It's a creekmore world

Costa Rica Day 9: Car problems at a hot springs and massive ziplines

Deb, the proprietor of our lodge, Leaves and Lizards is standing in the road in the dark.  It’s 4:30 am.  We are going hot air ballooning in Costa Rica – a CreekmoreWorld first! Or so we think.

‘It’s raining over there and they are cancelling today. Tuesday is your back-up day so we’ll keep our fingers crossed”, she says.  It was nice of her to get up and tell us before we drove over there – 30 minutes away.

Instead we watch the daylight grow on the gorgeous deck/porch of our cabin.  It drizzles. The volcano is completely encased in clouds, but the birds are as loud as ever.  The grounds of leaves and lizards are fabulously landscaped.

Breakfast is the typical eggs, fruit, rice and beans (Pinto Gallo).  The yolks are really orange from being fresh.  They have their own small farm here with cows and chickens.  There is also a stable full of great horses.  We’ll be taking those for a ride in a few days.

Instead of hot Air ballooning we’ll take to the hot pools of ‘The Springs’ again.  Their entrance fee is a 2-day pass, so it doesn’t cost us anything except another expensive poolside meal.

Emma really wanted to go back so she could enjoy the slide.  Last night we were overwhelmed by Lily’s meltdown-tantrum.  Emma made the best of it, but she didn’t get to do much.

‘The Springs’ was the host to one of ‘The Bachelor’ seasons.  It was definitely designed by ‘Resort Engineers’ – a job I just made up but am pretty sure exists.  Everything is textured and colored cement, and most of the landscaping is done with massive, Disney-size groupings of fluorescent plants.

But some parts, including the kids water slide are done more tastefully.  Emma and Lily play for a few hours as we pass the time until our afternoon activity.  Even in artificial surroundings, it’s nice to relax for a while.

Lily does better today.  We gave her a little decongestant and the ear trauma seems to have passed.

Extreme ziplines

Ropes were obviously used all over the world to cross streams and canyons.  But ziplines as we know them today, were probably invented in the Alps as a mountaineering technique in the 1800s.  Although it was soon-after adopted worldwide to scale high peaks, it wasn’t adapted to trees until much later.

In the mid 1970’s, graduate students in botany and zoology, eager to find new methods to justify a PhD, adapted mountaineering ziplines to trees in the Costa Rican rainforest canopy.

They were followed by many more students and eventually caught the attention of local entrepreneurs and commercial outfits as the Costa Rica eco-travel industry was emerging.

Today ziplines are everywhere there are tourists – deserts,  summertime ski resorts, beaches and parks.  There are new ones being added every year, each competing to be the longest or the fastest.

Today we are at Mundo Aventura, the longest zipline in the area and possibly the longest in Costa Rica, although it’s impossible to know for sure.   They have 11 lines, the longest of which is 1000 meters, delivering a 50 second long ride from start to finish.

Mundo Aventura does their ziplines over the La Fortuna waterfall basin, so several of the rides cross in view of the falls.

Although they give you a hand brake, speed is your friend on a long zipline line.  So is weight.  Being too light or slow prevents you from accelerating enough.  That can leave you stuck suspended in the middle of the line.

There is no physical danger, but you’ll have to arm-over-arm pull yourself the rest of the way.  And you get laughed at.  Trish got stuck in the middle of a line in Peru, but today everyone moves along.  The girls need to go with a guide on the longest ones so they don’t get stuck in the middle.

The long lines over the waterfall are the best ziplines we’ve done (we did Mexico, Thailand and Peru).  It’s a cool, overcast day, and Volcano Arenal shows it’s peak from time to time. (This is Arenal that day from local town.)

They dump us into a gift shop at the end, under the guise of a cultural show by an indigenous tribe that makes balsa wood masks.  My intent is to buy nothing, but under charming pressure from little girls, I give them $25 each to get  a cheesy mask.  Emma buys hers for a friend.  Lily wants one for herself.

We drive back through La Fortuna and get a magnificent view of the Arenal volcano in the sunset. The 4-day hot springs tour continues tonight at Tabacon, one of the oldest hot springs.  It’s a beauty of a resort with really good food.   But it feels very crowded and it was the most expensive.  The clientele are a strange mix of international young hot bodies, grey-haired resort dwellers and gigantic Japanese tour group.  (One of whom pushed Lily out of the way at the buffet, making her very upset.)

The springs are very hot and seem much more natural than ‘The Springs” It’s gorgeously landscaped. And the food is a million times better than the resort bar food at ‘The Springs.’  Everybody likes a good buffet, amirite?

‘Family vote’ I announce.   ‘Should we go back right after dinner or stay here and do more hot springs?’  The girlst look at one another and silently talk to each other in sister ESP.   ‘Go back’ they both say at the same time.

But it’s not to be – the car battery is dead.  I left5 the lights on, and they don’t turn off like every other car I’ve used in the last 25 years.  Wow, I think, getting a jump is going to be a difficult job in the dark when I speak no Spanish.  We could be here for hours.

A helpful staffer of the resort calls someone and he shows up with a truck.  Yay!  We’ll be out of here shortly.  But it takes a while to get the car pulled out of its narrow space where access to the battery is blocked by other cars.  He can pull me out to the middle of the steep road we are on, but then I have to drive it in neutral, backwards downhill with no lights, power steering or power breaks.

Much anxiety is produced.  But once we get it out it only takes another 15 minutes to be on our way.  Only in Costa Rica can you be back on your way in an hour with a dead battery rental car!