The border crossing was surprisingly easy - in fact Trevor said he had never got through so quickly. But it was the first time I regretted not having a proper backpack - the road was covered in mud and the only option was to carry our packs on our shoulders. This made me realise once again that I need to jettison some 'stuff'- carrying 23kg on your shoulder is not a pleasant experience. But if this is the only time that the wheels let me down then I will be happy as the advantages so far outweigh the disadvantages
Our minibus to take us to Monteverde was waiting for us on the Costa Rican side so we made a quick getaway. It immediately struck me that Costa Rica is a lot more green and lush than Nicaragua, and with a much more hilly landscape. In fact the last few kilometers to Monteverde was up a very rough uneven road so it was slow going - you can easily see why the chicken buses don’t go there.
Our hotel in Monteverde was one of the nicest we stayed in Central America, and had very hot water! This was much needed in a place where being so high up means it frequently rains and temperatures plummet at night time. It was an interesting decision therefore that we opted to have an ice cream on our walk around town that afternoon - a recommendation from my brother, and it was as good as he said. The area is famous for its dairy produce as in 1949 some Quakers left the USA in opposition to the Korean War and headed to Monteverde. They chose it for two reasons – a few years prior, the Costa Rican government had abolished its military and the cool, mountain climate was ideal for dairy farming.
The evening activities were somewhat dictated by the World Series with Andrew and Trevor wanting to watch it. This allowed me some time to organise a few things for our trip to Peru (when Andrew leaves me unattended in Cuzco for a week!) and for the remainder of the group to sample the local rum with some entertaining consequences!
The main activities in Monteverde revolve around the cloud forest
. We decided the best way to see this was up in the canopy itself and as such chose to do the ‘Extremo’ experience. Whilst I’m trying to master basic Spanish, I suspect it should not have been too difficult to understand the meaning of the word ‘Extremo’. So I really shouldn’t have been surprised to find myself zip lining across a ravine, 500 foot in the air. Not all of you will know that I actually have a fear of heights and I really didn’t comprehend what I was going to be doing when I signed up for zip lining. Surprisingly I actually felt alright on the first few wires as they went through the trees, and it wasn’t until the 90 foot rappel to the forest floor that my legs started shaking and I had a mini meltdown. This rappel was quickly followed by a Tarzan swing which had a short ‘freefall’ at the start. After walking out to the end of the platform and turning back four times, I had a real psychological battle with myself to pluck up the courage to do it. With a little reassurance from Andrew that it was perfectly safe, I made a giant step towards conquering my fear and swung off the platform. With hindsight it was actually quite fun and I did get a big cheer from everyone! After a couple more wires which by now seemed quite amateur, we reached the piece de resistance - ‘Superman’. The guides readjusted our harnesses before we walked up to the final platform, so it wasn’t until rounding the corner on the walk up that you could see what was happening
. There was little time to take in what I was seeing before it was my turn, and after asking the guides "Am I going to die?!’ a few times as they strapped my feet up into a rope sling and clipped on my harness, I was off. 1000m across a 500 foot ravine, with the trees a long way down! It was beautiful scenery but a somewhat scary experience, especially when my legs started shaking and I thought they were going to fall out of the sling. Forty seconds felt like a lifetime! But the adrenalin rush at the end and the satisfaction that I had done it was incredible.
Next stop La Fortuna.
On Thursday morning we had an early start to catch the ferry from Ometepe back to the mainland. We were racing to get to the border early before the notorious queues started building. We had a very fast and somewhat scary taxi ride from the ferry terminal to the border - we stopped for petrol and still managed to get to the border at the same time as the other car - clocking 120km/hr and a near miss with a truck!