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Adventures and Near-Misadventures in Costa Rica - what I learned

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May 5th, 2010, 06:56 PM
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Adventures and Near-Misadventures in Costa Rica - what I learned

Since you all were the ones that helped us plan our trip, I want to start loading up what I learned. Here is the first installment.

Costa Rica – April 17 – April 25, 2010

SUMMARY:

PLANNING: This was our first trip to Costa Rica or to Central America for that matter. Most of our planning was done by reading and asking questions on the forums at fodors.com. People there suggested the best places to go for a short trip, critiqued possible itineraries, and gave advice on everything from the airline to hotels to activities. I have them to thank for our astounding trip.

ITINERARY: Our trip lasted a week. We arrived at 9:30 AM on a Sunday and left the following Sunday at 5:30 PM. We spent two nights in Arenal, two in Manuel Antonio, two north of Jaco for a wedding, and one in San Jose. I would have liked another night in Arenal.

TOUR BOOKS: I checked many tour guides out from the library and finally settled on two to buy. I bought The New Key to Costa Rica and Costa Rica for Dummies ($13.57 and $14.95 respectively from Amazon). I was pleased with both books. Before leaving home, I took the books apart and created a booklet for each area that we would visit using a comb-binder that I bought at Office Max. However, they can also do this for you or you could attach the pages together in another way. Taking only the pages that we needed saved on weight. Combining more than one tour book in a booklet for each destination makes the information much handier.

MAP: I also bought a water-proof map of Costa Rica. It was $11.95. When we arrived, the rental car agent gave us a free map. However, I still think the waterproof map was worth the money. It had a lot of detail. As nice as the map was, see my note later about using a GPS.

AIRLINE: Our trip was in April and we bought our tickets in February. I checked fare choices on cfares.com and purchased using Orbitz. We flew out of Chicago O’Hare on Taca Airlines. The price of $265.42 each was good and I preferred to arrive in the morning rather than late at night. I had never heard of the airline, so asked about it on Fodor’s. It is a Central American airline and I would use it again. The planes and staff were fine. We were able to each check two suitcases (up to 50 pounds) at no charge. They also did not charge for headphones and served food that was quite tasty. Information was given both in Spanish and in English.

When I checked in online before going to the airport, I was given the chance to change seats. Each time, we were able to choose better seats. It pays to check.

HOTELS: Again, I used Fodorites to decide where to stay. We were pleased with each of our choices.

CHICAGO: We used the Super 8 in Elk Grove Village for their park and fly package. It was $91 after tax. I found it on the parksleepfly.com website (thanks to abram).

ARENAL: We stayed at the Arenal Observatory Lodge. The road to the lodge was dirt and rough. However, there are no longer any potholes and it was worth the drive. If you want to stay in air conditioning and watch Amazing Race on TV, don’t stay here, as they had neither. However, if you want instead to be in the midst of nature and have a chance to see the volcano streams at night, stay here. The desk clerks were very helpful. There was a morning nature hike (free) and a very good breakfast buffet (also free). I had read that they only offered lunch and dinner buffets for over $20 and that the food wasn’t good. This is no longer true. We ate there both evenings and ordered from a menu. . Entrée prices started at under $10 for pasta or veggie options and went up. We were satisfied with the standard room. The rate was $117 per night, but I asked for a discount and paid $94.

MANUEL ANTONIO: We stayed at a spot that we found on VRBO as suggested by another Fodorite. It was awesome. For $94 per night, we had a kitchen, living area, bedroom with king bed and bathroom. Our balcony faced a rain forest. Our small complex also had a beautiful pool. We were the only people staying there, so it turned out to be a private pool. Its infinity edge faced the rainforest.

JACO: The reason for our trip was a wedding north of Jaco at Villa Calletas. It is a beautiful boutique hotel. Conde Nast 2009 Reader’s Choice Awards listed it as one of the top three hotels in Central America. It was $190 per night. It hangs on cliffs overlooking the ocean and featured free classes in yoga and palm-frond weaving.

