For anyone with a semi-adventurous spirit but too apprehensive to try thrill-seeking rushes like skydiving or bungee jumping, zip-lining might be the experience for you. Zip-lining allows people to glide from the top to the bottom of the inclined cable by holding onto, or attaching to, a freely moving pulley. It’s become popular from everywhere from Jamaica to Thailand to the state of Georgia but it’s thought to have originated in Costa Rica, a country known for its dazzling array of outdoor activities to match its incredible flora and fauna.
During a semester abroad in Costa Rica, friends and I traveled to the region of Arenal, home to the world famous volcano of the same name, for our spring break. While we did the quintessential touristy activities there-partaking in the hot springs at the Tabacon Resort, hiking to la catarata (waterfall), eating incredibly delicious and incredibly cheap meals at the many sodas (a Costa Rican version of a diner) that were scattered throughout the area, I knew that the inevitable was coming-a zip-line tour.
It’s not that I was an anti-thrill seeker but to me, zip-lining was much more serious much much serious adventure than, for instance, riding on an upside down roller-coaster. Traveling high along a steel cable at a considerable height (some cables start at over 30 feet), operating at fast speeds, screamed out terrifying to me. However, not wanting to be the odd person out in my group, I paid my colones (the currency in Costa Rica) and signed up.
Inwardly I felt foolish over my apprehension when I saw a girl in our group who looked to be no more than 10. While there are height and weight restrictions for going on a zip-line tour, fearlessness apparently begins at any age as evidenced by our youngest group mate whose excitement over going zip-lining could not be contained and whose mom had to repeatedly tell her “soon” every time she asked when would they be “flying through the trees.”
Although my walk up the steep flights of steps to the first platform felt as if I were going to the guillotine, the kind and joking nature of the workers who attach and detach your harness from the trolley at each platform quickly put me at ease. Indeed I almost forgot the doomsday talk they had given earlier, which included words like paf (splat) and muerto (dead), when instructing us on proper braking techniques.
After watching members of the group zip off among the birds, letting out screams of exuberance, my turn was up. After strapping me in, one of the workers asked me if I was lista (ready), I said yes and he pushed me off the platform. What greeted me next was a physical rush I have never had since, the wind rushing in my face, the sound of the whooshing of the trees as I traveled rapidly by them. Although I ended up braking too soon, the image of crashing into a tree permanently ingrained in my mind, which resulted in me having to physically pull myself the last couple of feet to the platform, I was hooked. I awaited each course with eager anticipation and after each one I felt incredibly alive and bursting with energy.
In a country like Costa Rica, where the calls of birds and other animals is common, and there is a constantly flurry of activity from high up in the tree tops, it’s only through zip-lining that one can feel close and connected with nature. The calls are near to you, the flurry of activity taking place right alongside you. While I didn’t spot any quetzals or toucans, I knew that they and other creatures were near. When you walk on ground level, you’re amongst humans in their natural habitat, but when you’re zip-lining up in the rain forest canopy, you’re definitely in foreign territory. I’m certainly glad I tried it and would recommend the experience to anyone who’s looking for adventure.