Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sliding down waterfalls

We were picked up on the dot for the ATV tour we had signed up for. I must say, Costa Rican punctuality is impressive!

Alphonso, our tour guide took us on an ATV test drive and after determining that I was a lousy driver, decided to take the easier route to the waterfall. But, more confident of DH's expertise behind the wheel after the short drive to the waterfall, he relented and took us on the more challenging route that led to a local farm and a river. We had a refreshing dip in the river and returned to the hotel, where we had a sumptuous lunch of casada (rice and beans, chicken, salad, mashed potatoes, fried banana, and a mixed fruit juice). A friendly parrot kept us company during lunch. Animals and birds freely roam about least one per establishment and several on the roads...leashes, cages and crates seem to be non-existent.

After a nap, the van from DeSafio Tour Company picked us up, taking us to the base (a charming open structure with a storage room and restrooms on the first floor and an open balcony and kitchen on the second floor). This area was so remote, they did not have electric lines. Outfitted with helmets, wet stinky gloves and a harness, we left on our Lost Canyon Rappelling Adventure. It was called the "Lost Canyon", our guide Carlos explained, because they had lost many tourists on the trip. Again, DH and I were their only customers. There were 3 guides in all.

We hiked through the rain forest to our first rappel site. Carlos demonstrated the technique, but I was so acutely aware of the depth of the waterfall, I was scarcely listening to a word he said. The fact that hundreds of children had done this before me did not do anything to comfort me.

The first waterfall was short, but technical; we had to use our feet and step down carefully. My first rappel landed me smack on my butt in a deep pool of water, but Douglas, the other guide yanked the rope to lower me on dry ground. DH slid down in similar fashion. We were both awkward and clumsy in action, but gained confidence after we realized we were not expected to do anything and the guides were in total control. We walked through little pools and caves in the forest, splashing about and acting silly.

The third waterfall was pretty deep and all the merriment evaporated as we stared down in dismay. Carlos assured us that all we had to do was lower ourselves one step at a time, we could control our speed at any time by tightening the grip on the rope. Which was true. This rappel was surprisingly easier than the last, except for one rocky ledge, where we had to use our feet. DH held on to the rope tight while he rappelled and the friction heated his glove through. At the end of the rappel, the ropes were baking hot due to the constant rubbing.

The fourth rappel was the deepest, but the least technical. We were practically lowered down upside down, without having to use our feet.

Toward the end of the tour, it started pouring. This has become a regular occurence, every afternoon. After a few hours of the deluge, when the roads and trails are flooded, the rain stops abruptly, the sun comes out, birds flit about and the water drains off leaving no evidence of the downpour. We hiked to the start in the pouring rain.

We had an early dinner, prepared by the Tour Company's talented cook (rice and beans again, veggies, salad, chicken in gravy, passion fruit juice (the juices here are delicious) and coffee. I must say, despite all this activity, I am never hungry!

We were driven back in the downpour, in the tour company's trailer-truck.

I did not realize how exhausted all this activity made me. After a bath, I lay on the bed and within a few minutes, was fast asleep. I slept for more than 10 hours.

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