Monday, November 28, 2011

Costa Rica - Day 4

We awoke on day 4 intent on escaping the rain and heading for the beach, but given that it wasn't raining that morning for the first time on our trip, we decided to hang around the cloud forest that morning for one more experience before driving to the coast: the zip line. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, zip lines are everywhere in Costa Rica, which made it seem like a uniquely Costa Rican experience that we should indulge in. We settled on one of the more established operators called Sky Adventures, which touted three experiences: the Sky Walk (a hike through the forest with a series of suspension bridges that passed through the forest canopy, much like we had already been on the previous day), the Sky Trek (a series of 10 zip lines that zig zagged back and forth between two ridge lines as they descended a hill side), and the Sky Tram which is used to reach the top of the zip lines (also known as a chair lift).

We wanted to get after it early so that we could catch a 2:00pm ferry across to the Nicoyan Peninsula, so we got up early (we had been getting up around 7:00am most days to take advantage of the daylight, with it getting dark around 5:30pm) and arrived at Sky Adventures to catch the 9:30am tour. This worked out really well, as everyone else had signed up for tours later in the day, so it was a personal tour with the two of us escorted by three friendly Sky Adventures employees. After a short practice zip line to get the hang of it (there isn't really much to get the hang out, you just sit there and slide along the line) it was onto the Sky Tram and up to the top of the longer zip lines. Here is Roanne enjoying the first rainless day (so far) of our vacation:

And here is the Sky Tram disappearing up the hill side as we ride on up:

And here is a view of the countryside that was revealing itself to us for the first time:

The Sky Tram had only been installed 3 years earlier at an expense of 2.5 million dollars, so we were happy that we had made a good choice. Upon reaching the top of the lift we stepped off and climbed up some stairs to the top of the first zip line where we clipped in and were sent zooming off above the rain forest. I have always been a bit skeptical of zip lines but it was actually pretty fun, being so far above the ground and going for so long (the longest one was almost 800 meters). Before long some clouds settled in and it started to rain lightly, but the fog added to the novelty of the experience (and sped up the line a bit by lubricating it). Here is Roanne setting off into the fog:

And here I am setting off on one of the subsequent lines:

Good fun! Before long we were back down at the base area removing our harnesses and helmets. We didn't have too long before we needed to depart for our ferry, but a really kind employee where we bought our tickets had told us we could sprint around the Sky Trek (the suspension bridge hike) for free if we wanted to (normally you buy a combo ticket), so we took her up on that. Here is Roanne ambling across one of the bridges:

And me working my way through the forest to the next bridge:

The suspension bridges were nice also, but by this time I was starting to feel a bit of rain forest suspension bridge overdose, much like the feeling when you have seen one too many old churches in a European city. This could mean only one thing: it was time to escape the rain forest for the sandy beaches of the Pacific coast. We hopped in the BeGo and set off, wending our way through the hillsides on dirt roads as we dropped toward the coast and Puntarenes where we could catch a ferry across to the Nicoyan Peninsula. Here is a shot of the countryside in the ever-increasing weather as we approached the coast:

We could have also driven around to reach the peninsula, but the most remote parts were at the bottom and the easiest way to get there seemed to be by taking the ferry. Being Seattleites it also seemed appropriate the compare the ferries to Washington ferries. We reached the ferry terminal with 45 minutes to spare, and after purchasing our very reasonable tickets ($15 for the hour long ride, with our car) we drove on board and waited for the grand depart. Before long we set sail, and we reveled in the sunshine and wind on our faces as we moved out onto the water:

There were some great views as we moved across the water, and plenty of space to take them in as the boat was not very full:

Soon we were approaching the relatively undeveloped ferry terminal in Paquera, a single dock and building jutting out of the dense forest:

We rolled off on the BeGo and start the drive west to our destination of Malpais on the Pacific side at the bottom of the peninsula. We reached our hotel without any problems (Hotel Vista de Olas), and after a few issues we were finally checked into our one-room villa with an ocean view:

The view from their infinity pool was even better, where we headed for a quick swim before taking in the sunset:

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