Zip lining and a coffee tour.

Monteverde Travel Blog

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Yesterday we made reservations to go zip lining at 7:30am.  With all the rain we thought it would be better to book early so if it was cancelled we could go later in the day.  Except (as we found out) they don’t cancel for rain.  So we still went despite the drizzle that morning, only we decided to leave the camera at home.  We will regret this later because we have no pictures of the zip lining.

                Aventura got us all geared up, picked us up from the hotel and gave us the demonstration.  I was a little nervous but Brenda was flat out scared.  To get on the zip lines you would have to jump and pull down on the cable and they would clip you in, so a little upper body strength was necessary.

Ox cart ride at Don Juan's
  When zipping along you hold onto the line behind you with your strong hand and pull down to stop.  Because it had been raining the lines were wet and we often had to reach and pull down with both hands if we needed to come to a halt.

The first few zip lines were short and easy just to break us in.  But there wasn’t much room at the platforms so as soon as you arrived they hooked you up to the next one and you were gone again.  So we didn’t get much time to process with our minds what was going on.  However if you looked around while cruising on the line rather than watch the guide you saw an amazing view.  We soared trhough the canopy and below was the canopy of shorter trees, and off to the side was just canopy with the fog and mist of clouds hanging on the trees.

smelling the coffee plant . . . smells like . . . a plant.
  Truly amazing and then quickly you had to break at the next stand to prevent yourself from crashing into the tree stand. 

Our main complaint was the lack of processing time and the workers (obviously bored with the same task everyday) tried to scare us for their own entertainment.  At one point we walk across a wooden bridge that is just hanging and is very wobbly.  Even though we are still hooked up on a safety line you still need to be careful not to slip and have a leg fall between the boards.  When you are about half way across the worker will start kicking or jumping on the bridge to give you a scare.  One of the kids in our group well down and scraped his leg.

                Shortly after the bridge you repel down and again they try and scare you.

Now I smell coffee in the roaster.
  They don’t tell you much, just to sit back.  Then they push you away from the platform and you drop.  It feels just like a free fall for 20 feet, then they stop you about 5-8 feet off the ground.  I think I prefer rock repelling so you can enjoy it more.

At another point as we were approaching the platform the guide started shouting.  I couldn’t understand him and then he throws (slides) a carabineer at you quit hard.  I hit the breaks and stopped instantly but it didn’t really add to the fun factor at all.

There was one scary moment that did add to the excitement and that was the “Tarzan Swing.”  Brenda did not go but felt sick for me as I climbed the platform that took me at least 50 feet above the ground.

Me and junior with a Don Juan coffee bag.
  I kept telling myself it was just a large rope swing in a barn, but when I got to th top and looked down it was far from it.  When I got strapped in and they opened the gate I reacted the same as most people.  I paused and tried to prepare myself fort the jump when the guide gave me a push.  This was ok, it just got me to the inevitable free fall.  By body tensed up, I let out a grunt while holding the rope tight and then after 15 feet down I felt the support of the rope as it swung me out and I was all smiles from there.  I swung so far out into the trees that I actually felt I left everyone behind and I was all alone.  It was amazing.  I could have swung all day but of course we had to keep moving on so they stopped me after a few swings and then its on to the “superman.
Crushing sugar cane.

There was one more zip line before the superman and it was the best (with the exception of the “superman”).  It was over 400 meters long.  We were told to just go a break hard at the end.  Brenda went before me and I watcher her soar perfectly framed by the trees and then disappear into the clouds.  I jumped on next and the same thing.  However you could still see 100 feet into the clouds, so I could see the canopy below me amidst the fog and at a point I could not see the platform I started on or where I would end.  It was an amazing feeling.

The final zip line was the “superman.”  We had to readjust our gear and then prepared for another 400 meter zip.  I could tell Brenda was a little nervous so we switched spots so I would go first.

mmmm, fresh crushed sugar cane.
  They had a few kids go in front of us who did not want to do the “superman” and then they began to strap me in.  This time there were two cables, side by side.  As I was clipped on they took Brenda and strapped her in the other side.  For a second I thought we would go together, how cool would that be?  But then they got Brenda in “supergirl” position and pushed her off . . . without me.  I guess she still got to go first after all.

When I was finally all set I was hanging face down staying in place because my feet were hooked on the back edge of the platform.  When I was given the green light I released and pushed off with my feet.  This was the best part of zip lining.  I was watching the ground and forest pass beneath me, it felt just like I was flying.

