It always seems to be the rainy season when we travel…a big part of that was due to our schedules. The busiest time of the year was the summer travel season, and for Contiki that meant we’d be on the road continuously from March through October. Those of course are the best traveling months, which is why we were so busy (it’s a repeating conundrum that will hurt your head if you think about it too much).
We both had a November hole in our schedule and so we seized on it. We headed down to Puerto Rico…just in time for the rainy season. This post isn’t a treatise on the benefits of traveling during off-peak times, I’m just pointing out it was an off-peak time. Conundrum.
We didn’t really do a lot of advanced planning, so I put out some calls to my Puerto Rican friends, and one of my buddies pointed me in the direction of Toro Verde Adventure Park. It had just opened and it was boasting one of the longest zip lines in the world: the Beast.
Now, I’m not sure when this happened, but it seems like every tropical/foresty locale has some sort of ziplining outfit. I’m not complaining…few things are cooler than zipping along a forest canopy at a high rate of speed and taunting monkeys all along the way (I only did that once, I swear). I’d had a pretty positive experience in Costa Rica ziplining, so I was game.
The park is near the town of Orocovis, which is basically smack-dab in the middle of the island. The topography is perfect for this sort of operation: big ridges masked with leafy rainforest canopies scarred only by gushing waterfalls spilling into rivers of whitewater.
When we got there the weather was looking quite nice, a departure from the rain we’d seen through most of the trip. We opted for the package combining ziplines and the Beast (it just sounds scary). There were eight ziplines, all of them fast and high. As we made our way along the second zipline, the weather took a quick turn. A wall of clouds blew up the ridges and then just opened up all around us. It was raining…but we were inside the clouds. It was bizarre.
Our guides kept us zipping through the course. There was something exhilerating about zooming through clouds. I’m sure the extended scenery beyond the gray would have been inspiring…but I was happy with this. It was the rainy season after all.
By the time we zipped the last line we were thoroughly drenched. A pickup truck took us through the mudsoaked rainforest skidding and sliding up and down switchbacks. That might have been the most harrowing part of the day.
The truck dropped Lauren and I and two others off at The Beast and took everyone else to back to the shop. I’ll have to admit, I was wet, cold and a bit jealous that they were done. That feeling would quickly wear off once they harnessed me up for the Beast. This thing is touted as one of the longest ziplines in the world…a kilometer and a half from one side to the other (that’s just shy of a mile). And to give the ride even more appeal they harness you in laying flat like superman, which means I could record the trip. The harness holds you at your knees, hips and chest. It’s comfortable and feels secure. I’ve never been swaddled before, but I’d guess this was pretty close.
There’s a certain anticipation while waiting to be flung into a gray abyss with no sign of a destination point. And the guides left us hanging there for a moment to contemplate the sanity of this endeavor. They pushed Lauren off first…because she weighs less than I do they assured me I’d catch up. She giggled rather than screamed. About 20 seconds later they pushed me off. I screamed.
It is the closest to flying I’ve ever felt without jumping out of an airplane. There’s no sensation of falling though, and the line picks up speed quickly. I’d venture to guess this is what the Dude felt like mid-trip. They say it hits a top speed of 60 miles an hour…I’d believe it. At the midpoint I passed Lauren as we cruised above the forest floor some 200 feet below…me screaming perhaps the poorest rendition of Wagner ever. I couldn’t see much through the clouds, but again that made it all the more exciting. Towards the end a stiff breeze slowed and then stopped me. There was a directly proportional relationship between my screams and speed. Now I was silent. I was left there hanging for a few minutes until one of the guides came out to rescue me. I knew I was close to the end of the line because I could hear them talking…but I couldn’t seen them. It went from pure adrenaline, to isolating calm until I was rescued. It was peculiar and cool.
They took us back from there, and we headed back for our hotel. The rain still pouring down. On the way back we stopped at a roadside restaurant in the middle of the forest. With rain pounding down we enjoyed a nice end of day meal, drank some cervazas and absorbed the scene.