Costa RicaCosta Rica

A Canopy Ride Before Home

Destination: Rincon de la Vieja

My muscles ached and my body hurt. I shuffled into the bathroom and saw a huge bruise on my lower back. Thank you, Canela. To shock myself awake, I jumped into a cold shower. We had woken up early this morning to eat breakfast and pack our bags before heading to the hotel's famous canopy tour.

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I poked my head out the door, and Cesar was already waiting outside. The good news was that after drying his camera under a light bulb all night, it was working again. The bad news was that he had a pounding headache. When we arrived at the restaurant, we headed straight for the coffee bar. After swigging down my first cup, I served myself some breakfast and a second cup of coffee. Caffeine is a good friend of mine.

After breakfast we walked over to the activity center and waited for the canopy tour to begin. Cesar sat down on the picnic table, head between his hands, and admitted that the headache was too much to handle. He was going to return to his room, take a pill, and lie down for a while. I was to go it alone.

They geared me up, artistically decorating me with harnesses, cables, and nylon ropes. When my helper put a harness around my back, I got nervous. "What's that for?" I asked. "For when you want to go upside down!" he responded. Upside down? Who was he kidding? "Ha ha," I responded, trying to play along, but he looked serious.

A few minutes' walk led us to the first platform. Before scaling the ladder, we went through the safety basics and canopy mechanisms. After the lesson, our large group slowly climbed to the first platform. I wasn't nervous at all -- though I'm not a fan of heights, I love fast rides and adrenaline-pumping activities.

When it was my turn, I got in the flying position, waited for the go-ahead, and then hurled myself off of the platform. If there is anything close to actual human flight, this is it. I glided through the air and, though I could feel my harness supporting my body, felt almost weightless. It was a fantastic sensation, and I tried to concentrate on both the views and the tour's fun factor.

Arriving at the second platform, I bounced with excitement in anticipation of the next cable. It was short and didn't require any braking. "Even better," I thought, launching myself again. The spotter laughed when he caught me, asking if I was having fun. I'm sure that the excited, happy look on my face was an answer in itself, but I still gave him an enthusiastic "Yes!"

After the third cable, the guides arranged us into small groups. My group of four marched off to the canyon section of the tour. I stared at the ground, determined to maintain my footing. When we arrived and I finally looked up, an incredible sight met my eyes: the canyon stretched out before me, covered in emerald-green moss. It looked like a giant had taken a shovel to the gorge, scooping it out with perfect symmetry. The blue river rushed 25 feet below. It was easily the most beautiful place I had ever been.

I was snatched out of my meditations by the next spotter, who indicated it was time to lower myself down to river level. Upside down. "Oh boy," I thought to myself, "do I really want to do this?" Thinking it over quickly, I decided to do the Spiderman drop -- if I didn't, I'd never forgive myself. He hooked me on, and I leaned backwards, bending my legs like a frog. I looked down at the roaring river, and, before I could change my mind, the spotter dropped me into freefall.

Ten seconds later, I was dangling in mid-air, but still alive. I caught my breath and righted myself. The bungee cable had been terrifying and invigorating. The woman waiting in front of me, who had not gone upside down, looked at me appraisingly. "Your face is completely white," she said, her Dutch accent charming. "I'm fine. That was awesome!" It had been, and I wanted to do it again.

I waited my turn to swing across the river, Tarzan-style, before climbing 25 feet straight up the canyon cliff. I'd been rock climbing before, and loved it, but my muscles ached. Luckily, the spotter at the top was strong, and he almost pulled me up the rocks. Safely on sturdy ground again, I readied for the next cable, hurling myself out into the canyon. Flying was fun.

The canopy tour ended several cables later with another upside-down moment. This time, it was a horizontal cable, and as I glided over the canyon, my head facing a 150-foot drop, I screamed. I wasn't scared, but rather energized. The canopy tour had been beautiful, exciting, and an incredible experience.

I headed back to our room, picked up Cesar, and we went to checkout. We took another $60 taxi to downtown Liberia, where we waited for our 2 p.m. bus to take us back to San Jose. Five hours later, I was home in my own bed, the canopy tour sensations still reverberating through my body.

A Canopy Ride Before Home in Pictures

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