Monday, February 14, 2005


Jungle Adventure: Elephant v. The Volcano

Hanging by a Thread

On Sunday morning we all got up early and met up with out travel guide from Mombotours. We piled into the Landcruiser and set off into the jungle that spilled down from Mombacho volcano on the outskirts of town. The road was beyond rough, sort of like Scott Circle in DC, but worse. Actually it wasn't so much a road as it was a wash, where rain water had carved a channel in the side of the mountain. Anyway, we lumbered up the slope, into the cool lush forest on our way to the canopy zip line tour.

A zip line tour, for the uninitiated, is a pretty boss way of getting a glimpse of the jungle canopy. The tour company had set up 17 lines in the tree tops on about halfway up the side of the volcano at about 2,000 ft. The lines ran from tree to tree and varied in length from a dozen yards (for the Tarzan swing) to nearly 200 yards. Wearing climbing gear (harness, safety line, helmet).

Before we got the zip line course, the jeep stopped at an over look on the side of the mountain. From the vantage point, nestled among the cocoa trees, you would see all of Granada and the curving shore of Lake Nicaragua. You could also see Las Isletas, a small archipelago of about 300 islands at the base of the volcano created by an ancient eruption. It was pretty cool. Before we piled back into the jeep, we all got to sample some fresh cocoa beans. Actually we got to taste the sweet, almost jolly rancher like pulp that surrounds the actual bean used to make chocolate. It didn't taste like chocolate, but it didn't taste bad either.

Finally, we arrived at the zipline course. We climbed up to the first station, about 70 feet above the forest floor. The first zip line was about 100 yards and was a good length to get used to the system. Go too fast and you'd slam into the tree or the platform at the other end, go to slow and you'd get stuck in the middle and have to haul yourself up. Unfortunately, I was the first off the platform. I sailed into the air and made it most of the way, having to pull myself up a few dozen feet to the platform. But from that point on it was smooth sailing as we zipped from tree to tree with out effort, all the while enjoying the view of the lush jungle. Surprisingly, the things like speed and height seemed to fade into the background and didn't ever really jump out as an object of apprehension or fear.

The final station was by far the most interesting. The station itself was on a giant Ceiba Tree (Legend has it that the Ceiba tree holds up the sky). This tree was massive, probably about 10 feet (or more in diameter) at and least 200 feet or so in height. The massive branches were host to an incredible variety of epiphites- orchids, mosses and other plants...too many to count. It was sort of like a garden in the sky. But getting down was interesting, no ladder, rather you had to repel down to the ground about 7 stories below. The guides made it seem effortless, and to be honest it was quite a rush. As I was waiting on the ground for the others in the tour group to finish, I counted at least 12 different kinds of butterflies. Blue, orange, red, white. All in all pretty awesome.

(Here's a website with some pics of the zip line tour, about 1/2 down the page.)

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