After re-boarding the cruise ship in Panama, I eagerly anticipated our next destination, which was Costa Rica. I was excited to go there. And why not? Costa Rica summons images of luxurious beaches with tiki hut bars serving ice-cold alcoholic goodness, whose ingredients usually consist of bananas, rum, papayas, rum, pineapples, rum, coconuts, rum, and sometimes that Fruit Loops toucan bird. I knew Costa Rica isn’t just its stunning beaches, but its jungle interior as well. You know, the tropical rain forest full of the natural beauty of its millions of trees, vines, ferns and other plant life. It is that same plant life that is also full of poisonous snakes, spiders,and the occasional sloth.
So of course for our next shore excursion, we chose to go zip lining in the jungle. Poisonous sloths be damned! But before we would dock in the port of Limon, Costa Rica, April and I had to survive another harrowing night on a Carnival Cruise ship. I know what you’re thinking. How did we make it through the endless amounts of free buffets consisting of pizza, burgers, pasta, fried chicken, ruben sandwiches, omelettes, and a salad just to be healthy? Well, we washed it all down with equally bottomless whiskey sours, rum & cokes, and diet waters. And then we had the option to burn off all those calories in the ship’s very nice gym, which no one uses, or the tidy running path on the top deck, which no one uses, or swim laps in one of the pools, which no one does. So we didn’t.
When we arrived in Limon, we disembarked and found the group of others that had also signed up for the zip lining. The port area of Limon had several buses lined up, their drivers holding signs indicating which excursion they were for. Also in the port, was the miniature street market that was set up near the entrance. It was just local merchants setting up their tables of wares to sell to the tourists. We had a little time until our bus was set to depart, so we decided to shop a bit. Besides, I was interested in the local coffee because I had heard that Costa Rican coffee is quite good (it is).
There were several merchants selling coffee. I settled on one merchant stall, a nice woman who was selling two bags for $5. A great deal. After I paid her, one of the other cruise passengers next to me also bought some coffee and other nicknacks from her. I remember her total came to $18. No big deal right? Leave it to the American tourist to fuck this up. She whips out a hundred dollar bill. The woman behind the table looked dismayed and actually said, “Oh no.”
The cruise passenger asked, “You can’t change this? Why not?”
“Lo siento. No ingles, ” said the merchant woman. The woman started calling down to her neighboring merchants asking if they had change for a hundred. They all shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders.
I turned to the cruise passenger and told her, “Look, you’re in Costa Rica at a small open-air, street market. No one here is going to have change for a hundred. Don’t you have something smaller?”
She looked exasperated and said, “Fine.” The lady opened up her purse and inside were many bills of multiple values. She pulled out a twenty and handed it to the merchant woman, who looked very relieved.
I walked away feeling sorry for the merchant, and annoyed at the cruise lady. But I didn’t let it ruin my day.
We boarded the bus with the rest of our group and soon we were off towards somewhere into the interior of the country. I must say, the countryside in Costa Rica is awesome. Just look at some of these pictures here.
The bus trip lasted about two and a half hours. Every now and then the tour operators, who were Costa Rican locals, would stop the bus and pull over. The main guide would then point out a sloth in the trees, or a howler monkey, or a wild Jeremy Clarkson roosting. Everyone on the bus would furiously click away with their fancy cameras that likely cost more than the Gross Domestic Product of Senegal.
Eventually we arrived at the zip lining location nearby or within Braulio Carrillo National Park. I don’t remember which. It doesn’t matter, anyway. Everything was jungle. The site was nice and had a gift shop, bathroom facilities and random people selling snacks.
Our guide led us to the staging area for the zip lining tour. Arrayed in neat rows on the ground were the harnesses we would all be wearing. The guide and the assistants spent the next several minutes getting all the tourists suited up and strapped in to the harnesses. The guide explained that we were to hold the lines attached to the harness that contained the carabiner with our left hand. We were all instructed to then put on the supplied thick, leather gloves. The guide then told us the very simple instructions for zip lining.
At each station the assistant there would attach our harness’ carabiner to the cable, which was attached to the pulley above. We then kick our legs out in front of us and lean back, maintaining our grip on the harness line attached to our bodies so we wouldn’t zip through the jungle upside down. Although, that can be fun unless you’re going commando in a kilt. To slow down was easy, despite there being no brakes. In order to down, our guide said to place our gloved hand on top of the cable, behind the pulleys, and apply pressure. Sounds simple right? It is, but that doesn’t stop one or two or five morons from asking the guide if it’s okay to place your hand on the cable just in front of the pulleys.
The guide was patient while repeating the very easy instructions 5,475 times, but you could see the look in his eyes that said, “Fuck my life.”
Despite this part of the trip taking longer that it should, the whole thing was worth it. Zip lining was extremely fun. Just imaging whisking through this relatively untouched eco paradise. A dozen shades of green, red, and brown blur past you as you fly above a small set of river rapids below. The temperatures are in the low eighties as you speed through the air; everything is just right. As you get caught up in the moment, you collide with the tree at the next station.
As I said, the whole experience was great fun. It was over too soon, and we were waiting by the site entrance for the bus to return to pick us up. Soon the bus did arrive to take us back to Limon, but before we boarded, our tour guides told us they had refreshments for us. It wasn’t normally included in the excursion, but the guide said that his tour company was providing a small bag of goodies for us, complimentary. As we boarded the bus, each of us was handed a small brown, paper bag.
Just to clarify, the trip from Limon was two and half hours and it would take that long again to return. Then there was the roughly two hours spent at the zip lining site. So, for the average cruise passenger, it equaled four months since we’d last eaten. As the bus began the trip back, the sound around the bus was the crumpling of brown, paper bags. Our fellow cruise goers were eagerly tearing into their sacks of Costa Rican refreshment. Only there were no Snickers, Doritos, or pizza to be found. Our guide had provided us, free of charge and out of the goodness of their hearts, a banana, some crackers, and a juice box.
April and I initially started to eat one of the crackers. As I chewed on mine, I looked around the bus. I noticed our excursion guides weren’t eating anything. Had they already eaten? I don’t know. I do know that Costa Rica isn’t exactly the wealthiest nation on the planet. And our guides looked quite slender compared to my fellow passengers. Then I heard the noise. It was the disheartening sound of lips smacking, teeth crunching, and tourists grunting as they devoured their bag of snacks. They were wiping those small meals like freshly slopped hogs.
I looked back at our slender Costa Rican guides who were not eating. Then I glanced around the bus at my fellow pork passengers and their menagerie of gluttony, and realized I no longer had an appetite. I put the brown, paper bag down and looked out the window for the remainder of the return trip, enjoying Costa Ricas magnificent scenery.
Costa Rica was a fun and beautiful place. However, by morning we would be in Belize.