Costa Rica: Zipping, Motoring and Splashing

Tuesday was the sort of day that made me wonder who on earth was living this adventurous life? Surely, not me! We were picked up a little after 7 a.m. in front of our condo by a young Costa Rican who wore braces and called himself Alex. Seven a.m. sounds early unless you are still operating on east coast time, aided by the early Costa Rican sunrise.  After an hour long ride through the African Palm plantation over a rocky road (our guides dubbed it the 'Tico massage'), we arrived at La Selvita's Canopy Tour. We were welcomed with a 'typical' breakfast of rice, beans, tortillas and fresh pineapple -- all made by a cook up in the mountains. After that, we were ready for some zip lining!

And man, was it amazing! I felt like I was flying through the jungle. The guides, three of them, were fantastic, giving us plenty of tips for the optimal experience as well as a million tidbits about the flora and fauna in the jungle. They even proved to be wise guys. Alex,though only eighteen, was fluent in English and smart as a whip. As he offered a serious explanation of the walking palm, another guide in the back vigorously shook a rooster palm, making most of us jump and some of us (read: me) scream.

Hi-jinx aside, sailing through the canopy is an experience that doesn't truly translate into pictures. While the you see the green of the jungle and the length of the line, you can't feel the wind in your face, hear the birds calling or feel the dizzy euphoria of looking down into the jungle while flying over it. Here, Tom is leaving the first platform. The large building to the left is the rustic restaurant.

And our younger son leaves the first platform - cool as a cucumber. Those two summers at Hideaway prepared him well!

Zach professed to be cured of his fear of heights after this experience.

And me, on one of the longest lines. Are there enough words in the English language to describe all this green?

One of the lines was long but slowed toward the end. As you can see, our younger son got stuck and had to be 'rescued'.

Then, as if ten ziplines through the jungle was not enough, we donned even bigger helmets and headed out to the dry river basin for some ATVing. Is that a verb? Probably not, but you know what I mean.

First, I rode behind Zach, letting him drive but we had no idea that we were going to be descending on a gravel road that snaked like an 'S' and ended in gullies on either side. Within minutes, Zach and I were in one of those gullies. Alex, our intrepid and impossibly unruffled guide, asked for Tom's help to maneuver the ATV out and it was agreed that I would take over the driving. Now, I'd never driven an ATV before either and definitely not across a rocky river bed. I was pretty nervous at first but once I got the hang of it, it was fun. Especially for Alex who made a show of splashing us through rivers and kicking dust around corners.

I admit, there were moments that I wondered about the fact that I was entrusting all of us to an 18-year old guide who liked to do donuts. In fact, when we paused for a rest halfway there, I wondered why.  And when he said that we were getting a 'free' lunch, I wondered about that, too. We ended our ride at the entrance to a path leading us to a lovely, private waterfall.  Alex told us to take our time but it started to rain and then pour so we booked it back to the restaurant. It was there that we found out the reason for our leisurely pace and the extra meal. The van had broken down and we had to wait for the next one.  But we'd been here a whole two days already. We were on 'Tico time' and we didn't care.

We arrived back at the condo around 3:30, about 90 minutes later than we expected, ready for a nap before dinner. Remember, we had left at 7 a.m. -- we were all dirty and tired. So imagine my surprise when the someone knocked at the door just as I was ready for a hot shower. See, the concierge had arranged for a private chef to make dinner in our condo. We knew that, of course, but we had thought he was coming at 5:30.

We rebounded and I've got to say -- if you ever want to feel like royalty -- hire a private chef to serve dinner in your home. There's nothing like someone cooking a gourmet meal in the comfort of your home, serving it and cleaning up all the mess. And since we had someone in the condo, we were on our best behavior. The kids didn't demand to watch TV while we ate, no one brought a book to the table and best of all - I wasn't sinking into my seat, wiping sweat from my brow as everyone dug in. So, yeah, as I said above -- pretty much a rock star of a day that left me feeling like I'd had the experience of a lifetime.