Never Too Old for Adventure: Costa Rica Revisited
I first visited Costa Rica 20 years ago, and fell so in love with the country that I returned again in 1993. That was almost half a lifetime ago and I couldn't wait to see if it was still as wonderful now as it was then. My daughter and her fiance now live in Costa Rica and kindly invited me to relive the most fun part of my past.
I flew down and after a night at their charming house (replete with giant iguanas tail-slapping on the roof) we began our four-day adventure and as I write this I still can't believe we packed such diverse and exhilarating delight in such a short period of time.
We started our adventure at Turu Ba Ri Nature and Adventure Park near Orotina. The park includes 600 acres of drop-dead gorgeous rainforest (I later learned it is actually a "transition" forest) and as a nature lover, I knew I was in for a treat. But at the same time, I was also, well, to put it bluntly, scared.
My daughter had told me we were going to do the park's famous Superman zip line cable. (That's a nifty little enticement the park offers that sends you flying 315 feet above the ground over a crocodile-laden river at speeds up to 55 mph. But we'll save that for later...)
We met up with our guide, Oscar, and headed to the aerial tram that gently lifts you to heights of over 200 feet along a 2,000-foot cable for the most amazing panoramic views. Once on the other side, we walked along beautiful pathways to the iguana breeding area. The iguanas were munching away on a pile of greens, making whoopee, and generally having a great time. The park has made a mission of helping to protect these reptiles, also known as "tree chicken," which are occasionally part of the Costa Rican diet.
Our path led us past heavily-laden star fruit trees and Oscar plucked a ripe one for us to enjoy as we made our way to the orchid garden which, even if you aren't a plant lover, is stunning. We made our way through a mature jungle and Oscar pointed out the coyol tree (it is said that you can drink coyol wine at night, get sober by morning, yet feel its effect again as soon as you go outside into the sun), massive guanacaste and ceiba trees, and the unusual sandbox tree that is called the "monkey no climb" since it has huge sharp spikes along its trunk.
We saw bromeliads the size of easy chairs and bamboo that was easily 50 feet tall and there wasn't a question we could ask that Oscar didn't know the answer. Along the way, we passed another naturalist who was describing the walk to a blind visitor in vivid detail. The butterfly garden made whispering noises as the morphos and owl butterflies tickled us with their fly-bys. The crocodile area even featured a rare albino croc.
We stopped for a bit of lunch at the park's traditional restaurant. My stomach was beginning to flutter as I realized we were getting closer to Superman time, but that didn't stop me from trying the pork, plantains, fresh mango and yummy flan.
With full bellies, we headed for the tower from which we would launch ourselves into the unknown. There are only three Superman zip lines in the world and this one is the second longest at 4,000 feet. Oscar was about to leave us and decided at the last moment to join us (I think it was because he saw me shaking like a new can of paint in the mixer at Home Depot and was afraid I wouldn't make it up the tower without assistance).
We climbed to the top where two young men fit us in harnesses and helmets. As I looked out along the cable, I couldn't help but wonder why I had on a silly helmet since it sure wouldn't be much help if I plummeted the 300+ feet to the ground. The guides told me that when I got close to the other side, another guide would wave a red flag signaling me to open my arms and get ready for them to brake me. Egad, I thought, what if my eyes aren't even open?
My intrepid daughter, an old pro at this, went first, and sailed off, video camera in hand. After about 30 seconds, I could barely see her and it was then that I realized there was a really good chance I couldn't do this. But Oscar and his friends somehow got me on the launch pad where I was face down and trussed up like a turkey. I knew they were going to open the gate to let me fly and for the next few minutes of my life, I probably wouldn't breathe and would be praying a whole lot.
I heard the gate open and in a millisecond I was whooshing above the trees out over the Tarcoles River. I finally opened my eyes and with the wind whipping me along at 55 mph was able to see the spectacular view and hear the loud zzzziiippp of the cable. I couldn't believe I was doing this with my fear of heights, but as the kids later convinced me, I'm not as afraid of heights as I thought -- I'm just afraid of falling.
My adrenaline kicked into high gear and unexpected loud, exuberant screams, whoops, and hollers came forth that I'm sure were heard all over the park and probably in Florida. I zoomed toward the landing tower, saw red flags a waving and opened my arms. The guides pulled me to a stop and carefully took off my burrito-style harness. I finally started to breathe again and then started laughing -- what a trip, what an experience! One more thing to check off my Bucket List! (For those too young to understand that term -- it's our middle-agers list of things to do before we "kick the bucket.")