Friday, January 25, 2008

Zip Lining & More In Costa Rica

If you take a 40 minute drive from the port town of Puntarenas in Costa Rica along well-paved roads and head towards Mahogany Park, you will initially pass a series of large, modern homes with neatly trimmed shrubbery and later on, as the route takes you deeper into the interior, you will pass through smaller neighborhoods in more remote areas where dozens of houses are roofed in what appears to be industrial strength corrugated metal, some of them with missing windows, some with dirt floors, you will see large families bathing outside in the cool river water together, groups of children riding their bicycles up and down the road, and unsupervised chickens and dogs ambling lazily wherever they please. It is here that you will eventually find a small entrance to Mahogany Park. Once inside this protected swath of primary jungle it will nearly vibrate with the sounds of animal and plant life – the gentle rustling of leaves in the warm wind that sound like the far off crashing of waves on the shore, the skittering of iguanas across the sun-dappled floor, the chirping and beating of wings coming from somewhere, anywhere above you in a nearly unfathomable vast expanse of wilderness so sensuous in its lushness, that dripping with vines and adorned with wild orchids you can’t help but think yourself lucky for discovering this new world before you - seemingly untouched by man.

This was where Matt and I found ourselves on our first time in Costa Rica. It is impossible not to be charmed by this country that seems so full of life and beauty, both the people and the terrain are lively, engaging and generous in their warmth and spirit. After arriving at the reception area of Mahogany Park and putting on our gear to go zip lining with – a helmet and a confusing array of harnesses and pulleys – we walked deeper into the jungle with our guides, quietly soaking in the beauty of the wildlife around us and pausing only at the guides’ behest to smell the leaf of a lime tree or to taste the essence of a plant used to flavor licorice. One short safety lecture later, and full of helpful hints like “Do not remove your safety line from the tree” (which I certainly had never even considered, wanting to make it out of this zip lining adventure alive) we began. Our guides hooked us in and we were off. Any terror I had initially felt dissipated and was quickly replaced by a feeling of weightlessness as I flew through the air, feeling as though I was suspended by nothing but the clouds, and to be at eye level with colorful macaws and screaming howler monkeys while your feet zip over the enormous tops of hundred-year old trees, this rush of green beneath your feet as you zoom above it all – it unearthed in me, as I would imagine it has in other adults, a rediscovered sense of childish awe for the natural world around me.

After spending several hours zip lining and hiking in the park we ended up back in Puntarenas, famished by our adventures and feeling celebratory for just surviving. We indulged in a few local beers (both the Imperial and the Pilsen were light and refreshing) at the Gugas Bar and Restaurant, just a few blocks back from the beach and decided to order the local specialty for lunch, the Casados plate - which generally includes either steak/fish/chicken (we had fish) as well as beans, rice, fried plantain, noodles and salad. All this for only $9 was a total bargain, and the fried plantain was outrageously good as was the freshly caught fish – spicy, flaky and delicious. Later on we wandered to a tiny oceanfront bar shack called Bun Bum (for the name alone we couldn’t resist going inside) and treated ourselves to a few more $2 Imperials. For the price of one New York City martini you can eat an enormous meal and get a local beer in Costa Rica. While for the savvy traveler, these kind of prices alone might make it a tempting vacation destination, Costa Rica also has so much more to entice tourists – the beauty of tropical forests, a warm and vibrant people, and more adventure oriented activities than you can shake a stick at. We definitely plan on heading back here as soon as we can get around to it…until then, I’ll be dreaming of fried plantains.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I missed you this week!! Glad you're zip lining away. Amazing!!!