OK, I lied. I only did one trip report last week. After this day’s trip report, it was mostly a bunch of wandering around on the beach, so maybe I’ll actually finish this up this week. Dak had to go and make me look bad by posting his soon after he got back.
Flickr set for Monteverde
Day four of our trip was easily the most eventful. The previous day, I went to the hotel lobby and signed us up for a morning zip line tour, then signed us up for a cloud forest tour and sunset horseback ride the next day. People say that Costa Rica is cheap, and it is compared to Europe, but this day was definitely not cheap for me.
The company we went with for the zip line tour was called Aventura. They had a good reputation locally, Lonely Planet spoke well of them, and they had a nice facility. Plunging to my death 500′ in the air was not something I wanted to do on my honeymoon, so safety and a good reputation were paramount in my selection.
The van taxi came and picked us up at 7:30 in the morning for the zip line tour. On the way, we picked up a few other groups, so the van was jam packed by the time we were done getting everyone. We made it to the zip line area a little before 8:00, which was the time the tour was supposed to start, so we spent the extra time getting fitted for all our gear (helmet, harness, hardware, gloves). After a safety talk, it was off to the first platform.
The tour consisted of 14 zip line platforms, a tarzan swing, and a 15m rappel. Everyone I talked to about Costa Rica said to do the zip line tour, and I agree that it was one of the best parts of the trip. I do not have a lot of climbing experience, but I would imagine that even experienced climbers would appreciate the zip line and tarzan swing portions, if not the lame 15m rappel, which I didn’t quite understand. They have 2000′ zip lines that you are on for a seemingly really long time, but the rappel is only 15m? Lame. It was made better though when my wife rappelled down and did not realize that it was a sudden drop, not a slow, controlled descent. She was not pleased when she made it to the bottom, especially when the guy belaying got her almost down, stopped her, told her that she had dropped so fast because there was something wrong with her hardware, then dropped her the last few feet again. The little kids in the area probably should have had their ears covered to avoid hearing the cuss words that flowed after that.
The tarzan swing was my personal favorite part (picture on top is me on the swing). I was the last one to go, so I had a good expectation of what was going to happen. We climbed up a platform, leaned off, then swung out into the forest. I told the guys to leave me up there for a while, so I got a few extra swings in before they used their giant inner tube brake to throw around my stomach to stop me. I tried to make a video of the zip line or the tarzan swing, but they wouldn’t let me in the interest of safety. Sissies.
Lunch was at a traditional Tico restaurant. I had arros con pollo (rice w/chicken) and my wife had what were supposed to be tacos, I think, but they were covered with ketchup and mayo. Once again, I was glad I stuck to the rice based meals.
At noon, we had a cloud forest tour scheduled at the Monteverde Reserve, so the van came and picked us up at 11:40 for another jaunt on Costa Rica’s flawless roads (they suck). I paid for a guide again, since I wanted to actually see something on the hike, so we had just the two of us and our guide walking the trails through the reserve. Like at Arenal, I was greatly impressed by the guide’s gear, with his Leica 1200mm scope and Manfrotto tripod. I talked to him for a while about photography and he told me about how he had lost his Canon DSLR and 400mm lens recently. He and I both teared up a bit about the thought of losing photography gear.
We saw capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, a big fat rodent (aguipo?), a nasty looking eyelash pit viper, toucans, and all kinds of other critters. Once again, I was glad that we had hired a guide since I would have seen trees and probably not much else if we were by ourselves.
I even got to shill TGR while I was there. The guide, like the Arenal guide, was heavily involved in local search and rescue, and was working on his Red Cross certification. Quality made gear, like Gore-Tex jackets instead of plastic ponchos, is apparently very hard to come by in Costa Rica, so he was excited when I told him what I did for a living. We exchanged contact info so I could see what I could do to get some decent gear down to him in Costa Rica. I even gave him a firesteel I had in my pack so I could shill Going Gear at the same time. He looked impressed when I showed him how it worked, using the awl on a Swiss Army Knife I kept on me during the whole trip.
The last part of the day was a guided horseback tour on a local farm/ranch, from 4:00 – 6:00. We arrived at the ranch, paid, got our helmets, and went out to get on our horses. My wife rode a lot when she was younger, so she had a decent amount of experience, but I had been on a horse a total of once in my life. She was worried because the horse they brought out for me was running around like a wild stallion and wouldn’t let the guides get their hands on him. The horse, Bailo, was a Palamino, and had a nice big scab on his flank where it looked like he had scraped up against something rough and left some skin and hair with that something. He calmed down greatly once I was on him, and ended up being fine on the trip, except for the blood coming out of his nose (!!!).
There were two guides on the trip, and a couple from New York. The guy part of the couple was obviously out there with romantic intentions, and was probably not happy that another couple was there. He wouldn’t nudge his horse in the flank with his heel to spur him on because he didn’t want to hurt the horse (yes, seriously). The girl looked like a punk rocker, and had a good bit of horseback experience. I’m not sure exactly how that relationship came to be, but whatever works for people.
The guide in the front spoke decent English, but it was very obvious that he did not know anything about the forest and its plants and animals. He kept on explaining how parts of the forest worked and the guide in the back would just laugh at him. I was in the back, in front of the rear guide, who spoke very little English. I understood enough Spanish to hear him make fun of the guide in front when he would make up his bullshit stories about the forest. The rear guide would pick fruits and leaves off trees as we rode past, hand them to me, say their names in Spanish and English if he knew them. It was too bad that he did not speak better English or I did not speak better Spanish, because he really knew the plants and animals well. I think the ranch was also his, or his families, and he definitely had the best trained horse and most impressive riding skills. We were in a pasture at one point when he stands up on his saddle and has his horse gallop along while he is standing up. The guide in front called him the “crazy cowboy.”
Wife: “Is that your horse?”
Crazy Cowboy: “Yes”
Wife: “Does anyone else get to ride your horse?”
Crazy Cowboy: “(emphatic) NO”
New York dude probably did not appreciate my wife’s favorite part of the ride, which was her extremely gassy horse. The horse would let out a long fart whenever he was about to put forth some effort, like going up a hill or breaking into a gallop. I’m not talking about one or two farts on the two hour ride. I mean 40 or 50. This thing was the gassiest creature I have ever come across. My wife and I would just giggle, and the guide in the back thought it was pretty funny, but Mr. New York did not appreciate the humor.
Another funny little horse was a mini horse that followed us for the first part of the trip. The guides insisted that she was very good for horseback riding, but I think a tiny little horse might be put off by my 185 lbs on her back. Plus, I would be giggling the whole time at the mini horse’s goofy looking bowl cut and bangs.
The ride was fantastic, with a good mix of open fields and forest trails. From the hills in the pastures, you could see the Pacific Ocean, which made a good backdrop for the sunset. After the ride, it was back to town for dinner a the slowest restaurant in the world and then back to the hotel.