Day 4: Parasailing Manuel Antonio
Although it is difficult for me to complete tasks requiring nominal coordination before 10:00 a.m., I could not resist a Thursday morning session at Sivana Yoga in Manuel Antonio.
I left Condotel Las Cascadas early to catch the 7:45 a.m. bus from Quepos. The Vinyasa yoga lesson was taught by a serious instructor named Silvia Gfeller. Silvia's style struck the perfect balance between gentle stretching and sweaty cardio -- precisely what I needed so early in the day. The studio is located directly above Restaurant Anaconda, and it didn't take long before everyone in class was distracted by the incredible smell of French toast wafting through the floorboards. Ninety minutes and 15 sun salutations later, six yoga students marched downstairs in single file to eat back every calorie we had just worked so diligently to burn off.
The French toast did not disappoint, and after a mouthwatering breakfast I strolled down to the beach. Weaving through the shaded marketplace that lines the public shore, dozens of chatty vendors offered wares displayed under colorful tents. As I approached the beach, I could see the staff of Aguas Azules, a parasailing tour operator, setting up a giant rainbow parachute in preparation for flight.
Introducing myself to the company's animated manager, Miguel, I buzzed with excitement as we watched a young boy take off into the sky. One instant he was on the ground, and the next he wasn't. I couldn't wait to do it myself.
Miguel explained just how little skill is involved in the art of parasailing. "You just hold your arms out like this, and walk forward," he said, holding his arms out like a 'T.' "Anybody can do it." I thought to myself, "That's all there is to parasailing? That was it?" That was it.
Soon it was my turn to soar. The canopy sat deflated behind me, attached to a harness and two lightweight ropes -- one for each of my hands. A 135-foot cord led from the parachute to the boat. As the watercraft moved forward, it tugged gently on the line. I took ten or twelve small steps when suddenly my legs were dangling in the air, and I was flying.
I cannot describe the sense of calm that washed over me 600 feet above the ground. Expecting the atmosphere to be terribly loud and windy, it was a pleasant surprise to find the exact opposite: perfect silence. I relaxed as gravity pulled me backward and delicately into the harness, making it impossible to fall out.
As breathtaking as Manuel Antonio's bays and coves are from the ground, they are even more spectacular when viewed from the sky. Birds must be the most carefree creatures alive. Although I was clearly in the spotlight, the sensation somehow made me feel completely invisible. I could see everyone moving around like little dots on the ground, but felt as if absolutely no one could see me. It was stunning.
My mind drifted off into a reflective state -- to that quiet place I am always trying to reach through yoga and meditation, but can never quite achieve due to yammering thoughts. The intense scenery and overwhelming solitude were a great deal to absorb, and I realized why people do extreme sports.
The speedboat made a yawning curve toward Manuel Antonio National Park, and around Isla Larga (Long Island). Here, I spotted a pair of kayakers, a family of dolphins and a sea turtle. From up above, everything moves gracefully and in slow motion.
Once my fifteen minutes in the sun were spent, I could sense the parachute losing altitude. The captain lowered me slowly -- just enough to splash my feet into the water -- before speeding up again and swinging me back toward the sky. He repeated the amusing drill three or four times, until I felt like a human skipping stone.
After landing, I unclipped myself from the equipment and walked back to the lifeguard stand. What a rush. I wanted nothing more than to sprint up and down the beach, dragging people to Aguas Azules and demanding that everyone parasail. Thankfully, this wasn't necessary. There was already a long line of eager spectators awaiting their turns.