Adventures in a Natural Amusement Park Hacienda Pozo Azul
Concealed in the humid, wet rainforest near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, people are screaming. It's there between the screeching green macaws, bellowing howler monkeys and babbling Sarapiqui River.
Okay so they aren't screaming in terror. It's more like that going-through-a-roller-coaster-loop screaming, but then again there aren't any rollercoasters in the rainforest; Just really tall trees, whitewater rapids and hiking trails with frogs, snakes, anteaters, peccaries, and small furry agoutis.
Natural amusement parks roll out the green carpet for guests to explore the canopy, gallop on horses, and raft the waters. These are my experiences over the course of a few days at Hacienda Pozo Azul.
Zip Line Tour
Most of the tour takes place mid-air sailing across nine zip lines while the rest is spent hanging out in treetops. It's a great way to see what's so often lost on the rest of the ground dwellers; pristine forest canopies home to birds, monkeys and sloths among others.
In my nearly two-hour excursion through the trees, I saw a chestnut mandible toucan, turkey vultures, bullet ants and a strawberry poison dart frog hanging out on one of the platforms.
The highest platform is anchored to a Mahogany tree 80 feet off the ground. Though the guides strap you to the tree for safety, that didn't stop me from breaking into a cold sweat peering over the edge at the stream below.
The last line takes guests from the rainforest out over the Sarapiqui River and back to the hotel; hopefully in time for the next tour.
Guero was the name of my horse and he didn't want to follow the other horses, he wanted to lead. Luis, the guide, explained to me the horses were just excited, but I preferred to think Guero was a natural born leader.
Sure enough though, after a few minutes and some petting, my horse relaxed — though he did take the occasional shortcut. Together with a small band of cowboys, we rode through open meadows and into the rainforest alongside the Sarapiqui River. Together we plodded up and down hills and through the mud while I bounced along on the saddle.
At one point, we reached a very narrow trail leading up a steep, muddy, rocky slope and I thought "there's no way we can make it up that". But the guide insisted we could; he advised "lean forward and don't stop."
Guero bolted up the hill slipping, sliding, and charging; all the while I held on for dear life. At the top of the hill I let out a sigh of relief. Once out of the forest, we galloped triumphantly through the fields back to the stables.
The first stop on the rafting tour was a rope swing strung up from a tree hanging over the river. Holding tight to the wooden handle, we (a fellow rafter and I) flung ourselves through the air and into the river. But we could only stay a few minutes; it's a 7-mile trip down the Sarapiqui River ending under a bridge near the small town of El Roble.
The river's first 5 miles are nearly non-stop class II and III rapids. Though the water level was low because of the dry season (Feb. - June), the current was still fast and unforgiving. We tossed, turned and paddled through the rapids and got caught on a few rocks. Somehow, none of us fell off. That is, until the guides tricked us into trying to stand in the raft and pushed us out into a slower section of the river.
Along the journey, we had time to get to know our guides who were both locals from the area. They had an extensive knowledge of the wildlife and keen eyesight to spot the animals all along the river. In our two-hour tour they pointed out more than a dozen animals including black vultures,turkey vultures, tiger herons, king fishers, snowy egrets, strawberry poison dart frogs, black and green poison dart frogs and a sloth.
While most people wish they could get the time off to explore everything Costa Rica has to offer, few have the opportunity. Natural amusement parks like Pozo Azul are a great way to pack a lot of experiences into a vacation and see the rainforest from a different perspective.
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Hacienda Pozo Azul
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