SAN JOSE: We spent our last night in San Jose, so to have no troubles with getting to the airport. Mid-trip, I changed the reservation to the Holiday Inn Express near the airport. We had originally booked the Clarion, but after driving the first day, decided to simplify life and stay near the airport and rental car return rather than in the midst of the city. As it turned out, we were told that the Clarion was actually shut down the day of our stay for not paying its taxes. What a fortuitous switch in plans. The Holiday Inn Express was perfect. The rooms were nice, there was a tour desk, and it offered a free shuttle to the airport. There was a Denny’s, a Hampton, and a casino in the same complex. There were also two rental car agencies in the complex. Two more were within walking distance. This hotel featured free international calls which I have never before seen. It also had a luggage scale in the lobby which seems like a feature that should be added to other airport hotels. A free breakfast was included. The rate was about $130. ($110 plus $10 for the 2nd person, plus tax)

SPANISH: Unfortunately, neither my husband nor I speak Spanish. I thought about trying to learn before we went and made a list of all the words that I did know. It was not a very long list. My college age son pointed out that I should have learned Spanish instead of watching TV. Instead, I spent my time reading notes on Fodor’s. We found that the people that work with tourists such as the airline personnel, car rental agent, desk clerks and private guides speak very good English. However, the majority of the people do not. Communicating without a common language added to the adventure. However, I wish I’d learned more before we left.

RENTAL CAR: We booked from Budget. At the airport, Budget was the only rental dealer with a line. I would guess this was because the basic price was the cheapest when comparing rates on the Internet. However, this rate was insignificant compared to the true final price. We booked through Orbitz after booking the airfare. The basic rate was $84, but I added $76 for insurance through them. Everything that I read about driving in Costa Rica said to pay for insurance. Besides this insurance, I also printed and brought information about what was available by paying with Discover and brought our home car policy. I overheard the agent explaining to the person in front of us about the costs for insurance. Liability (required by Costa Rica) was about $14/day, damage with a $1000 deductible was about $21/day, and coverage to pay the deductible was another $14/day or so. So it would be easy to pay another $40 per day for coverage. I showed the agent the policy that I’d bought through Orbitz and we decided that I didn’t need the damage coverage. I paid for the liability coverage to be safe, but think my own policy at home would have covered it. In any case, think ahead what you want to do and don’t rely on what I did because it might not have been the best decision.

RENTAL PART 2: GPS – The rental agent also offered the rental of a GPS. We had debated about that since I had a good map and thought I’d read somewhere that the GPS didn’t include all the roads for Costa Rica. The people in front of us got it for peace of mind and my husband decided to do the same thing. We were very very very (it’s worth three very’s) thankful that we got it. Saying that the roads in Costa Rica are poorly marked is an understatement. Most of the time, they aren’t marked at all. I have no idea how we would have known where to turn without the GPS. On the way to Arenal, we missed a right turn and the GPS recalculated and led us through a town to where we needed to go. We never did signs to show us where to turn. Much later, my husband commented that we’d driven miles on that highway and never did see a sign telling us what highway we were on. The GPS was about $11 per day and it was worth every penny. Before we left, I checked to see if we could add the maps to our own GPS. We could have, but it was expensive. I’d have to check to see if it would have been cheaper than renting one, but I think not. I also wondered if it might have been possible to buy one in Costa Rica with the maps loaded onto it. However, I never saw anywhere where I thought they’d sell them. Renting it was simple and I think the best choice.

MONEY: Before we left, I decided I should check the exchange rate so that I’d have an idea of what things cost. On that day, 100 colones were equivalent to 18 cents, so 1000 colones would be $1.80. On the other side of the coin, $1.00 was 555.6 colones, so $100 was 55,560 colones. (Note - rates are constantly changing.)

After standing in a grocery store, going 100 colones is 18 cents, so 200 colones is 36 cents, and on and on, I realized there had to be an easier way to estimate quickly what something cost. I rounded the rate to 100 colones per 20 cents. I then realized that if something was in colones, you could take off the last three zero’s and double it and get a rough estimate of what it would be in dollars. For example, if something costs 15,000 colones, take off the last three zeros and get 15 and double it for $30.

You can check current exchange rates by doing a google search – but this will give you a quick and easy estimate.
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May 5th, 2010, 07:42 PM
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Glad you had a great trip. Your post is very informative and will be helpful to all.
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May 5th, 2010, 08:55 PM
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Sooo...did you have a good trip? I can't really tell because most of this post seems to be about hotels, car rental and air. Did you have a good time?
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May 5th, 2010, 09:32 PM
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I think OP did state that "I have them to thank for our astounding trip."

