Sunday, April 6, 2008

Corcovado National Park

Today's the big day. Today we will get to climb a bunch of stairs to a height of about 300 feet and fling ourselves off a teeny tiny platform suspended by nothing more then a few branches and out over the floor of the rain forest held up by 6 strands of yarn braided together and sealed with wax. At least that's how it happened in my dreams last night. I can't wait.

But first downstairs for some breakfast and some coffee. I want to be well fed and wide awake when I plunge to my death.

Actually, I am really looking forward to this and am a bit disappointed we are on the second group of the day that gets to do it. On the bright side, we didn't have to get up earlier then normal like the first group and the guides running the tour will have woken up sufficiently by then that we should be much safer then them too. The early bird may get the worm, but that's only if they aren't so groggy they smack into a tree on the way down to find it.

Before we get to fly through the tree tops though, we will be taking a walk in the Corcovado National Park looking for more wildlife and enjoying the beautiful scenery that is the rain forest. After our morning walk, it will be time to wander a bit on our own, or relax and read a book in the shade before lunch on the beach.

This first picture is to show you how thick the forest is. As you can see, if you aren't on the cleared path then getting around wouldn't be so easy. This is also the only day on the whole cruise Dani and I wore shoes and socks. They were recommended for safely walking the trails.

The second picture gives you an idea of the uneaven ground in areas and the reason for the shoes in the first place. It also gives me a chance to show off my wife. Just don't tell her or she may take the picture off the page.

Our goal was to find a bunch of birds on this walk but we didn't have any luck. Lucky for me I am not a huge bird fan so the plants and trees were worth it to me and much more interesting anyway. Besides, when we got on shore this morning we saw some parrots flying over head which was enough to keep me happy. We would find throughout the day that those who chose to walk along the beach ran across 20 or 30 parrots playing in the trees though, so if we had really wanted we could have seen them for ourselves.

When we returned to our picnic area and a relaxing read in the shade we were interrupted by a couple of monkeys looking for a handout. It was pretty entertaining watching them try to beat each other to some bananas but try and catch them in the act with my camera? Good luck, my reflexes just weren't good enough. Guess I should have paid more attention to the instructions, but I'm a guy. What did you expect?

After the commotion with the monkeys died down, something more my speed came along. Now this guy made it easy on me and sat still long enough I could get a clear shot. In fact he pretty much sat in the same spot for a good half hour while everyone took turns snapping picture after picture. When we all finished, the naturalist put him on his hat and walked around proudly displaying his new friend.

We decided to walk around a bit and found a bunch of baby frogs in a little pond formed by a creek leading to the beach. There were literally thousands of these little guys jumping around or just sitting on leaves in the water.

Continuing on to the beach, we walked along the rocks to see what kind of critters there were and found an interesting selection of typical sea creatures, but since I am pasty white I hurried back to the shade after a quick once over. I did get this picture of some snails though.
I'm pretty easily entertained.

While waiting for lunch, I sat down and read a bit while soaking up the shade. Dani, for whatever reason felt the need to sit in the sun and took some more pictures. Here is one with the local kids playing in the water while the crew ferried people back and forth to the boat. One thing I forgot to mention is that one of the crew has family here and he was able to visit his kids while we were in the area. I thought that was nice and really appreciate the fact that in most places we went, not only were we away from the crowds, but the local people were able to benefit from jobs on the ship. A small thing maybe, but I like that.

Just before we ate Dani got this picture of some wild dogs that were chasing each other around in a vicious fight to the death. Again, I will let the photographic evidence speak for itself.

Next thing I know, it was time for lunch. Sometime while I wasn't looking, the crew set up a complete buffet lunch to include tablecloth covered picnic tables and regular, non disposable dishes. Now my background is restaurants and when I started in hotels we did a lot of off premise catering. It was a lot of work and I enjoyed it, but I have to tell you, if we had been transporting everything from a ship to shore in a zodiac without a dock... well it's safe to say I'd have taken some sick days. They are to be commended for the work they did keeping us comfortable in all conditions.

After lunch it was finally time. We were about to get our chance on the zip lines. But first to get there. Our group loaded up in the zodiac and took a 10 minute or so ride to another location where we met a young lady in a small pick up truck with wood rails and a couple of long benches in the back. If you go and haven't taken any Dramamine up to this point, you may want to reconsider. This ride qualifies as one of the best 15 minute roller coaster rides of all time. Seriously.

One more tip. If you can't get the one seat in the cab of the truck, jump in back quick, move to the front and hold on tight. You are in for the ride of your life. The next thing you need to do is take in the view around you. If you don't survive the drive to the zip line tour base camp you can at least take comfort in the fact your final day was in such a beautiful location.

You will understand why I didn't get any pictures of the drive in.

So here we are at last. We have arrived safely at the zip line camp and after having our fingers pried off of the truck rails we are free to look around, freshen up and sign our waivers. For some reason, after ensuring us all how safe this is, they are hesitant to let us gear up without first absolving themselves of all responsibility. If I wasn't ready and eager before, well now all my fears have melted away.

Actually, while a touch nervous, I am not really worried and am still eager to get started. After all, we survived the drive so what was there to be afraid of?

Dani took this picture of me getting strapped into the harness and unfortunately that was the only clear picture we got. I was too worried I would drop the camera so it stayed on a strap around my neck. That's probably a good thing because looking at my forehead, the camera needed a good lens cleaning.

I also want to set the record straight. In fairness to the zip line crew and to make sure I don't scare anyone off, these guys were very professional and safety conscious. At no time was I ever afraid and even Dani, who due to her lack of height, is afraid of it felt safe. These guys get you all strapped in and you are secured by safety lines at all times. If they release your line from the main cables, they first hook you up to their line and only release you from them after you are secured again.

Also, if you think you are too old, think again. One of our group that came along is a bit advanced in years and had second thoughts. She had decided to stay at the base camp and wait for us until a couple others who had done this before convinced her to give it a try. Let me just say that after the first try, she had a huge smile on her face every time I turned and looked back as she was coming in. When we finished for the day, she was ready to go again.

Now there were about 11 cables we crossed ranging from about 20 to 100 feet high and up to 400 meters long. My only complaint was that they weren't long enough. I wanted to really look around at the surrounding canopy, but if I didn't want to smack into the tree at the other end of the cable, I had to pay attention. The views were amazing though and we were all very glad we did it.

One tip though. If you do not have a lot of upper body strength, make sure you get the extra harness that will give you some additional support. One of our crew found out after a few crossings that it was pretty tiring and after they set him up with this he was able to enjoy himself much more.

Oh yeah, one more thing. If any of you guys at the Corcovado Zip Line read this, please install a swimming pool to land in on that final wire. That would make a great day perfect.

The next couple pictures are from the ride back to the beach (the first pic is the single smoothest section of the drive) and the zodiac ride back to the ship. Then it was another relaxing social hour, daily recap and rundown of the next days events and finally dinner.

Tomorrow we go to Golfo Dulce (The Sweet Gulf) and the Casa Orquideas Botanical Gardens.

Until then.

Photos taken with Canon Powershot A570is

No comments: