Saturday December 10: La Fortuna to San Ramon
Today turned out to be a fairly good day, despite my early trepidations.
I had my typical night's sleep--fairly good for the first half, and a lot of tossing and turning for the second half. Amy was having a rough time in the evening, but she managed to sleep so-so.
We got up at 6, for a 6:30 breakfast (leaving at 7:30). As I was getting organized, Amy said that the volcano was clear, although there were some clouds moving in, and that if anyone wanted a picture, they should take it now.
I went to get my camera, and I couldn't find it! As I thought about it, I remembered bringing it with me to dinner the previous night, and hanging it on the back of my chair. I was pretty sure, however, that when I left, I never took it with me. As a result, I was really hoping that they had it waiting for me.
Amy and Sam headed down a bit before me, and in fact, they got there before I arrived. Amy explained when I got there that while she was waiting outside for me to show up, the woman greeter there came out and asked if we had left this camera there last night. I was impressed that we didn't even have to ask about it.
Breakfast was the same buffet as the previous morning, but it was more crowded. Partially it was because of the earlier time (Amy said that birders got up and out very early), and partially probably because it was a weekend.
After breakfast, we went back up to the room and packed our stuff up. We brought our stuff down and got there just on time. Our guide was as confused as we were about the dinner snafu. He was told (when he was paying the bill) that we had requested a special menu, although he didn't buy it. In the end, we are baffled as to whether we got the wrong menu the first night, the wrong menu the second night, or what exactly was going on.
The first activity was zip-lining. This was slated for Sam and myself. Amy would have loved to do it, but she was above the weight limit. I was filled with trepidation, given my fondness for heights. If Sam wasn't there, I probably would have skipped it myself, but Sam wouldn't have done it without me, so I continued on.
I was thinking that it might end up being like some of the activities on The Amazing Race, where the contestants had to do something scary involving heights, and they did it, even though they were completely breaking down.
When they were handing out the gear, they asked if we were right-handed or left-handed. I got a right-handed setup. I was wondering what handedness had to do with it, but when I examined the setup, I found that there was a "glove" for braking. It was actually more of a piece of stiff leather formed into a U-shape, with a strap for your wrist (so you don't drop it), and straps for your fingers and thumb.
We got a very bumpy tractor ride (a farm tractor pulling a cart full of seats) up to the top. There we got the harness put on and our operating instructions. We were supposed to lean back and pull our legs in. My left hand (in a cloth glove) would go around the webbing below the carabiner, while my right hand should go over the cable behind my head. This caused me some concern, because that motion is one that bothers my hurt shoulder, although it ended up not being a problem.
To brake, we just needed to pull down on the cable. They warned us not to brake too much, and to avoid it until the guide at the end made a gesture of pulling his hand down from over his head. The "danger" was that if we braked too much or too early, we would stop before we got to the end, and then we would have to spin around and pull ourselves up the end of the cable hand over hand. The buzz phrase was "speed is our friend".
I was imagining the course as being a linked series of cables from tree to tree through the canopy. I pictured going to the next tree, clipping a carabiner into a safety ring, moving the pulleys to the next cable, removing the safety carabiner, and then going to the next tree. During the transition, I would be standing on a small swaying platform high in the air.
That was not at all what it was like.
We were broken into two groups. I think they have two parallel courses set up perhaps. Sam and I were with a couple (he from Alaska, and she from England) and another young woman, who didn't talk much. Based on the sign-up sheet, I was the old geezer of the group, with the next oldest person I could find being about 12 years my junior.
Sam and I hiked up a medium tower, which was the start of the first line. It wasn't as tall as "The Nest" (the observation platform from the previous day), but it definitely made me increasingly nervous climbing the stairs. I was praying for the courage to face my fears.
The setup was much better than I had imagined. There were seven zip lines. They tended to be fairly long, and they often crossed over valleys, but between them there was a significant amount of solid ground. In the past, I've had the most problems with the transition from standing to zipping. I particularly don't like it if the line starts off fairly low, so that you have to sort of jump off of something before it takes your weight. That wasn't an issue here; I really liked their setup. The cable was high enough that you could stand while clipped in, but barely. While you were over solid ground, you could pull your feet up and get in position, while the staff person held you from moving. When you were settled and the cable was clear, he would then release you. In this way, there was no scary transition.
Back at the first (and tallest) tower: to put off the inevitable, I had Sam go before me, so I ended up being the last one (except for the staff person) to go down. He offered to go down in tandem with me, but I declined the offer. I was pretty sure that I could manage it, and I wanted to experience it, and not just do it halfway.
I tried to not use the brake, but apparently I did, because I ended up stopping about 20 feet from the end, so I had to spin around and do the hand-over-hand routine, until I got high enough that the guy could grab me and pull me the rest of the way.
On the second one, which I think was the longest, the guy said something about the wind turning Sam sideways, but I didn't quite follow it. I have to admit that I spent between half and three-quarters of it with my eyes closed. I tried harder to not do any braking, but I was pushing on the side of the cable to keep from spinning. This was enough to slow me too much, so again I stopped short. This time it was a bit longer, maybe 30 feet from the end.
It was either the third or fourth one that they were paranoid about people stopping short. For that one, they had us put both hands on the webbing and told us to not touch the cable at all. For the person in front of me (at this point, I was going before Sam), they gave her a spin as they sent her off, but apparently knowing that I was nervous, they didn't spin me.