Practical traveling experiences are very helpful as a guide.
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May 5th, 2010, 10:02 PM
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Ibh- Yes. I did see that one sentence. Thanks. I was trying to dig a little deeper than hotels, car and air. That's all.
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May 6th, 2010, 02:53 AM
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Thanks for the great information. Ten of us are going next month so tips are very welcome. Do you mind saying where you stayed at MA?
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May 6th, 2010, 09:14 AM
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thanks for all the great info. I'm planning our first trip to Costa Rica and appreciate all the good info. How long is the drive from Arenal to Manuel Antonio? Are there any great stops/sights/activities you'd recommend along the way?
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May 6th, 2010, 10:05 AM
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Very informative post traveler2005, thanks so much. I'll have to try out the colones rate shortcut.
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May 6th, 2010, 10:17 AM
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traveler2005 - When I read your post on my Iphone last night and replied I was in no way implying your post was not useful or full of great information. I was on the forums when you were planning your trip and I was honestly just trying to ask if you had a wonderful time since most of your post was informational and not the feely good stuff. Reading back maybe it didn't some across that way...sorry...I think I was just exhausted.
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May 6th, 2010, 10:27 AM
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Glad you guys had fun! Any favorite activities?
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May 6th, 2010, 01:44 PM
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Actually, I was considering posting up my whole trip journal. That's why I said this was the first installment. I wanted to start off with the basics.

The trip journal might be too long though.

To answer questions:

In Manuel Antonio, we stayed here: http://www.vrbo.com/164069 Looking back at the listing, it has information for more than one of the units, I think. We had a king bed with a single also in the room. No washer/dryer (although there was a note that you could get laundry done for a reasonable price). The pool was lovely. There was wireless internet.

The drive from Arenal to Manuel Antonio was about 6 hours. Three different people suggested three different routes. We took the one around the lake. We didn't stop much on the way because we needed to be at MA before the office closed at 5. We did stop at the "Crocodile Bridge." More about that when I put in daily information.

Favorite activities - lots - I'll share them in pieces.
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May 6th, 2010, 01:52 PM
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Saturday - April 17, 2010 – home to Chicago

No matter how far in advance I start planning, the days before a trip are always a flurry of activity and stress. This trip was no different. It was slightly complicated in that my husband had an employee recognition dinner on Friday and we had an event to attend for our son at college on Saturday. So, essentially, I needed to be ready to leave on Thursday. This isn’t all bad though as people tend to prepare in order to meet a deadline – not too far in advance of a deadline. At least being (almost) ready by Thursday was a help.

On Saturday morning, I took time to check us in online before driving to our son's school. When given the option to change seats, I decided to look at our options. I was surprised to see seats available in the front, so we moved to row 4 on both flight legs. This was the row behind first class. (Tip: check your seat assignment in case other options have opened up.)

We then drove to Chicago. Our plan was to stay at a hotel and rest until it was time to go to the airport. (the flight was at 3 AM) Then we could take the airport shuttle and leave our car there.

The hotel was on Touhy in Elk Grove Village. We arrived at about 4. After checking in and verifying a shuttle to the airport at midnight, we took a walk. (I walk every day.) I started trying to sleep about 5:15. I wasn’t too successful, but contented myself with the fact that I was resting. I counted breathes backwards from 100 and forward from 1. After almost two hours of that, I got up and took a couple of Excedrin PM. I’m not sure what time I finally got to sleep, but I did sleep well eventually. We’d set our alarms to wake up at 11:15, but I woke up before it went off. We went downstairs at 11:45 and checked out. The woman that checked us in was getting ready to leave. The shuttle came on time. I commented to my husband on how nice everyone we’ve talked to has been – the gas station man who gave us directions to the hotel, the hotel desk clerk, and the shuttle driver.
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May 6th, 2010, 04:12 PM
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Sunday - April 18, 2010 – Chicago to San Jose to Arenal

The shuttle dropped us off at the international area. Check-in was fine as was security. There weren’t many people in the airport at midnight. After we settled in at our gate, I walked for about 15 minutes and then dozed on one of the benches. Before boarding, I tried to log onto the Internet, but found out that the Wi-Fi evidently wasn’t free.

Our seats were in the first row after first class and I was concerned that the baggage rack would be filled with bags of people sitting in the back. However, no problem – there was plenty of room. A woman had taken the seat next to us. She is from Chicago now, but was originally from Ecuador. She was going to GC to visit her husband’s family. I didn’t even try to read or listen to my iPod. Instead, I just tried to sleep. I was comfortable and did sleep some. We received a hot breakfast of an omelet or French toast with a roll and a fruit cup. Since we hadn’t eaten since lunch yesterday, it was good to have some food.

morning – Guatemala City, Guatemala

We arrived safely at GC at 6:15. A staff member met us at the gate and told us which way to go for our connecting flight. Our layover was an hour and a half, so we had some free time. After settling in at gate 7, I took a couple of photos. The city is within sight of the gate. It doesn’t look very inviting – there are a few high-rises and it looks mostly like concrete. I looked at the airport shop and tried to figure out the conversion factor for money. I finally asked someone and they said things were marked in dollars. The crafts were colorful and seemed well priced. There were many woven items.

Some items only show the dollar price – others have both it and the price in local currency, it seems. It’s rather confusing. A McDonald’s breakfast meal was listed at $25.00, which is hopefully in their currency.

When we got on our next flight, we were again in row 4, but on the other side. A man was sitting on the aisle. He moved out of our way and then left for the back of the plane. I guess it wasn’t his seat after all. A young man sat next to me. He listened to the sound system and sometimes sang along. I again rested until it was time for a bit to eat. This flight was shorter and served a small scone with a drink. The flight attendant asked if I’d like the rest of my drink and I said sure. I was quite surprised as it was a 16-ounce bottle.

Arrival – San Jose

In Costa Rica, we first went through customs and then picked up our luggage. We had to send the luggage through another metal detector on our way out.

Our rental car was from Budget. It was the only company with a line and it took a very long time. We chatted with the couple in front of us. They were from Boston. However, the woman grew up in Hyde Park and they met at Wash U in St. Louis. They have three daughters with them and they are hoping the oldest will be able to help with Spanish.

I overheard the rated quoted for insurance. There were several parts to it and in order to get one, you had to also buy all the ones below it. I was hearing numbers like 13.95 and 20.95 and something else. Heaven knows what they paid. I was unsure what to do and asked the agent about the insurance that we bought through Orbitz. He said it covered all but the liability section. Our home insurance might cover that, but to be safe, we got it anyway. We also sprung for a GPS. I wasn’t sure if it would help or not. As it turns out, I don’t know how we could have found the roads without it since most were not marked.
The agent taught us how to say Jaco (one of our destinations). It has an “h” sound and rhymes with taco – accent on the second syllable.

Adjacent to the rental car spot was a place to change money. I told Charlie that the airport was not the best place to change money. In retrospect, we could have saved time by doing it while we were waiting for the car.

We asked the agent about an ATM and he said the shuttle driver could show us where one was. It was a stairway up from where the rental shuttle was. I’d read a tip to only use ATM’s next to an open bank and since there wasn’t one, we were nervous about using it. We inserted the card and got a list of instructions in Spanish – none of which made any sense to us. The screen then turned red and it said “RED.” Yikes. Fortunately, we were able to get our card back up and cut our losses by giving up.

The car that we got was a little Toyota Yarus. It had no hubcaps and was covered with scratches, dents, and even a hole in the bumper. I hope that we got them all marked down. Worrying about rental car damage is one of the most stressful parts of travel for me. The trunk was small and only one of our suitcases would fit in it. One of us could have fit our things in a smaller suitcase and I really wish we had.

Leaving, Charlie was nervous about driving. It was a bit wild, the signs were in Spanish, and nothing was well marked. It even took us a while to learn to use the GPS. I was nervous too since I hadn’t told him everything that I’d read. I skipped the story of the tire-slashing scam and downplayed that many more people hire drivers or take shuttles than I’ve heard about anywhere else. I did tell him that someone had compared some of the roads to the Going to the Sun road in Glacier. He’s driven it, so did have some idea about the roads.

