomach didn’t drop as I expected either (maybe it was the adrenaline?) and the rush was just mad. However, I had difficulty getting back onto the platform. Because of the wind and my failure to catch the rope in the right place, basically the rope became twisted around my foot, which from an upside-down position was impossible to untie. The guys ended up having to pull me up manually and save me. Apparently I was lucky that it didn’t wrap around my neck! Had to happen to me, didn’t it. I really haven’t got the best luck on this trip.
They told me for the Tarzan swing that I should try not to go upside down this time! It was a lot easier as they just lower you down and let you go rather than getting you to jump. The stomach drop wasn’t too bad either and although bungee jumping was definitely my favourite, I enjoyed the Tarzan swing a lot as you could see the scenery better the right way up! It was in a way harder than the bungee jump though, as I was so exhausted from the adrenaline. We a had camera on our helmets to film ourselves and the scenery around us, which I have bought on a disc so hopefully I will be able to upload them onto YouTube when I get home so you can all see. Anna and I are very lucky though to have our videos of the Tarzan swing at all, as when the man was sorting out the camera, he accidentally dropped the memory card off of the platform into the jungle. So did he leave it? Of course not! He abseiled from the cart and found it for us, naturally. It was all pretty hilarious from up that high in the air and I can’t believe he even bothered to look, let alone find it. So a massive thanks to him. The whole thing was incredible, I loved it and I feel mad looking back on it all, but I honestly don’t know if I would ever do it again. My next pursuit is on the cards soon hopefully – skydiving!
After all the excitement of the morning, a few of us decided to go on the coffee and chocolate tour to see how it is all processed. Sounds boring, right? It was actually very interesting, and we got to eat loads! Our guide firstly showed us types of sugar cane – scientists combined the huge size of a purple type of sugar cane with the quality of a yellow type to create the perfect sugar cane, called HP45. We got to cook the crushed cane to make molasses and caramel, and even got to make and eat our own sugar by refining the molasses and mixing it with air. The whole tour was very hands-on. We also got to see the complex processes involved with stripping the seven layers (seven?!) of the coffee bean. Coffee is pretty much the most important product for Costa Rican economy. Back in the 1980s, the government of the country decided to become a competitor for Brazil in terms of quality rather than quantity of coffee, and decided to replace every coffee tree in the country with the best quality coffee tree, coffea arabica. Today, Costa Rican coffee is considered to be the best in the world, especially as volcanic soil is the best to grow The tree in. The guide said that coffee is like a good wine: flavour, low bitterness and aroma is all important. We got to witness roasting and separating of the layers and eat coffee beans of different types, including peaberries. Yum!
Next Roger and I were given the opportunity to ride a cart pulled by oxen (quite random, I thought), which made a relaxing change after the bungee! We then stopped off for the sight I have been waiting for, for a number of weeks – there was a two-toed sloth in the tree above us! Lillian will be over the moon with my photographic evidence. This sighting later prompted a story from Marvin, who said that when he was eight, he threw a sloth in a river to see if they were really lazy, not realising they were amazing swimmers!
We then got to see the processes of making chocolate – a product which was traded for gold in its pure cocoa form in the past, and was even used as currency at one time in ancient Central America. We got to taste roasted chocolate beans and I got to grind them up and mix them with sugar. The product was beautiful! At the end of the tour we got to sample chocolate, coffee and a mysterious alcoholic product from sugar beet called something like “La Saca”, which was apparently 80 percent and stronger than Absinthe. Never again!
We went out to dinner and I had a lovely meal called chifrijo, which is fried beef with rice, beans, tomato and tortilla chips. I wanted to have a couple of drinks to celebrate my bungee survival, but honestly I am exhausted, aching and needing rest after the adrenaline come down. My nerves are shot. The drinks will have to wait for another night!
Tomorrow, onwards to La Fortuna and a relaxing day, with hot springs in the evening I believe. Now to sleep, and reflect on my incredible day. (I just went to the wifi area to publish this and the little dog from the hotel who took a liking to me was curled up outside my door. I think I have a new friend.)