The Costa Rican Canopy
Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
299Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
TRAVEL Saturday, October 2, 1999
My Costa Rica tour - at treetop height
IT WAS 8 p.m. as I approached the giant Kapok tree where I was about to embark on my 11-tree canopy tour through Rincon de la Vieja forest in Costa Rica. The entire forest was pitch black. My only method of vision would be by way of a little lamp attached to my forehead. Our group consisted of myself, my girlfriend and three guides, Daniel, Allan and Theo.
On the first platform, 25 metres above the jungle floor, Daniel gave instructions. I was attached by a pulley to the cable that ran to the second platform
Theo was already on the second platform. He was to yell "break, break" as I approached. Butterflies churned in my stomach, then I was off, flying through the jungle forest at great speed.
Somehow, either my headlight wasn't pointing straight or my eyes weren't looking forward. In any event, I couldn't see two feet in front of me. Through some sort of miscommunication, Theo failed to yell the all important "break, break" but he caught me abruptly and securely by using my right foot against his crotch.
He made some very painful angry sounds but thankfully didn't take it out on me. As I stood on the second platform, I immediately recalled the feeling I had a scant year earlier on my first canopy tour. Now my fear of heights had vanished; with my newly inspired power of flight, I was ready to take on the world.
With the exception of the second-last of the nine cables, which I would swing along on this night, it was pretty uneventful. No jungle sounds whatsoever. The second-last swing is called the cave. As well as being the longest run, it is also semi-blocked by foliage. My main, very important instruction for this trip was to keep my legs together in order to avoid leaving important body parts behind
Finally I reached the ninth platform. From there, it was a 5-metre climb to another platform. It was now 9:30 p.m. This 5 metre x 5 metre platform, 25 metres above the ground, would be my home for the night.
Here I was, in a sleeping bag, in a tree, in the jungle/forest in the middle of Costa Rica. The guides were soon fast asleep. It was then that the sounds of the forest erupted. Aside from howler monkeys and night birds, I have no idea what sort of creatures were emitting these fascinating sounds. I thought of Jane and Tarzan and what a completely exhilarating experience I was having.
Shortly after midnight I fell into a deep sleep. At exactly 4:45 a.m., I was awakened by the most ungodly, almost demonic sound I have ever heard. It was howler monkeys and we were surrounded.
Daniel explained that these sounds, which two or more of the howlers would emit simultaneously, were a form of communication between their troop and other troops within the forest. The sun was rising and I could now see them clearly. They were everywhere, big ones, small ones, young ones, old ones. What a sight to behold! My only regret was that my telephoto lens camera was not with me. I had been talked into leaving it at home.
As Theo packed his sleeping gear, one of the bigger howlers peed on him. Everybody laughed (except Theo, of course).
After coffee, juice and cookies we continued in daylight to our final two descending platforms.
The canopy tour at Ricon de la Vieja Park is more exciting by day. But spending the night in my own tree was an experience unto itself. By 7 a.m. I was back at the lodge from where I'd set forth 12 hours earlier.
Jack Drury lives in Toronto