New Years Day

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Alajuela,
Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

We woke up at 6:30am on Tuesday morning to hear the rain pummeling the roof of our little villa and wondered how the rain would affect our plans for ziplining which we had booked for 9am? Perhaps it's just a passing storm and will clear/burn-off before 9am? By 8:15 it was still pouring, and Luis (the kindly hotel manager) phoned and was able to postpone our booking to the following morning. Tuesday turned out to be a slow and uneventful day. Wednesday was not.

After our regular Gran Arenal breakfast of eggs, gallo pinto, toast, fruit, etc it was off to Ecoglide to try our hand at ziplining aka a Canopy Tour. For those of you not familiar with this, let me explain how it works; First a guide straps (very tightly) a harness around ones waist and thighs, the same kind of harness that is worn for rock-climbing. Attached to your harness are various straps, clips and a pulley. Next they fit you with a glove on your weak hand, a hard hat and a leather attachment for your "strong" hand that will be your brake. Once you are fully kitted out they take you to a small platform about three feet off the ground where your pulley is attached to a wire strung between two trees and you “glide” along the length of the wire and use your “brake” hand to stop at the end. What fun! Once you’ve demonstrated your ability to do this, off you go in the back of a truck, up the side of the volcano into the dense rainforest. The reason that they call these Canopy Tours is that the “real” ziplines are strung up in the trees in the canopy of the rainforest, or even above it in some places (up to 150ft above the ground). Ecoglide has 12 ziplines varying in length from about 35m to 1500m, reaching speeds of up to 60 kph! Now, those of you who know how Derek is with heights can imagine how much fun it was … for the rest of us watching him, I mean! In his debrief afterwards we learned that he hadn’t seen many trees, but could describe in detail the metal braiding of the ropes and the pulley equipment J If the adrenaline of the ziplines wasn’t enough, Ecoglide also has a “Tarzan swing”. In between some of the ziplines you have the “opportunity” to throw yourself off a 50ft platform on the end of a rope, swinging out into the wide-blue yonder, the bungee rope then projecting you up higher than you started by 20 or 30 ft. It took Alex two attempts to find the courage, but good on the boy - he did it! (after watching his big sister go first with no hesitation … can you believe it?).

Thursday was New Years Eve and what better way to celebrate than go and see what Mother Nature has to offer in the way of fireworks….it was off to hike on Arenal Volcano, a volcano that has been active for 41 years following a period of dormancy of 500-700 years. En route to the volcano we stopped several times to see/photo wildlife and were lucky to see several toucans and a white-faced monkey (this was a real highlight for Alex who had been hoping to see one ever since we arrived in Costa Rica). On the volcano we hiked to a waterfall among the lava flow from the initial 1968 eruption, learned about many plant species in the rainforest, visited the museum (complete with seismograph of current volcano activity which was thankfully very smooth) and visited the observation deck.

After the volcano it was off to Baldi hot springs – a collection of twenty five different pools at varying temperatures fed by hot thermal springs. Each pool is secluded by plants or rock features and has different attributes. One has waterslides, some have waterfalls, there are jacuzzis, cold plunge pools, and a couple have swim up bars. We had heard mixed reports and weren’t sure what to expect, but we had a blast. It was much less crowded and much less commercialized than we expected – would definitely recommend a visit.

Although our “package” included drop off at our hotel, we decided to stop in town at the park and gather with the locals there to ring in the new year. Things are done a little differently here compared to what we’re used to. There wasn’t an “official” fireworks display, instead, people bring their own fireworks and let them off randomly. All was well and good until a couple of guys near to us (who seemed to have had a few too many drinks) were setting off fireworks from their hands! Still, we survived and had plenty of fun. We hope that you too had a good time welcoming the new year in and that 2010 will be a happy and healthy one for you.

Tomorrow we move on to spend a couple of days in a tree-house…we’re hoping for more monkeying around and maybe to find a tree frog or two! 'Til next time…. Pura Vida.
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