The first step backwards into space is the hardest. I had to trust that two strangers would keep me from tumbling down 165 feet of rock face and water. I surely didn’t want to be that little note in Tripadvisor that warns – This group lost a tourist recently.
I gritted my teeth. Heck if the 11 year-old could do this, so could I. Behind me waited a 4 year-old that would go down on a guide’s legs. I sure couldn’t chicken out.
It sounds simple. Guides were at the top and bottom of the repel holding my rope. I gripped the rope above my head and below my hip. My left hand, my power hand, tucked the rope next to my hip. This was my brake. Then – I stepped into the void. My harness acted like a chair. Kicking off the rocks, I forced my fingers to let the rope slide. As my momentum swung me back into the rock face, I took the impact with my bent legs. Repeat -- until I returned to terra firma.
Oh – and keep your legs out at about a 90 degree angle. The natural tendency as you fall is to drop your legs. Bad. You drop your legs, you swing into the rocks and bang assorted body parts. In my case, it was a knee connecting with a rock camouflaged by a waterfall on our second repel. I didn’t even notice the injury until someone pointed out that I was bleeding.
Combine all these techniques, add in gorgeous waterfalls and a lush green tropical forest – and you have waterfall repelling near the Arenal Volcano in Cost Rica.
Our tour was through Pure Trek Canyoning. Our guides’ English was excellent. The company handled all transactions in US dollars. After a traditional lunch of chicken, rice and beans, they loaded the group of 12 tourists into trucks and drove us to our debarkation point. There our large crew of guides tucked us into harnesses. After zip-lining and skiing a glacier in Chamonix, I’ve become adept at climbing into all the gear. Then we needed to be fitted with helmets. (Note – my helmet matched my top.) Add leather gloves, and you’re ready. Boy, did the gloves smell once you got them wet.
The entire experience takes 5 hours. With lunch, travel time, 5 repels, hiking back out of the canyon, changing into dry clothes, and cookies and coffee (Costa Rican coffee is excellent and I’m not a coffee drinker) it was a memorable afternoon. They also provide a photographer and pictures were available while we had a coffee.
It was so much fun – I would do it again!