I know I’m not the most adventurous or dare-devilish person on earth. Very far from that. Since I was a small, I’ve been a bookworm. I like science, and doing homework was one of my hobbies. Such a nerd!
Bungee jumping, sky diving, those are things that scare the hell out of me. I sometimes even chickened out from riding on a roller coaster, like the Millennium Force and Top Thrill Dragster, the scariest ones at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.
Just a month ago, we were in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Canopy tours in the cloud forest of Monteverde are a very popular thing to do here, so of course we wanted to check it out. Our friend, Jaime the Breakaway Backpacker, had recommended this tour strongly to us too. His favourite part of the tour was the so called Tarzan swing, a free jump from a high platform with a big pendulum-like swing. It sounded very scary, “an F*ing amazing experience”, he said. It sounded like far scarier than anything I’ve done in my life. So during the whole bus ride from San Jose (the Costa Rican capital) to Monteverde, and the night following, I was dreading this.
The following day, we were searching for the best canopy tour in town. Ryan had made friends with the guest house’s owner, Andres, so we trusted his recommendation. He checked that the next tour was about to start, so if we could be ready in 10 minutes, we could do the tour right away.
I was gasping and panicking! I know the Tarzan swing is just a small part of the tour, but I felt like I needed some time to breathe, to absorb what was going to happen to me! Whimpering, I asked Andres how scary is the Tarzan swing. I told him I would certainly want to jump, but I wanted the ‘beginner’ one. Something not too high, not too scary. He only said, before he had jumped with this company, but the swing he did was replaced by a new taller one, and he hadn’t tried the new one yet.
Well, I didn’t know what to make of that. Ryan didn’t really pay attention to my whining and asked Andres to call the company right away. Then it was all set. I didn’t know what I was signing up for, didn’t know what kind of Tarzan swing they had, didn’t even know the name of the company.
The Canopy Zip-Line Tour
Within the next a half an hour, we arrived in the canopy tour location. The briefing was super short, or it was probably because they didn’t really speak English, and we didn’t really speak Spanish. They mentioned there was going to be a canopy walk, a hanging bridge, 12 zip lines, a rappel, a Superman, and a Tarzan. The only description they gave for the Superman and Tarzan was, you will move like Superman, or like Tarzan. Ah! Should’ve guessed that, eh!
Anyway, this was the first time I was going to be in any kind of zip lining. So I was thrilled. I knew it was going to be easy, since there’s so little we can do while hanging from the rope, moving above the canopy. What I didn’t anticipate before was, it was actually a bit scary to be hanging high up there, moving in fast, dangling from a rope line! The harness, while it’s actually safe, didn’t make me feel safe. I imagined the harness would look like a jacket strap and leg strap. But instead it was just a waist belt, a leg belt for each leg, and a few straps in between. A rope connecting the zip lines and me was attached through a big carabiner in front of my belly. A longer rope, the safety rope, is attached just in case the main rope fails. There was a shoulder strap system too, but it was not going to be used until the Superman zip. So, that’s it. And we are about to hang our life with a few pieces of rope and belts, moving from tree to tree across the valley, 80 meters above the ground, with just that!
The good news was, there were 12 zip lines, and it starts off pretty mild. At first, we just zip lined between a couple of low trees. Later, we zip lined across the valley. By the time we did the longest one, 600m long and 80m high, we only needed to deal with the thrill of being so up high, but not worrying about falling anymore. This is such a fantastic way to enjoy the beauty of the cloud forest! The trees were way below us, and sometimes we could see our own tiny shadow on the ground. The view, and the feeling, was incredible!
Usually hanging bridge makes me a little tense. But this time, I was so focusing to the final Tarzan Swing, so I was not even aware I was on a hanging bridge that was shaking hard each time anybody moves.
The 15 meter rappel going down a tree was scarier than I thought. It seems to me when I saw the video of people rappeling, they are able to adjust the speed. Well, it was not so with this one. We were not actually control the speed, and it was near free fall speed. Thank goodness the 15 meters was over only within a few seconds.
In the Superman style zip line, the rope ties you on your back, and you are “flying” forward with body facing down, like Superman. I thought the scariness level of this Superman style was going to be like the regular zip line, that I was becoming familiar by then. Not quite! From the point of view of technique, it was actually easier, because you absolutely need to do nothing, while in zip line you need to know how to brake so you won’t hit the tree in front of you. However, in the regular zip line, your hand is holding on to the rope. While in the Superman style, your arms are stretched wide to right and left, as if to keep balance.
I never thought of this before, but apparently, at least for me, holding on to something, as useless as it is, brings you a sense of security. When you hands can’t hold on, you feel helpless. Powerless. Something can go wrong, and you are not in control. The worst thing was, not only that you “don’t need” to hold on, but you “must not” hold on! Holding the rope on your back will be totally awkward. Holding the zip rope will be very dangerous, because you are zipping high speed. Your hands could get caught in the wheels! And even if it doesn’t hurt you, you might accidentally slow down and stop in the middle of the ride, hanging high from the ground. If you are not comfortable with the idea of zip lining Superman style in the beginning, I assure you that you will hate this even more.
Superman zip scared the wits out of me! It was dreadful the whole way across. My mouth was open wide, but most of the time, I could only make a faint whimper. I was petrified, I for sure didn’t look like usual image of a heroic Superman. Instead of stretching my legs and arms wide, I had them kinda hanging limply from me. I was going to take photos before, but forget it! I didn’t dare to move my arms. My camera were hanging loosely from me, recording video to random direction it happened to face. Seeing my own tiny shadow on the ground didn’t help. Ugghhh….
I was moving forward high speed, I thought I was about to hit the tree where this zip line ends. And that would have been a frontal coalition. I didn’t trust this tiny helmet. I wonder if Superman faced the same problem too sometimes. Thank goodness the automatic brake really worked! I stopped just a meter away from the tree at the end!
And now what? The dreaded and frightening Tarzan swing!!! The ultimate jungle dare today!
Remember my plea to Andres to choose a tour with a mild Tarzan swing? Remember that I didn’t even know which canopy tour we chose? Turns out that… We were with 100% Aventura! Meaning? The current highest Tarzan swing in Costa Rica!! The height is 148 feet and the length is 294 feet. It’s like a 13 storey building! What the heck!
My heart raced.
My feet trembled.
My belly crunched.
So… Did I go?
Did I do the dreaded Tarzan swing?
Find out the answer in this video: