Day 5: Congo Canopy Tour and Casino
In preparation for today's canopy tour, I ate a protein-filled vegetable omelet at Flamingo Beach Resort's restaurant, Arenas. However, I probably would have skipped breakfast had I known what a long, rocky road I would be bumping along en route to the countryside.
The "monkey bus" picked me and two other guests up in the lobby at 8:15 a.m. The flatbed was as tough as a tank and fun to ride in, but seemed to have an insufferable maximum speed of only 13 miles per hour. We bounced along ten minutes of paved street and 15 minutes of dirt road, which was followed by 20 minutes of something that I cannot, in good conscience, even call a road. Holding our breath over the steep, narrow paths and bridges on our way to today's activity was certainly half of the adventure.
We arrived with everyone intact, and the driver took us right up to the first pavilion. There, we were fitted for helmets and harnesses and introduced to our two guides. This particular canopy tour is the most popular in the Tamarindo area; it is composed of three scenic sky cables and eleven cables that total 1/2 of a mile in length, with the longest individual cable stretching 90 feet.
Although I can muster the courage for a lot of activities, gliding through the canopy upside down is not one of them. Several visitors impressed everyone else with this and other acts of lunacy -- including flying Superman-style above the treetops.
Everyone appreciated our animated and enthusiastic leaders; one of whom thoroughly enjoyed pretending to be unable to brake. He would nearly crash into the platform before stopping just in the nick of time.
After our canopy adventure, we took a tour of the on-site wildlife park. A caring zookeeper led the way to the snake exhibit. Watching our group squirm, the keeper pulled various snakes from their cages and put them on my arms one by one. The biggest shock came when we got to the cage belonging to a 30-foot reticulated python, which was about a foot thick. The caretaker posed the beast on my lap, where I was able to feel two large lumps (that used to be live chickens) working their way through the snake's digestive system. After such an eventful morning, the group was exhausted and ready to spend the afternoon by the beach.
An hour later, we were back at the hotel. Passing by the workout room, I felt a pang of guilt about today's lack of exercise. The gym was equipped with yoga mats, free weights, treadmills and an amazing view of both the pool and beach -- and yet for some reason I hadn't seen a single soul using it these past couple of days. I decided to work out for an hour or two, but after a mere 15 minutes on the elliptical machine, I had had enough. This was an all-inclusive resort, not boot camp. No wonder I hadn't seen anybody in here. I changed into my swimsuit and went back to the pool.
That night, the manager invited me to try my luck at the casino. Like most people, I am not a big fan of losing money. For me, gambling up until this point had been restricted to scratch-off lottery tickets (and that time I lost $5 on a slot machine). However, tonight would be different -- I was going to take risks.
With this in mind, I changed $25 into chips and began making $1 bets at the roulette table. While the other guests neatly placed their chips on set numbers, I thought it would be better to haphazardly toss them about the board, letting fate decide where they fell. This worked like a charm for the first game, and I won $16. Then I lost $20. That was enough roulette for tonight.
Next, I was off to play Blackjack. The stakes were a bit higher here, with a minimum bet of $5. A nice man from Trinidad took me under his wing, and taught me a few things about odds and percentages, as well as how to buy insurance in certain circumstances. I won $50 and was as happy as a clam, but then lost $38. Knowing that I would be in a horrible mood if I left with a loss, I decided to call it a night with $33 in my pocket -- a whopping $8 profit.