While we were still enjoying the lovely town and relaxing atmosphere of Granada, Nicaragua, we wanted to see the Volcano Mombacho, still active we had been told, as well as the cloud forest in the mountains and to experience the jungle zip line.
We were both a little worried about the zip line and whether we could manage climbing a makeshift ladder, 100 metres up a tree! But embarrassed to admit it, we bought the tour and determined to try.
Both tours were private tours with only the tour guides and the two of us. Nice.
First we tried to book the Cloud Forest Tour at $45 each, but they said a truckload of bricks tipped over, so the road had been closed and we couldn’t go. It took them 2-3 days to clear it out, so our cloud forest tour was delayed.
In the meantime we checked out a new development a little ways up the mountain overlooking Granada and Lake Nicaragua, but to us, a beautiful beach in a warm country was the ideal. High on a mountainside was not for us, but it was fun to see the little howler monkeys curiously watching us from the trees.
Talking to the monkeys…
Finally, a robust 4 wheel drive took us up the rough mountain road to the Mount Mombacho Cloud Forest.
Along the way, the driver stopped to pick up a young mother and daughter giving them a lift a few miles up the road.
The cloud forest was indeed a forest in the clouds!
It was literally in the clouds with a life-giving mist cocooning us as we walked down a narrow path through the forest. Water was dripping from the leaves and the air was thick with oxygenation. It was so easy to breathe! A pure and natural forest in all its glory – it was well worth the wait.
At 4000 feet, the cloud forest was lovely and cool compared to the 35-degree stifling heat in town that day, and we were hesitant to wear boots and jackets in that heat, as the guides recommended, but in the end we were glad we wore our hiking boots and rain coats. It was wet and muddy.
Orchids and moss and greenery flourished in great abundance…
In one area the path was a tall narrow slit between the rock walls with water oozing out of the thick plant life on either side…
Later we arrived at an abandoned cantina, where they provided a nice lunch.
Further along, we stopped at a coffee plantation where the owners graciously educated us on the coffee beans and processing method.
The flowers of the coffee bean plants were exquisitely delicate…
And my favourite two flowers were growing voluptuously everywhere around the plantation… Hibiscus…
As is often the case with volcanoes, the thick cloud/fog and poor visibility prevented us from seeing inside the mouth of the volcano. We knew it was there; we just couldn’t see much of it.
It was perfect that we were the only two people on the cloud forest tour (we have a profound aversion to group tours).
But the best was yet to come…
The next day was the Mombacho Canopy tour. At $45 each, it was another bargain.
Slightly nervous but very excited, we set off on another rough ride up the mountain to try zip lining across the top of the jungle!
Yup, the ladder up the tree was very high. In fact, you could barely see the top of the huge tree! Okay, we can do this. We can. Can’t we?
The guide, Huigar, was cheerful and encouraging.
“I am right behin’ you Senora, no worry, no worry…”
And up I went. The other guide followed T.
Almost at the top…
Finally at the top, on the safety of the platform, we were given instructions. With no idea of whether the equipment was safe or not, we were committed now.
Strapped in, leather gloves on, you were to hang on with your left hand, while using the leather glove on the steel rope above you to control your speed. The other guide would wait for you on the next platform.
When T saw this picture of the guide in the red hardhat he bellowed,
“There’s the sonofab… that… (but we’ll get to that later).
At the last-minute, a young Spanish girl, about 19 years old, had joined us. She was more scared than we were – she backed away, petrified. We didn’t think she would do it, but at last-minute she agreed, looking more frightened than I have ever seen anyone.
I hesitated when I looked down across the line into the jungle because I could not see the end of the zip line at the next tree. The line just disappeared into the jungle. Huigar assured me that the tree was there.
I went first…
Whish! I was flying across the treetops, whizzing past tree branches that would have really hurt if they had hit my bare arms or legs. Amazing views. Fast and faster and faster! This was fantastic!
Then I realized that I had to slow down to arrive nicely on the next platform, which I still could not see. I squeezed and squeezed the wire with my gloved right hand. But I was not slowing down! OMG!
With all my strength, I scrunched my fingers tightly around the fat wire until I felt my hand burning. Finally, I started to slow from 80 miles an hour to about 40, at least that’s the way it felt.
I squeezed and squeezed, barely slowing, and all at once there was the guide waiting for me on the platform in the tree. He caught me in a whirl on the wooden platform, and I grinned from ear to ear. Wow! What a rush!
But my glove was smoking! Really – it got so hot, it was actually smoking and my hand was burning. The guide smiled warmly, but with little concern.
Not just one zip across the jungle top, but 15 zip lines! From 15 platforms ranging from 30 to 100 metres above the ground, the flying foxes took us zipping through the jungle trees. Sometimes you could not see the other platform because there were so many thick jungle trees and the platforms were so far apart!
T’s experience was a little different. He went zipping across the treetops at 100 miles an hour and then used his glove brake so strongly that he stopped altogether several yards away from the next platform. The guide, somewhat disgustedly (according to T), instructed him on how to use the hand-over-hand method of pulling himself in – no easy task.
On his next zip, T felt more confident and while whizzing along at high speeds, managed to do some trick stunts as he flew through the air. Apparently he was doing 360’s as he zipped along. The guide was duly impressed.
“Senor, I ave not seen ahynee one do such manuevers on da zip line ehvvver before dis!”
So T thought he was getting the hang of this zip line thing when he came charging across a long line at full speed. He was trying to slow down squeezing the glove carefully against the line – not too much so as to stop altogether as before, but enough to get safely on to the platform. Of course the guide would catch him if he approached the platform a little too fast.
Or maybe not. As T came flying in, the guide suddenly looked alarmed and at the last moment stepped aside, allowing him to crash full-bore into the tree!!!
“No Senor, I cannot stop a big man as you! I am a small man – you would squish me like a bug! Better you stopped by the tree.”
T was aghast. Scratched, bruised, cursing, shaken-up and somewhat dazed, he continued zipping from tree to tree.
Eventually he mastered it. And loved it.
After my last zip line to the last tree, there was a rope going miles down to the ground. Okay, not miles, but it was far. These trees were huge.
This was frightening! Before I could protest, the guide unhooked me from the zip line and secured me to the down-rope, all the while saying, “No problem, Senora, no problem…”
“But… but… I don’t know how to lower… to operate the mechanism… to… “, I stammered as I looked down, way down…. to several guides waiting at the bottom, little figures far below deep in the jungle.
“No problem Senora, the men at da bottom, they will adjus’ your descent.”
A weak “Oh…” squeaked out of my mouth as he pushed me over the edge of the platform.
A jerk and I stopped mid-air, down a bit, and another jerk stop, down a few inches at a time.
Ok, not so bad.
But suddenly, without warning, I was free flying down – straight down!
No stops, no jerks, raging straight down to the ground at lightening speed, screaming at the top of my lungs.
Just as I thought that I was plunging down to my death, a strong jerk stopped me, about 3 feet from the ground! OMG! My eyes must have been big as saucers. A burst of laughter erupted from the guys on the ground. Yah, very funny.
But zip lining – what an adrenalin rush! Sometimes I think we need that surge of fear or excitement to make us feel alive again! Amazing. Invigorating. Exhilarating.