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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
Mike and I make our way up an extremely bumpy gravel road and are surprised to find a large town at Santa Elena / Monteverde. It seems common in Costa Rica for hostels to allow camping for $4-5 a night and we again find a great place with a grassy back yard for us to call home. It’s extremely beautiful and friendly here and along with that comes hordes of tourists. Almost every sign and tour contains the word ‘Eco’, which leaves us wondering exactly what the ecological benefits of an ATV tour are. It’s also much cooler here, in fact I would even use the word ‘cold’ at night, which is a huge relief after the oppressive heat and humidity on the Nicoya.
We’re not too sure how to find the good stuff without paying through the teeth, when we meet Eric, a cool booking agent. He’s just opened up in the same building as the supermarket and is very happy to tell us about a couple of free hikes & activities around town. It’s really refreshing to have someone so down to earth, who is not trying to get every last penny from us and genuinely wants us to enjoy ourselves. He’s as excited are we are and soon we’re bouncing around ready for adventure.
Armed with our new knowledge we set out to hike into the cloud forest at the only place in the area this can be done for free. It’s a really steep muddy road that I drive up as far as possible before parking and continuing on foot. Even though it’s much cooler here we are soon sweating like crazy as we climb up and up, right into the clouds. The views from the top are said to be spectacular on a clear day, though we can barely see ten meters through the thick fog which doesn’t diminish the beauty. We move on to the second free hike, and find a massive hollow fig tree that Mike climbs into a long way.
Before the day is done we make our way out to the San Luis Waterfall, a beautiful 35 minute walk along a river deep in the jungle. The falls themselves are about 90 meters high (300 ft.) and hugely impressive. Swimming below is freezing, and we grin from ear to ear.
The main attraction in this area is zipline tours, and with Eric’s help we get a deal on the best outfit in town, eXtremo.
With a name like that how could we possibly pass it up?
We are harnessed, helmeted and harnessed again before being given a 5 minute safety talk. We’ll be connected to cables spanning huge distances and leather gloves are our only brakes. If the guide waves frantically, pull down on the cable, we are told. Simple enough.
Before long we are flying from platform to platform, across huge spans at really high speed. It’s amazingly good fun and everyone is really excited. Braking turns out to be pretty simple and soon I have the technique down; come in at suicidal speed and try to burn through my glove in the last meter or two. Adding a look of complete horror on my face terrifies a couple of the guides whose job it is to ‘catch’ me.
The guides take a liking to me and tell me the best way to ride the tarzan swing is backwards, so off I step, completely unable to see where I am going.
The main event of the day is the “superman” cable where we are harnessed in so we are lying down, superman style. Everyone quickly starts humming the theme song and calls of “Superman!” can be heard echoing all around. The guides let me hold my camera on this one, so I take a video of what it looks like while whizzing along. Really, really fun.
It’s really hard to judge my speed in the video, so I did some quick numbers; The cable is 1080 meters long and I complete the trip in 54 seconds, making for an average speed of 72 km/h (45 mph).