Adventures in Costa Rica

Bradley_rehak_montezuma_waterfall2 By Bradley R., guest blogger studying Spanish in Heredia and Samara Beach, two of AmeriSpan's most popular Costa Rica Spanish schools
If you are reading this blog or have any interest in studying in Costa Rica, chances are you are familiar with the many adventure tours that are offered here—and are especially popular with North Americans
and Europeans.  The many possibilities include canyoning, diving, surfing, spelunking, hiking through the mountains and around volcanoes, sailing, drinking the local liquor, etc.  I have done just enough of these to provide a taste of these experiences.

The best-known and most popular activity is called a canopy tour by locals.  It requires one to don a climber’s harness so that the guides can attach you to a long cable via a set of carabiners and a slide grouping with a wheel.  The cables are strung high above the ground in the uppermost reaches of the jungle canopy, and you are pushed out from one tree stand to race down to the other, zip-line style.  The cables are up to 50 meters above the ground and more than 500 meters in length, and speeds of up to 50 miles per hour can be reached.  Nearly every company attempts to cross as many river valleys
as possible: the height of the canopy experience is when you push off through a thick canopy, pick up speed, and burst into an open valley whose floor plunges precipitously below you, sometimes facing sideways or backwards.  Companies may offer the possibility of gliding upside down, or with a partner to hold your legs so you can fly superman-style.
Although not actually an adventure tour—strictly speaking—waterfall chasing is a popular pastime with Bradley_rehak_montezuma_waterfall foreigners and locals alike.  For the more daring, this translates quickly into jumping from waterfalls into the pools below, which I got the chance to experience at Montezuma Beach.  From a road just South of town, I hiked about 45 minutes up the river, hopping from rock to exposed rock made available by the low tide and scant rain the previous week.  The first set of falls I came to were quite nice, about 25 meters high, but with rocks at the bottom, thereby precluding all but the most suicidal of jumpers.  From there, I scrambled up a very steep hillside that would have been impossible to climb except for the abundance of tree roots jutting out of the dirt, which made the perfect handholds. From the top it was a short walk to the 2nd and 3rd waterfalls.  The uppermost one was the most popular, with rock ledges ranging from 2 to 5 meters—it also had a long rope swing, for those like myself with Tarzan-like inclinations.  While a group of us was swimming and jumping around these upper falls, I watched as a young guy approached the lower of the two and then hopped over the edge without hesitating even a moment.  I was shocked, because at the low water levels, the jump was about 50 feet—I later read online a similar measurement of about 18 meters—and while I had assumed that people had jumped it, I certainly didn’t imagine I would see it.  To my further amazement, his friend followed him in the same manner, while I was content to watch.

ATVs can be found for rental throughout Costa Rica, and they are a fun and efficient method of transportation on roads that can be extremely rough, steep, and wet.  They can maneuver around trees, boulders, and others obstacles that would make a road or path impassable even for SUVs.  The day that I rented a quadra, as ATVs are known here, was probably the best that I’ve had in country.  I used it to explore Malpais, which is a series of beaches on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.  There were astonishing views of the region from the tops of the inland hills, and the frontage trails along the
beaches were just jarring enough to be challenging and exhilarating, but not too rough so as to buck me from the vehicle.  The highlight was when the trail gave out and seemed to point me onto the beach proper, which directions I readily gave into.  Soon I was cruising across the sand at 60 miles per hour, splashing through the surf, and entirely alone except for a few groups of large carrion birds that looked like vultures, munching on the remains of dead turtles too heavy to carry away.  The pictures that I took of vacant beaches stretching for miles into the distance hardly convey the uniqueness of the situation.  The only drawback to this form of travel was the dirt that was thrown into the air by other passing vehicles, which by the end of the day had rendered my teeth covered with a thick, choking grime.  I suppose I could have resolved this issue by purchasing a bandana to cover my mouth like other people I saw along the most busy beach, but I am far too stubborn for that.

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