Canopy

The problem with travel stories is that they begin and end with airport stories. The raw inhumanity of a series of airports descends to cloak the traveler’s memory, blunting her wit and dulling the color and humor of recent events.

In my case, this is compounded by the inadequacy of my mere words to describe how gloriously lush and fertile Costa Rica is, how stunning is the variety of landscapes, and how friendly and tolerant most of the locals are with the hordes of clueless tourists.

Costa Rica lies on four tectonic plates, so mountain ranges (including several active volcanoes) separate the country into regions with vastly different terrain. Is astonishing to drive from one province to another and see the deep, florid foliage yield to hard-packed earth and fields of long, wind-blown grasses. In recent years, Costa Rica has developed a sustainable eco-tourism industry designed to allow visitors to experience the peace and beauty of the rain forests — wet and dry, primary and secondary growth — while keeping the infrastructure’s environmental footprint as small as possible.

The canopy tour through the rain forest is far less peaceful than the name might suggest: I was fitted with a clumsy harness around my hips, hitched to a finger-thick cable, and sent whizzing between the treetops 100 feet up from the rain forest floor, braking by pressing my heavily gloved hand to the cable to create friction that prevented me from crashing into the steel platform that was suddenly oh my God, right there After standing on the platform just long enough to realize just how far up we were and just how much the treetops swayed, I did it again. And again. And again.

I expected to be frightened, or at least a bit wobbly-kneed, especially as heights often make me a bit woozy, but I was surprisingly unfazed. The guides were exuberant but utterly professional and focused, and safety was clearly their first priority, so I simply released any residual fear and enjoyed the speed, the leaves, the air.

It was a pleasant diversion, and I was glad I tried it, but the zip-lines move you so fast that there is no time to appreciate the canopy, and I’m convinced that the constant movement and noise must drive away any animals from the route. It’s an activity for thrill-seekers, not nature lovers.

But now I understand why Tarzan gave that mighty bellow as he swung through the jungle — it is irresistible.

My favorite thing, though, was standing on the platform before each launch, my ear next to the cable, feeling it vibrate with the weight of the previous rider and hearing its high-pitched insistent singing, like a hive of furious wasps trapped in the cable.

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