Zip Lining At Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica – At Bill Beard’s office in La Fortuna near Arenal Volcano we call Sky Adventures “the Rolls Royce of Zip Lining.” I can’t argue with that, I can say that it would be hard to beat the adrenalin rush and the view when you’re zipping across a deep rain forest valley at 58 miles per hour with the great Arenal Volcano looming above you and the giant Lake Arenal below, a 32-square mile manmade lake created after Arenal’s 1968 eruption.
It was about a two-hour drive from where 0ur group was staying at the Villa Blanca Resort in the San Ramon vicinity to the zipline concession. During that drive Arenal first appeared on the distant horizon, then loomed larger and larger as we approached. It’s so symmetrically shaped it looks like a pyramid, but much more massive than any manmade thing.
A little plume of steam came out of the crater on top, and clouds tended to gather at its peak, sometimes hiding the top, sometimes not. For the rainy season we had an exceptionally clear day, according to our guides. As we approached, we could see its whole magnificent profile.
As we got to Arenal we drove around it, so we were able to look at the changing view as we drove from one side to the other. As we got close we reached the town of La Fortuna, which is within a few miles of the volcano, and when you’re there it feels very close because of the size of Arenal. As you reach La Fortuna, everything is about Arenal, the signs on the hotels and resorts and stores practically all reference Arenal or the volcanic thermal springs in the area.
Arenal was thought to be an extinct volcano as its stood quietly for 400 years from 1500. Then in July 1968, it blew and kept bllowing for several days, covering six square miles with volcanic rock, lava and ash, killing 87 people, burying three villages and finally affecting 90 square miles around the volcano. It threw rocks weighing tons almost a mile at a speed of 600 miles an hour. Talk about awesome.
Not far beyond Arenal we reached Sky Adventures and prepared to experience our ziplining adventure.
The crew at Sky Adventures greets you with a gung ho attitude and gives you a quick preparation. After they harness and helmet you and give you your own pulley, you get in an open train car that holds six people and takes you up to the top of a series of platforms connected by steel coil cables. From there you travel back down via eight different ziplines.
The first is a training segment, very short, to give you a chance to master the techniques in an easy situation. The second is also short and easy. Then the long runs begin, back and forth across a deep, forested valley. As you zip back and forth, hooked to your pulley that rolls along the cables from platform to platform.
Ziplining has become such a rage that now it seems you can do it almost anywhere. It’s in cities now. But it actually originated as a practical form of transportation in remote places. Ziplining is traveling by a cable on a pulley, and has existed in variations, either with a car or not, in places such as Australia and China.
But its popularity as a thrill sport seems to have originated in Costa Rica. The practice was developed by biologists studying the rainforest. They developed platforms in various stations of the forest canopy and mounted cables between them.
Zipliners are firmly and doubly attached to the pulley, so there’s no danger of falling off, though the sensation is one of falling. You wear helmets, which protect the head from touching the cable as you slide rapidly down, and gloves to protect the hands. The dangers are minimal. The thrill is maximal.
About the worst thing that is likely to happen is that you’ll spin to the side so you are traveling sideways. And if you try to correct yourself by pushing the pulley to straighten yourself out, the friction of the pulley on the cable will slow you and you may not make it to the platform.
If that happens you have to turn around and pull yourself hand over hand to the platform. I know because it happened to me. It was a lot of work pulling myself across the last 50 feet or so till they could throw me a rope and pull me up. But no harm done.
I was with a group of adventurous family members who had joined together for a lifetime trip to Costa Rica. They all supported each other and cheered each other’s successes. They cheered especially loudly for the ones who had been a little nervous about trying ziplining. They ranged in age from 30s to 60s and 70s. Everyone mastered it and appeared to have a good time. One of the ladies in her 70s told me, “If I can do it, anyone can.”
The more hesitant about doing it they were, the more exhilarated they were when they had succeeded in doing it. It was a very empowered and euphoric group when we left Sky Adventures.
But in the rainforest, storms come and go practically every afternoon and the rain pours down in sheets. Clouds were gathering as we worked our way through the eight platforms and by the time we got to the last one, a “baby” run of only a few feet, the rain was pouring down. A few more minutes and we’d have been soaked. As it was, we got a little wet.
After zip lining we went to Tabacon Hot Springs where we were able to lounge a while in the natural hot springs of Arenal. By then the storm had passed and the rain had lifted. Arenal, shrouded in clouds, loomed powerfully over the parking lot. We were a happy and satisfied group as we headed back to our new resort resort in the Arenal Volcano area, Arenal Springs Hotel.
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