Perils of Polly: Zipping around in Costa Rica

Posted: Friday, January 28, 2011

Editor's note: Polly Crawford was a reporter and associate editor of The Peninsula Clarion from 1985-1988, when she wrote "Perils of Polly." She also wrote a series of "Peril" columns in 1998 about her Australian adventures. Her perils continue in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Photo Courtesy Polly Crawford
Photo Courtesy Polly Crawford
Polly zipping around in Costa Rica.

Money! If something happened to Maralee because of money, I wasn't sure what I would do. I knew I shouldn't have dropped her off at night, with no electricity, at an ATM.

I circled the block in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, for a third time. The only lights in the village were headlights. While it wasn't raining hard, it was still raining, and Maralee was nowhere to be seen. The ATM machine I had dropped her off at glared at me in spite. I began to pray.

This was my first night in Costa Rica, and after a good view of the volcano, the plan had been to stop and get a bite to eat and go back to our little cabana. But she spotted an ATM machine and needed money. We broke lots of rules. She was now alone looking for money, it was dark, and we had no plan other than to pick her up after she had the money. Visions of headlines screaming, "Murder of American in Costa Rica" danced in my brain.

Two more circuits of the block, and suddenly, there she was. When I gasped out, "Where were you?" she just laughed and said that ATM had been out of money, so she went in search of another one.

"Don't do that again!" I spit through clenched teeth, then breathed and relaxed.

The next day was zipline day. I was excited. We were to take horses to the bottom of the zipline, then climb stairs to get to the top. While I hopped on my skinny, probably worm-infested, brown steed, Maralee gingerly mounted her white one. She looked at me wide-eyed. "You can do this," I encouraged her. Even when she was staying at my place, with its two horses, she was never tempted to ride.

After an hour's ride, all within view of the smoking volcano, with the raucous screams of howler monkeys serenading us, we finally reached the bottom of the zipline platforms. I was thankful the horses had brought us this far. Then we began to climb. Howler monkeys to our left. Leaf cutter ants hauling their giant prizes at our feet, and the zing of ziplines above us. I was really in Costa Rica.

Drenched in sweat with aching thighs, we finally reached the first platform -- the highest one. There were about eight of us in the group. Our guides explained the procedure with the harness. I strapped it on. "Yeehaw!" I screamed as I dropped off the platform. Anything they say about enjoying the view of the jungle is all hogwash. Sure, it's there, but you are much too exhilarated with the thrill of the ride itself to notice the jungle.

We enjoyed 10 platforms and ziplines, some short, some long. What a morning! We were finally back with the horses and had a quick ride down. Maralee hitchhiked on a truck. She'd had enough of the horses.

Next up? A boat ride in a tiny rubber raft down a very muddy river. The goal: to see wildlife. We gingerly stepped into the canvas-bottomed vessel, squeezed ourselves onto the inflated seat, and allowed our guide to row us down the river. We did see a little: a giant sloth, howler monkeys, a baby cayman, vultures everywhere, a Jesus Christ lizard that walks on water, and tiny bats. But we didn't see what I really wanted to see -- a coati, toucans, and macaws.

We ended the river tour at a private hacienda, and had tea while watching the family begin training a horse. These horses were well fed and beautiful.

With a little bit of daylight still left, we climbed into our own car and headed out to see coati and toucans. We began wandering around the rocky roads which went up to tiny mountain villages, but no coati or toucans.

Finally rain, which had set itself aside for our day's adventures, joined the dark, and once again, the electricity went out in La Fortuna. We parked and went into a candlelit pub for a bite and drink. With the rain picking up volume, no one was sitting on the sidewalk, but we did get an open window table and began to watch the rainbow of dark oranges and reds reflecting from the headlights in the pools of water on the street.

As we chatted, we spotted a huge bullfrog in the street. "Oh no!" I interjected. "Is he going to make it?"

I now noticed nearly all eyes from the pub were on the lone bullfrog in the middle of the street. A car would pass and we'd let out a collective gasp. When the spray and dancing lights settled, there he would be, still sitting in the middle of the road.

A car would pass about every 30 seconds to a minute or so. He'd zigzag, hop to the other lane, zigzag some more, but he clearly had no idea of the danger he was in. He just seemed to be enjoying the warm rain on the pavement.

More cars passed. Each time we held our breaths. "Come on, you stupid frog," I muttered. "Get out of the street!" Would he make it?

Check back next week for the Polly's next "Perils."

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