Solo in Costa Rica - Part 1
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I am midway through my solo trip to Costa Rica, and I find myself dangling 164ft above the Monteverde Cloud Forest. I hang from two strained ropes, one soon to be released so I can fall and swoop through the sky at this great height. The surrounding air is cool and wet with traces of the morning's rain. Lingering ribbons of mist uncoil amongst the canopy trees below. I kick at the void beneath my feet and my last nerve whimpers its goodbye. Above me, Quique's relentless voice tells me to look up and smile. It calls from a small, suspended platform. Delicate cobwebs of wire thread through the air. Apparently, my guide insists, this is a moment I am going to want captured on camera. I stare up at the beaming faces of the 'Swing Extremo' team, giving them my best grimace. Click. Flash. “Pura Vida!” Quique bellows, putting the camera away carefully in his pocket, “Are you ready? Let's go!” “Countdown, please!” I squawk. “Three, two, one!” I am falling, stunned into silence. Panicked, I snatch at the air, believing something must have gone wrong. I pump my legs and scramble against my body weight. As the cold chill of fear begins to sicken me, I am caught. I soar over the home of quetzal birds, jaguars and howler monkeys. A delighted cry of disbelief escapes me as I fly, staring down at the patchwork of green trees and epiphytes. “A cachete! You did it!” Quique's distant laughter trickles down to me. My new friends cheer loudly from the surrounding safety of the cliffs. My body sways and eventually settles to a halt. The forest is close now and I take in its detail. I pick out roots, vines and grassy clearings. I search for green parrots camouflaged among the green leaves. Flocks of them will often fly by, I've been told. I realise I am really doing what I came to Costa Rica to do. Overcoming fear after fear." At the end of July 2011, during the summer between my second and third year of university, I travelled alone to Costa Rica. Although I joined an STA Travel tour group, this was the first time I would not know anyone before my arrival in another country. I have travelled alone extensively in the past, but always with a friend or relative waiting to greet me. It was a trip that has taught me to face my fears and not worry about the outcome. Often things turn out better than you expected. My plane landed in San Jose, the country's capital city, late into the night. I grabbed a taxi to Hotel Ricon where I met my guide, Leonel Enrique “Quique” Parrales Jimenez. The group was made up of a British student named Emily Fulda, Julius Urbutis from Lithuania (who spoke fluent English) and a recently married couple from East Australia, Tom and Sarah Rice. I would be sharing a room with Emily for the entirety of the trip. After a well-needed night of deep sleep, we travelled by coach to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side. Our hostel, Kaya's Place, was painted with murals of elephants, tigers and zebras. Hammocks beckoned from hidden corners and the beach was seconds away. The town dripped with Caribbean culture as we explored its bars and shops in the evening light. Locals played basketball as the sun began to set. We dined on shrimp and rice and we drank “fruit with milk.” I would join Julius and Quique for dolphin watching the next day, it was decided. We would hire a private boat and end the search with a picnic on the beach. Andrion, a boat owner from France, was waiting for us the following morning. His little speedboat dipped and jerked over the small waves. Black, volcanic sand had disappeared from the beaches of the mainland here, as if swept clean and away. The sand I could see now was almost yellow, bright and beckoning against the dark backdrop of dense forest. The land moved into the distance as we crept towards more open water.
Part 2 to follow
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