Cup of coffee to finish the tour.
  The weight of my body on my chest made it a little difficult to breathe but not bad.  I even held the superman pose with one fist out for part of the ride.

Coming towards the end you have no control of speed and mechanisms is set up to slow you down and stop you before the tree does.  It works, but I stopped looking like a rag doll with my arms and legs loosely flying forward.

The whole zip line experience was very cool.  It was good for $35 but I wouldn’t mind spending more money on a better company if one is out there.  When it ended it was rather sunny and we wish we had our camera. 

Upon return to the hotel we packed a bag and explored down the road toward Monteverde.  It definitely looked like we were going no where when a couple buildings showed up just around a corner.  We had some lunch and set up a coffee tour for the afternoon with the Don Juan Coffee Plantation. 

Don Juan had a driver come out and pick us up around 3:30.  When we arrived we signed in and boom, the tour was ready to begin, just us.  Our tour guide’s name was Junior, a common name in Costa Rica.  He had pretty good English and was passionate about coffee and as we learned during the tour, he was passionate about whiskey as well.

The tour began with an oxcart.  A symbol in Costa Rica for their culture, work and life.  Junior was adamant about the importance of coffee in the “circle of live” for Ticos.  The ox was the mode of transport for coffee from harvest to the ports.  The animals work very well together not moving without the other or their farmer.  We got to ride on the oxcart for a brief  We went down a small hill and then walked back up.  It was cool and silly at the same time, but a good cultural connection.

Next we went to look at plants.  The plantation is 25 acres large but only has coffee plants on 2 acres of land.  The rest is used for sugar cane, buildings and land for the oxen.  When it is time to harvest, the berries  turn from green to red.  To get the best quality the town comes out during the 3 months of harvesting (January – March) and hand pick the berries.  Tourists are also allowed to pick their own beans when they come during the harvest season.  They are paid $2 per bushel and average 3 bushels per hour kids as young as 8 will come out to make money during the harvest.

The whole tour was interesting, especially for a coffee drinker, but also for someone into agri-science, geography or plant biology.  We studied the process from germination through the roasting of the beans.  This is where Junior talked about the additional flavor that comes out in a mild or light roast compared to the dark roast that has been cooked for an additional 10 min.  As a result more flavor, moisture and caffeine is cooked out of the bean.

As far as geography is concerned, coffee grows between 20 degrees North and 20 degrees South, but it also needs elevation between 1,000 feet and 1900 feet.  Don Juan’s is about 1200 feet in elevation.  The wind patterns also bring ash from Arenal Volcano to the plantation and they are caught in the rain shadow of the mountains giving them around 90-100 inches of rain per year.  That, and the volcanic soil is rich in nutrients making it perfect for growing coffee.

Junior gave us a very interesting history lesson of coffee & its origins in Ethiopia and is very proud of the role coffee plays in the world culturally.  For one, coffe3e can be drunk by all groups of people.  Even the poor can buy a cup of coffee, unlike wine.  Second, coffee is a top export for Costa Rica, and funded the building of the National Theater in San Jose along with the growth of the city in the central valley of the country.  Finally , during the harvest it brings communities together, boys meet girls, and the circle of life continues.

As if coffee wasn’t enough we did crush the juice of some sugar cane and enjoyed a glass of “sugar water.”  It looked dark and gross but tasted very sweet.  Kind of like raw sweet corn cut off the cob and smashed, plus a cup of sugar.  Apparently the sugar cane juice is also used to make alcohol called Cicau (not sure how its spelled).

The long day is almost finished, but then we stopped at the best restaurant of the trip.  Down the road from Los Pinos was Atmosphera.  The restaurant offered food, a  bar, art gallery and the internet with computers.  Our food was also amazing.  A $9 cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, pickle, ham, mushrooms, ketchup and mayonnaise with Pringles on the side and a salad with avocado, lettuce onion, etc. plus a choice of 7 dressings!  This was the most flavor filled burger I have ever had!  Yum! 

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View over Monteverde
View over Monteverde
Ox cart ride at Don Juans
Ox cart ride at Don Juan's
smelling the coffee plant . . . sm…
smelling the coffee plant . . . s…
Now I smell coffee in the roaster.
Now I smell coffee in the roaster.
Me and junior with a Don Juan coff…
Me and junior with a Don Juan cof…
Crushing sugar cane.
Crushing sugar cane.
mmmm, fresh crushed sugar cane.
mmmm, fresh crushed sugar cane.
Cup of coffee to finish the tour.
Cup of coffee to finish the tour.
photo by: smhirsch