I'm writing this from Playa Del Cocos, on the shores of the Pacific, after coming down from Monteverde, in the mountains.
When my friends told me we were going to the cloudforest, I sorta liked the name. It sounds all misty and fresh, I thought, and I started imagining tree tops in the fog and colourful singing birds.
The truth is, there is no hiding from the rain in Monteverde. First of all, you're in the mountains all right. Just wait till you see the pictures. You're actually sitting so high that the air isn't that easy to breathe. Nothing is flat. It's hills all the way down. Oh! And when it rains, it pours.
We'd scheduled for a night hike in the forest on the first evening. Something cool, ya know, with tarantulas and vipers. We got to the ranger station just in time and got our little flashlights and our don't touch anything briefing. And then it started. Light rain at first, say, the worst downpour you'd ever seen. Then, as we got out of the little station and onto the first trail, well, worse. But it was when the lightning started that the guide started saying we might have to cancel...
Hey, did I mention the guy wasn't even wearing rain gear?
Anyways, the lightning got stronger, and the rain, well, let's say at this point it was like being hosed down straight from a fire hydrant. When it got to biblical proportions, our guide called the hike off and we had to walk the trail back, which had changed into a small river in the meantime.
We had just enough time to see a tarantula and a gigantic branch insect. I thought that was pretty cool.
After getting back and saying he was sorry we couldn't go and to come back the next night to see if we could do it again, our guide left the ranger station... on his motorcycle. I couldn't believe it. It was raining so bad that the driver of our little van had to wipe the inside of the windshield with a towel in a desperate attempt at seeing anything. The roads had changed to streams, with rocks tumbling down in the current. And our guide just went back home, on his motorcycle.
I tell you. These Costa Rican dudes, they're not afraid of rain.
We went back to the hostel, drenched. Got a little food and stuff on the way back. Stripped down from our dripping gear and enjoyed some awesome chicharrones (BBQ'ed ultrafat pork), beers and other delicacies until falling asleep, which took me no more than half an hour.
The next morning, we'd booked a "zip line" tour of the cloud forest. Sorta like these Adventures-in-the-Trees things you see all around Quebec, or so I thought. I was a little grumpy, because all the activities in this country are early in the morning, and we had to get up at fucking 7:00 am to get on the minivan. No love for the sleepyheads.
So after a quick breakfast, we all hopped in the van and drove up the mountain. When I realized what we were going to do was called "The Superman Experience", I have to admit I sorta cringed. I thought Tourist Trap.
We got to the welcoming center, where we were strapped down with rock climbing harnesses, hangers, hard hats and gloves. Lotsa gear, I thought, for some little tour around the trees...
After a briefing on how to sit in your harness and hold onto the zipline, up we went to the first platform. Easy stuff. About 300 feet straight, just downward enough to make you go. Exactly what I'd thought. I touched down on the second platform, then I casually looked where the second zipline was headed.
Oh. My. Fucking. God.
The zipline was suspended at least 1,000 feet in the air, above a large valley approximately a kilometer wide! Something you will NEVER see in North America. Heart-Attack-Level-Adrenaline-Pumper. Before I know it, the guide is hooking my pulley onto the zipline, all casual and smiling, makes me sit on my harness, and swings me forward.
Try to imagine hanging by a rope to a metal wire, several dozen feet above the treeline of a jungle made of giant trees at least 300 feet high. Then imagine looking down at your feet, while that forest disappears over a cliff, looking down a valley about 1,000 feet down, while your pulley screams at about 30 km/h above you.
Still with me?
After riding a couple more ziplines over the forest and across that huge valley, we got to a point lower in the park where I thought the ride was over. It wasn't.
We were on a platform rigged on a tree so gigantic I'm not even going to try to describe it. Avatar-sized. We were not even close to its top, and we had to rappel it down 150 feet to finish the course. Having been hooked onto the rappel rope, you had to sit in your harness, hanging in thin air, before they started lowering you down. Insane.
At this point, I'll skip the Tarzan thing where they push you off a bungee platform hooked only on the loose end of a climbing rope that swings you several hundred feet into the jungle.
Because I want to tell you about the last platform.
After climbing to the top of a steep hill, you get to an open platform that overlooks the valley I was telling you about earlier. No big deal, you think, I've flown over it three times already. Remember I told you we were also wearing hangers? Check this out. They invert the harness and hook it up to the hangers, on your back. Then, they lift you and clip your pulley to the zipline, and make you slip one foot after the other onto a looped rope that hangs from the pulley. Yeah, you heard me right. You're 100% horizontal, face down, head first. Then they push you above the valley.
I'll just say this: I've dreamt about a hundred times that I was flying like a bird, over mountains and valleys.
There, on top of Monteverde in the clouds, I actually did it.