The GPS didn’t take us the way that we expected and we ended up in a town, but weren’t sure what it was. I saw a sign for a grocery and decided we should stop. Charlie stayed with the car (we’d read that you shouldn’t leave anything unattended in the car) and I went in. As it turns out, the building was an indoor mall. I found the grocery, but had some trouble figuring out what to buy that we could eat without a refrigerator or microwave. I ended up buying some drinks and snack foods. I then went back out and told Charlie that there was a bank. He again waited in the car. Unfortunately, the bank was ridiculously slow. I didn’t want to leave and lose my place in line, but was worried about Charlie worrying – rightly so. We had decided that I’d get 150,000 colones – about $300. However, I wasn’t positive sure that is how they write the amount. I asked the woman next to me if she spoke English. Nope. However, a man behind me did and said that it did make sense. Unfortunately, he was done and gone before my turn. When I finally made my transaction, I worried that it was processed as a cash advance rather than am ATM withdrawal (that’s what the receipt said). The teller didn’t speak English. I asked if anyone did. He was able to find someone that did – but in a limited way. I hope that it will turn out OK.

Back at the car, I thought I’d use the phrases on the back of the waterproof map to ask a local where we were. “Can you show me where we are on the map?” He looked at me blankly, so I pointed to the phrase. He pointed to San Ramon. While traveling, I’ve learned that having a list of a few key phrases that I can point to is invaluable.

After a couple of wrong turns, we were back on the road. We drove through several picturesque towns and saw a beautiful hill covered with contrasting colors of vegetation.

The road was one switchback after another punctuated by hills and one lane bridges. It took us several days to figure out that DESPACHIO meant slow and CEDE meant yield. Charlie was at wit’s end, but we soldiered on. The Yarus had a stick shift and not a lot of power. At times, Charlie wasn’t sure we’d make it – but we always did. The unpaved road to Arenal Observatory Lodge was rough, but fortunately, it was not full of potholes. While researching, I’d read that the road was full of bad potholes. I read another post that it had been improved. I’ll vouch that it had no potholes, but that it was rough.

We parked not far from the reception desk and I checked us in. We could have started a hike in 5 minutes, but I figured that we needed a break. (In retrospect, we probably should have taken the hike. It was $40 for two people and I think we would have been the only people on it.)

We carried up our luggage and then looked around. We read many reviews suggesting that we should take the Smithsonian rooms. However, the standard rooms were cheaper and we booked one of them. We thought the room was nice and was glad that we were there. We are extremely fortunate, as the volcano is clearly visible. I’ve read that it is entirely possible to be there when it is cloudy and never see the volcano. The grounds are pretty. We took photos and walked around.

We sat on the balcony as day turned to dusk. There’s lava coming from the volcano and you can see the lit trails falling down the side.

We decided to change and eat dinner in the hotel dining room. It was candlelit and quite pretty. Charlie had spaghetti with vegetables. I had rice with vegetables. There was a large serving of rice w/vegetables surrounded by a large assortment of other vegetables. Charlie got a coke. When the bill came, we decided to pay with our cash rather than charging it to the room. The menu was in dollars, but the bill was in colones. We did some calculations and think that the charge in colones was less than it would have been in dollars.

Last night, our sleep was in pieces – a few hours at the hotel before midnight, a bit at the airport, some on the overnight flights. We felt fine all day, but at 8:15, the tiredness has hit and we’ve decided to go to sleep. Sunlight hours are approximately 5:30 AM to 5:30 PM, so early to bed and early to rise might work out well.

Tomorrow morning, we plan to do the 8:30 hike after breakfast. We haven’t decided about the zipline.
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May 7th, 2010, 07:00 AM
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TRAVEL TIMES AND ROUTES - While cleaning out files this morning, I came across this site. http://www.yourtravelmap.com/costari...hp?&width=1680 It gives detailed information on routes and times. I'm not sure that we could have followed it or how accurate the times are, but it does give very detailed information.
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May 8th, 2010, 08:48 AM
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Good news - we got our bank statement yesterday and the debit for the withdrawal at the San Ramon bank went through correctly - no surprise fees.
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May 8th, 2010, 08:56 AM
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Monday – April 19 – Arenal - morning

We did get to sleep around 8:30. However, around 12:30, I woke up and went out to look at the volcano. Wow, I could see the lava coming from the top and lava trails spilling down the side. I woke up Charlie and we both watched. It was something like watching a meteor shower. Each bit was neat, but you kept waiting for a more spectacular trail. Sometimes there were a number of trails going at the same time. It had cooled off and I went in to get my long-sleeved shirt to wear as a wrap. Eventually, we went back to bed, but I got up again two or three more times during the night. I am so glad that we stayed here and were able to see the volcano at night.

