Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Costa Rica: Day Four

Tuesday, October 23, 2012
After another delicious breakfast and a couple cups of coffee, we were ready for another day of activities in La Fortuna. Today was going to be filled with fun and we were excited to get started. So far everything was so much better than we imagined, we couldn't wait to see what else was in store.

Look at the amazing view from our breakfast table!
Chris and Jackie - Ready for another day of fun activities!
Joel and I getting in some morning cuddles before our ride arrives.
We started with a another drive through the countryside to the northern side of Arenal, the large volcano in the area. Once we arrived, we were treated to amazing views of Lake Arenal and the volcano. We had to pull ourselves away from the amazing views so we could hear the safety talk and get our gear on so we could go zip-lining.

The beautiful Costa Rican countryside and a new view of Arenal
Joel enjoying the view of Lake Arenal
It was the third day in a row that I had worn a helmet and the second day in a row that I had worn a harness, but I too excited to care about the bruises I was getting! To get to the start of the zip-lines we took a short ride on the Sky Tram. We were treated to amazing views of the surrounding countryside and Lake Arenal. The Sky Tram took us right through the center of the jungle where we saw leaves bigger than my head! The zip-lines are just one of the many activities in this private reserve near El Castillo, on the north-facing slopes of the Cordillera de Tilarán.

Jackie and Chris ready to ride to the top.
Me and Joel in our safety helmets, ready to get this adventure started!

The lush, green jungle of Costa Rica
Me and Joel having some fun with the camera on the ride up to the top
The amazing view of Lake Arenal from the top of the mountain.
Once at the top of the mountain, we were treated to juice and a couple photo opportunities before it was time to practice our zip-lining. I had been zip-lining on Friday Harbor and was excited to learn they had a better system for breaking than using your hand. I didn't really like that aspect of my previous experience. After learning what to do, it was no time at all before we were hooked onto our first zip-line. I thought for sure I would have a bit of warning, but the guide just let go and before I knew what was happening I was flying!

Jackie, Chris, Me and Joel - getting in one last photo before we take our first zip-line ride
Joel saw one of the guides go down the line and got a bit nervous!
Me, coming in for my first landing!
Joel taking off on his second line.
Jackie coming in for a landing!
Here comes Chris, ready to land.
I love it!
It was AMAZING! The first cable was 1,550 feet long, 656 feet off the ground and we traveled 44 mph! I could see for miles and the view was breathtaking! I remember saying, "oh my gosh, oh my gosh, this is amazing!" but the wind was so loud that I could hardly hear myself! Thirty seconds later and I was coming in for my first landing! It was so cool! We went on six different zip lines and each one got better and better. The longest line was 1,440 feet, which is the length of two football fields and we got up to speeds of 50 miles per hour! One of the lines went right through the center of the jungle. It was thrilling to have trees flying past you as you zipped down the line. I loved every minute and wanted to go again!

I had the best time! It was such an adrenalin rush!
Jackie and I at the last landing spot.
Me and Jackie - Let's go again!
I like Joel liked it!
After we finished our zip-line tour, we were dropped off at Club Rio for our next two adventures, Mountain Biking and Horse Back Riding. Up first was our bike ride. This was Joel's pick for our activities, so he was pretty excited to get started. We had two options, to go on the experienced mountain biking trail or stick to the Club Rio trails. We decided to stick to the more mellow trails, as Joel was the only "experienced biker" among us. Turns out this means riding the bikes down very steep hills with the brakes on the entire time for about a mile while praying your brakes don't give out and send you to your death. I was nervous that I might loose control or hit the smallest rock and go flying over the handle bars. We made it safely to the bottom of the hill and decided the activity was falsely advertised. It should have been called, glicycling (a mix of gliding and bicycling).

Joel was very excited to get started on our bike ride.
Chris is all ready to roll.
Safety first!
We followed the map we were given to the Jungle Cat exhibits where we walked around and saw lots of cool cats. The first cat was a puma, also known as a cougar, named Guapo because he like to groom himself a lot. He was a beautiful cat. He was so close to the edge of the cage that it was extremely tempting to try to touch him, but I kept telling myself, he is a jungle cat - he could rip me to shreds before I knew what he was doing! I also learned that there is such a thing as cat schizophrenia. We saw a margay with this disorder and he was pretty aggressive when we were watching him. He was hissing and growling the entire time we were near his enclosure. We also saw ocelots and jaguarundis. Before we knew it, was time to eat our lunch before our horse back riding.

Guapo, the puma
This little guy is an ocelot
This ocelot was so friendly that you were allowed to touch it. It was purring like crazy!
Sleepy kitty...
Joel is enjoying his juice at lunch.
Me and Jackie are also enjoying our juice! So delicious!
Our lunch included chicken, red beans and rice with fried plantains.
After another delicious lunch featuring rice, beans and a protein, we saddled up and hit the trails. I was riding Negro, which is Spanish for black, essentially the Spanish equivalent to Blackie. Which was perfect, because that is the name of the horse in one of my favorite movies, True Grit! Joel made his horse look like a miniature pony, he was so big on it. Joel felt right at home on a horse, as he grew up with horses and even barrel raced in the local fair for several years. While on their trip to Australia Jackie and Chris took horseback riding lessons and so we were all pretty comfortable on horses. It wasn't long before Jackie had talked our guide into switching horses (her original horse was too slow for her taste) and into letting us gallop. It was so fun to let the horse go and run across the open countryside. There wasn't a lot of flat ground in this area of Costa Rica, so we didn't run for a long time, but it was still fun.

Me and Negro
My horse and Joel's horse - buddies!
Joel and I horseback ridding through the jungle.
Joel, Me, and Jackie riding down the trail.
For parts of our ride we went up pretty steep hillsides, but our horses knew what to do.
A new born pony! They didn't even have a name for it yet!
Joel, Chris, Jackie and I enjoying the view of Arenal on our horseback ride.
We rode our horses around the grounds and along the trails. The countryside is so beautiful in Costa Rica, it is green and lush, just amazing. Club Rio was working on building a new area for the monkeys, but our guide took us to their temporary location so we could see them. I was so eager to see some monkeys because we had seen any yet! The monkeys went crazy when we arrived. The guide said that they love people and don't get to see too many people in their temporary location, so they were super excited to see us. They were swinging everywhere, making noise, and playing with each other. I was sitting on my horse near one of the cages when all of sudden, I felt a tug on my stirrup. I looked down to see that a monkey had reached out and gotten a hold of it! I didn't know what to do! My first thought was to kick the monkey's arm away, but then thought I better not kick a monkey. I looked up and saw that the guide had seen what was happening and he looked a bit panicked. That made me panic. It turned into a bit of scene, but Jackie helped me back up my horse and eventually the monkey just let go. Goodness - I was almost held hostage by a monkey!

Me at the monkey cage - I've got great helmet hair!
Me and monkey played a game of tug-of-war. I let the monkey win.
Another amazing view from our ride.
We even saw a toucan! Did you know they always travel in pairs?
While waiting for our ride back up to the top of the hillside, I saw a tiny lizard in the bushes.
After our horse back ride, we were able to go for a swim in the many hot spring pools they have at the The Springs Resort & Spa, where Club Rio is located and where ABC filmed The Bachelor. There are over 30 different hot springs with varying temperatures and mineral levels. We tested every pool and had a good time relaxing in the warmth of the hottest pools. The view of Arenal was amazing from the top pool. We ended our evening by watching the sun set behind Arenal from the warmth of the hot springs.

The beautiful hot springs! This one was one of my favorite pools.
Watching the sunset behind Arenal from the hot springs.

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