Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Monteverde

**This is a blog from back in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Since I am just now putting it up I'll leave it on top so you see it! And one day, you can see the pictures from it!**


First of all Monteverde is difficult to get to. This was intentional--in order to keep the place from becoming too heavily trafficked and to preserve the cloud forest they left the roads to Monteverde unpaved. I think you can ride a horse from La Fortuna to Monteverde faster than you can drive. I opted for the quickest way to get between the two, which is to drive to the lake, cross the lake in a boat and then take a second boat from there. Even still, it's about 3 hours of rough, but incredibly scenic traveling.


An interesting fact about Monteverde is that it was started by American Quakers. When they refused to be drafted in the Korean War (Quakers are pacifists) they decided to resettle elsewhere. Apparently Canada was too cold and it was difficult for foreigners to buy property in Mexico at the time, so they settled in Costa Rica (who by that time had already dissolved their military--so it was a good fit).


They started a dairy farm and cheese factory to sustain themselves, which still provides the area with fresh milk, cheese and, my favorite, homemade ice cream (I tried the condensed milk with figs and it was RICH). They also set aside quite a bit of the land as a reserve. This protected area has now become the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. I could tell you a bunch of facts about the reserve, but you probably don't care.


It is beautiful, I will tell you that. And full of animals! In my time here I have seen a sloth, a monkey, teensy frogs, a tarantula, dozens of hummingbirds, sleeping birds on my night tour (so cute!), all kinds of bizarre insects, and maybe my favorite--a couple handfuls of Coati.


While here I also participated in a Monteverde must--a canopy tour, otherwise known as zip lines of death. To start it off I did a hanging (swinging...) bridge tour that was beautiful (even if it was raining) and actually a lot of fun. The English group was huge so the Spanish guide talked me into (not being lazy and) going with the 4 of them instead. It was a good choice. We ended the tour by him making me (tricking me?) into climbing up THE INSIDE of a ficus tree (probably about 100 feet up, with no security devices). It started to get narrow at the top, but I knew there was no way I could safely climb back down, so up I went until I could climb back onto one of the hanging bridges. Still shaking I had no idea what I was up for as I went to the zip lines.


Most of the zip lines were slightly panic inducing (you braked at the end by squeezing your gloved hand on the cable) but not too bad. They moved you along so fast you didn't have time to get scared. Towards the end they hooked you up the "Superman" cable. Through a huge valley you fly Superman style through the air, spotting your tiny shadow on the ground below. It was frightening, but also a lot of fun. 

They wrapped things up with a Tarzan swing. Nobody exactly knew what that meant, which turned out to be a good thing. You had to go one by one onto a suspended bridge (which was a lot like walking the plank). While you waited you just saw people disappear and scream. We kept asking the guys in charge what all the thing involved and the only real answer we got was--you jump and you scream. OK.


I was probably the third to go and by the time you walk all the way out on the plank 260 feet up you start to wonder what exactly it is that you are doing. They double checked my harness, opened a little gate and then told me to jump. Um, OK. I was still trying to figure out what was going on when they told me to bend my knees and pushed me off.


Just thinking about it makes my throat start to close up. SCARIEST TING I HAVE EVER DONE.


You free fall until the cable catches you and then you swing out 100 feet. Ideally that is the end of it, but they missed my break so I was lucky enough to swing back and forth a couple times.When I was finally lowered to the ground he told me, "You can stand up now." To which I responded, "I don't think I can."


Ah. I can't properly describe how incredibly terrifying the thing was because I have been actively trying to repress the memory.


The End.


(shudder)

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