We got up at 7 and had breakfast in the lodge. There was a nice spread of fresh fruit, pancakes, and other items.

We joined a group for the 8:30 hike. The hike was interesting and we enjoyed talking with others. I jotted down notes. Although the guide took a spotting telescope, we didn’t use it. The group was rather large and we didn’t see a lot of wildlife. But we did see plants, learn a lot of history, and visit a beautiful waterfall. There was a steep hill down to it and we all took the option of going down. Charlie helped some. One group of seven from Iowa had a personal guide that was spending 8 days with them. (Alex A) I didn’t ask the cost, but for a group that might be a good option. He drove and knew the roads and good places to see and stop. He would stay at each hotel that they were at. The hike ended with a wagon ride back to the lodge. We chatted with some of the other families about airfares.

(I took notes on the hike, but won't share them here.)
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May 8th, 2010, 12:47 PM
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Monday – April 19 – Arenal - afternoon - to zipline or not to zipline

We continued to debate whether to zipline or not. Ziplining was something that I really wanted to do in Costa Rica. That is until I figured out that the reality was way more than what I’d envisioned. There are zip lines in many locations, but someone had posted a link to SkyTrek’s safety page. It sold me on them and I decided that if we were going to do it, we needed to do it here today. They have thicker cables and bigger platforms. I’d also read several reports about how good, safety-conscious, and encouraging their guides were.

http://www.skyadventures.travel/index/index.html

We discussed it with a desk clerk who called and found that there were only 2 openings left today. I asked him if he’d gone. He had, but was non-committal on any encouragement for me.

We debated more. In the end, I realized that there were two baby practice lines there and I’d be satisfied if I just did them. We went down to make the reservation. The other agent said he’d just made a reservation for two. If there were no openings, our decision was made. However, we were in luck (or not) and there were still 2 openings for 2 PM.

We looked at the volcano for a while and then ate some things in the room for lunch. I was overtaken with tiny bugs, so threw everything away and started over. In the end, I ate one cheese cracker before the bugs and one Cadbury bar.

Our zipline tour started at 2, so we left at 1. Actually, that was a little early. Charlie later said that he’d meant to leave a half hour in advance. I figured he’d added a half hour to that to make sure we really got there. The drive was easy and we got there with plenty of time to spare. We looked around the gift shop and waited. We met a family from Phoenix that had been on our tour this morning – Steve, his wife, and their 8 year old daughter, Taylor. I told myself that I shouldn’t show fear since I didn’t want to frighten Taylor. It helped some.

If you sign up for the zip lines, you take a tram up the mountain and then do the lines. They have another option, the SkyTram, where you take the tram both up and back and just walk around at the top. I hadn’t committed to myself whether I’d do just the SkyTram, the Sky Tram and the two practice lines or the whole shebang.

We got our gear on and took the Sky Tram up. The tram ride wasn’t as scary to me as they usually are. I credit that to the fact that there were trees under us, so our height was disguised. The guide told us that it was OK to stand and that we could even fold up our seats to give us more room in the car. No thank you.

After we got off the tram, the guides gave us instructions and a safety talk. I tried to listen well and asked questions to verify that I remembered what I should do. I had visualized us ziplining in a vertical position with our legs below us. Instead, we would almost lay on our backs. Our zip gear attached around each leg and our waist. We each carried a metal piece that would go over the zip line and our sling-like gear would be double connected to it. We would lower our weight onto the sling. We’d then lean back and hold onto pegs on the metal piece with each hand. This was to help us go straight and not twist around. Once we got situated, we were to cross our ankles and raise them up. When ready, the guide would release us and we’d be off – one at a time.