They had a "brake" at the bottom, which was some sort of thing around the cable attached to a rope that went over a pulley to some sort of belay-like device on the staff person. You would hit the thing on the cable, and the friction of the rope would bring you to a stop in about 10 feet or so.
Towards the end, I was getting used to it and getting the hang of it. There was one where I spun essentially sideways, but I didn't use my brake hand to keep me straight. After those short ends on the first two lines, I didn't stop short again.
At the end, I was enjoying myself and actually looking around a bit as I went down. I was actually disappointed when I realized that the line I had just finished was the last one. I would have been happy if there were several more to go down.
While Sam and I were doing that, Amy and Danny (our guide) were doing some birding down near the bottom.
After the zip lining, we drove around a bit looking for sloths, but we didn't find any. We did find a large iguana. I took some pictures, but I think we were too far away for any of them to come out any good.
We drove to a small, family run organic farm, and we got a tour by one of the owners, whose name I think was Elena. She opened up a cacao pod to show us the seeds and have us taste them, but we had already done that the first day.
I thought that her perspective was interesting. There was a small river that flowed next to the farm. At one point, I asked Elena whether they used the water from the river for irrigation. She sort of chuckled and replied that they get enough rain there that they didn't need to do any irrigation.
A bit later, it came out that they grew crops year round, which seemed odd to me, but when I explained that we started the crops in the early summer, and then they all died in the Fall, she said that she couldn't imagine living in a place like that.
At one point, she showed us something "interesting" that she had noticed that morning. It ended up being a sloth sleeping up in tree. We got pictures, but I don't think they came out that good. From the angle we were at, it just looked like a hairy blob.
Then we had a lunch at a small “restaurant” that they ran using mostly local produce (a lot of it their own). The food was very good, but we also had entertainment. They had hung a log sideways off to the side, with some nails sticking up along the length, and they speared some pieces of fruit on the log. The birds went nuts over it. The big birds tried chasing the smaller birds away, while the smaller birds tried to sneak in and grab some of the fruit. They were fun to watch.
After that, we drove to our lodging for the next two nights. This is rather a change in climate. It was an hour or two away, up in the mountains. It is actually in a cloud forest, so it is cooler and damper than the rest of the trip. I dozed for about half the trip.
The place is about a hundred miles from nowhere. The main road wasn't that big of road (a lot of the bridges were only one lane wide), then we left that and went down a smaller road, and then finally turned onto a poor quality dirt road. We traveled along this for 7km before we got to Villa Blanca. Apparently it was at one point owned by an ex-president.
It has a very nice reception area, lounge (where I'm typing this right now), and restaurant. Then there are a number of cottages. Each one sleeps two, so Sam got one to herself. Things here are cooler and damper than down below. Our room had a dehumidifier going. Strangely, Sam's had a heater but no dehumidifier. I'm hoping we're not too cold tonight; there were no spare blankets in the closet.
Overall, the cottages are a lot more "rustic" than our previous accommodations. We had several hours to kill before dinner. Amy and I went up a trail a short distance to where they had three hummingbird feeders set out. I put my camera on my tripod, and Amy and I spent rather a while taking hummingbird pictures. We also noticed that the clouds had moved in, and we could see wisps of white between us and the trees.
I'm not sure how good they came out. With solid overcast, the light levels were fairly low. My lens is an older one that focused very slowly, and Amy always had trouble with the focus on her camera. I eventually turned the auto-focus off and relied on manual focusing. Eventually, it got darker, and we gave up and went back to our cottage.
Amy was doing poorly. She thought it was from allergies. She took an antihistamine before we went to the hummingbirds, and afterwards, she took a nap. I went exploring the compound. I visited the wedding chapel. There was one building that the map in our room described as having a "whirlpool" and exercise room, but on the map I had gotten from reception, it didn't describe it as such. I found a platform that had a bench to enjoy the view, except that the view was currently fog/cloud. I went back to our cottage, re-read the description of the exercise room, and went back out to find it. As expected, it was closed up. Right now, we seem to be in the off season, and there are very few guests staying here. Perhaps they open that when they are more crowded.
I went back to the cottage, played some Wordscape, and then took a shower. I came up to the main lounge, wrote some of this up, then went down and got Sam and Amy. We returned and had a nice dinner. After dinner, I stayed here in the lounge, to finish typing up the day's activities. It is about time to head down and call it a night.
With the exception of last night's food snafu, they are feeding us somewhere between very well and too much. Amy is having the problem that she can't finish half of what she has before her, even skipping the appetizer and desert. I'm finishing all of mine, but it is overall more food than I'm used to eating.
The dehumidifier here is strange. It has a very small capacity reservoir, so that it can fill very quickly. I would guess that it can fill in about 4 hours or so. I emptied it before dinner, and when I came down, just as I was getting into bed, it stopped and said "full". I remarked to Amy that I was glad it did so just before I went to bed instead of 10 minutes after I was settled. I emptied it, but when I woke up in the middle of the night, it was again full. At that time, I didn't bother getting up to empty it.
I was certain that I was going to be cold, but actually I was fine. There was a thin comforter there, but it ended up being just about perfect, in that I was neither too hot nor too cold.