Costa Rica zip lining, iguanas & real-world experiences!

2016 Student Field Reporter Project:  EcoTeach has enlisted the help of several students to share their 2016 Costa Rica experiences with us. Over the coming months we will regularly feature their posts, photos, and reflections – letting them tell their amazing stories of Costa Rica and it’s impact on their lives!  

Reporter:  Lily, Tillicum Middle School

Today my roommates and I awoke to chaperones calling our hotel room phone. We got dressed, packed our luggage, and stored it on the EcoTeach-mobile. That was the bus that we used to travel the country, it was surprisingly large and comfortable, and it had air conditioning, which was a real blessing. We ate the hotel breakfast, which consisted of gallo pinto, toast, and all kinds of tropical fruit. Our breakfast was interrupted by a green lizard on a pillar of the open-air dining hall.  There was a ten minute photo shoot just for him.

We drove ten minutes to the zip-line forest. We got geared up, and had two safety demonstrations and a practice run. After those, we drove i-vQfnz5M-Ltwenty minutes in a truck, like the ones used for hay rides back home. We drove under the canopies of trees so high they seemed unreachable, with blue sky and sunbeams visible above the treetops. Flora and fauna were in perfect balance, and the whole scene made me appreciate that humans can see more shades of green than of any other color. After the drive, we walked an additional five minutes to the first platform. The first one was easy, a quick jump to the next one, maybe ten meters away. I really appreciated the fact that they started small, as I am personally really scared of heights. The next jump was to a further platform. One could see the entire valley, the fields, the people’s towns and houses and lives all spread out like a map. The previously untouchable canopies were now at my feet.

I flew over the cushions of giant ferns, and trees reached up towards the sky, while I was already there. The switchbacks of the rope gave a commanding eagle’s’view. We would stop at each elevated platform tree house, the guides would attach our pulley to the next cord, and we’d be off.  A little more than halfway through, we stopped at “The Tarzan Swing.” It was a platform over a small precipice with a strong cord hanging from an ancient tree. You would walk up to the edge of the platform, they would attach your harness to the rope, and tighten it. When you were ready, you would jump, the rope would catch you, and you’d swing until you were going slowly enough for one of the guides to catch your feet and help you down. It was incredible; our veins were pumping pure adrenaline from the exhilarating, exalting, exciting experience. We walked to another high platform, we took another five long ropes down the hillside, the canopies transitioned to plains, and I finally landed softly at the zip-lining center. I got unharnessed, and got an iced tea (it’s the little things). The zip-lining center had free post cards that you could write on, and put into a cardboard mailbox, and they’d mail it to wherever you addressed it to. I wrote home to my family.

We boarded the bus and drove for another short while. Our guides surprised us with a real-life experience with the local people, so we would have an authentic connection with the culture and the country. We stopped across the road from a store and a steep banked river. (Wait, hang on: Under a bridge that spanned the river, a dozen crested iguanas sat, enjoying the shade.  It was the second lizard photo shoot of theiguana day.)  So we went into the store, where the guides had prepaid for all of us to get an ice cream. As we wandered around the store, looking at all the brightly colored souvenirs and trinkets, fans, dresses, memorabilia, the breeze blew through the large, open-air shop. And it was in this time we got to talk with the family of the actual shop owners, using our Spanish language skills, and learn more about how the common person actually makes a living in Costa Rica.

After a rather long period of driving, we arrived in Pital, another small town. We had a meeting, in which we met the families with whom we would spend the next two nights. After that, we somehow magically transitioned into a spirited game of soccer on the small school’s field.  I played for about an hour, and the schoolchildren were incredible at the game, more flexible and faster than anyone on my school’s team. (Okay, they were little soccer ninjas.)  After that, we split into groups and went to our individual homestay houses. We took a pickup truck with our luggage to our hosts’ house. It was open-air and small.  Our hosts were very courteous, and while I was there I never lacked for anything. Our hosts were a kind, elderly couple, and being exhausted from the days’ adventures, we fell asleep directly after dinner (here, it’s called la cena)!