A guide would go ahead of the first person. When one of us would get close to the end, he would shake the line so that we’d know that we were close. Then we were to open our legs to help slow us down. The guide would brake us. (Some other zip line companies have you brake yourself by holding onto the line with your gloved hands.)

The two practice lines were short and not too scary. However, there was a quantum leap to the third line. Someone suggested that it was the difference between Dumbo and Tower of Terror. I’d say that was an understatement.

I barely allowed myself to look at the line. I was not sure whether I would continue and do the line course or would take the dubbed “chicken trail” back to the Sky Tram for the ride down. I did a lot of debating, because once you go on the third line, you could not go back – you had to finish the eight lines.

I’m not sure how I got the nerve to take the third line, but I did. I leaned back, closed my eyes and started. It moved quickly and I opened my eyes. When I saw the amazingly long line stretching over a huge chasm, I quickly closed my eyes. It was very scary. On the route, I kept chanting to myself, “I did it, I did it, I did it.” It helped keep my mind off my fears.

One of my claims to fame was that I didn’t make it all the way to the next platform. I slowed to a stop dangling mid-air. We’d been told that if that happened, we needed to turn around and then use our hands to grab the line and, hand over hand move ourself until we got to the next platform. It was probably a good thing that I had my eyes shut. I couldn’t see how far out I was nor how high up it was. The guide’s voice didn’t sound too far away as he reminded me what to do. I had no choice but to do what I had to do. When I got close, he told me to grab the rope and he pulled me the rest of the way.

On the fourth line, I kept my eyes tightly shut. Jane, a woman who was in a travel agent group, didn’t make it to that platform. I hadn’t seen it happen, but she’d had a similar problem on the previous line. This time, she kept calling, I can’t do it, I can’t do it. She tried and when she couldn’t do it, the guide zipped to her and pulled her in hand over hand. She was very scared and shaky. Her friends and the rest of us kept encouraging us. One friend and I gave her a hand massage when she said her hands couldn’t function any longer. On the next line, the guide went with her. I had wondered if I’d need to ask someone to tandem with me. However, the guides had to tandem with the children because they were so light that they wouldn’t have made it all the way across without the extra weight.

On line number five, I opened my eyes and looked at the sky. On line number 6, I looked around me. I tried to savor line number 7 as it was the last long line. It was a beautiful ride. The lake and the tops of the trees were visible at the beginning. Then we zipped through a tunnel of treetops. It was amazing. At the end, we had to walk 60 steps down a tower to the last platform. It was a very short line. However, it was what I would have expected my ziplining experience to be before I did it.

At least two different people today commented that I could now cross ziplining off my bucket list. I’m thankful that I was able to do it. I’m also thankful that I didn’t just do a small zipline, but something so astounding as the one that we did. The first big line was over 600 feet high and a half mile long. I have trouble believing that something like it exists, that there are people that do it, and, maybe most of all, that Charlie and I were two of those people.

If you are interested in seeing videos, there are some on youtube.

After the zipline, we came back to the room to relax. I think we are going to have dinner again in the lodge and perhaps go swimming later.
traveler2005 is offline  
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May 8th, 2010, 01:05 PM
  #18
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,218
Wow, congratulations! Skytrek Arenal was also my first zipline and it was one of the most amazing things I've ever done. I'm so glad you went through with it and ultimately loved the experience. I always worry about the anxious people because they are most likely to brake too early and end up hanging in the middle -- which I would find terrifying. I've ziplined, bungee jumped, and i dive to 100 feet -- but stopping in the middle would make me feel pretty panicked.

Congratulations!
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May 8th, 2010, 01:14 PM
  #19
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 608
I commend you for ziplining! I was extremely excited to zipline, but when I got my first look at that third line at SkyTrek, I immediately started getting butterflies in my stomach, so I can't imagine what you must have been feeling like! It's a very exciting/scary experience.

I'm enjoying your report.
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May 8th, 2010, 08:51 PM
  #20
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Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 847
The good news is that I was fairly close to the end when I stopped. Part of it was a weight thing (shouldn't have lost that 10 pounds before going - lol), but they gave me two tips. One was to keep my arms straight. The other was to make sure I kept my ankles up.

When I was trying to talk myself into going, I told myself that the only thing that made it hard was my own fear.

Thanks for the comments. I wasn't sure if my journal might be too long to post.
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