Hanging from Trees

On our second weekend in Chicaque Natural Park in Colombia, we really aimed high. First 105 feet, then 328 feet (or, to the locals, 32 meters and 100 meters respectively). We partook of a pair of airborne adventures offered by the park, at a substantial discount for volunteers. And they were definitely among the highlights, as it were, of our time in Chicaque.

First, we climbed a tree, to a height of 105 feet. Not to worry, we were secured by ropes and harnesses and pulleys and other gizmos, so we could take our time getting up there (it was still tiring), and we didn’t have to worry about slipping back down until we were ready to be landbound again. Still, it was a bit unnerving for those of us known to have a fear of heights. In fact, taking it at a slow pace made it even spookier. The tree, by the way, is 200 years old (not sure what that is in metric years) but solid enough that you don’t have to worry about it toppling from your weight. Well, at least if you stick to a healthy diet.

Our guide, who spoke pretty good English, coached us through it and made certain we didn’t do something stupid like get a rope tangled around our neck. As we neared the top, he was hanging out, enjoying the view, and commented, “I have the best office in the world.” Don’t know, amigo, we think ours might be better — especially since it changes so frequently.

After about 45 minutes of this giddiness, we were back on terra firma. But only for a few minutes. Our next stop, only a few yards away, was the zipline. Over the past few years, we’ve done quite a few ziplines — from wimpy to thrilling and everything in between. This was one of the best. In fact, it was probably better than any except Banning Mills, Georgia, which really takes top honors so far (it will be hard to top, as it even made the Guinness Book).

This one was about a quarter of a mile long, reaching a height of 328 feet, and a speed of about 43 miles per hour. Not too shabby — and the view is pretty amazing too. Now if we could just master the art of controlling our movement while we’re up there, so we don’t end up facing backward.

After we landed, we had a nice little hike back to the starting point at the lodge and restaurant called Refugio, where we ponied up our payment for the excursion: for both of us to engage in both adventures, the grand total after our discount was 15,000 Colombian pesos — otherwise known as $3.50.

Near Refugio is a sign pointing to an attraction nearby called Bellotas. Running it through our translator, we found that the word means acorns. But it refers to a group of glamping pods that are sort of shaped like — well, acorns. Or Hershey’s kisses, maybe. They looked intriguing, and we made a mental note that one of these days, we might want to spend a night or two in one of them.

The following day, we took another hike to La Cascada (the waterfall). This time, we didn’t have the place to ourselves as before — it was actually rather crowded, which isn’t surprising for a Sunday. Still, the hike to and from was worth the time and exertion if not exhaustion).

Back at home this weekend, we performed some more culinary experiments in our well-equipped and well-stocked kitchen. Dennis made another of several attempts to cook arepas like the natives, but no matter how meticulously he follows the recipe or which recipe he follows, they keep coming out like miniature hockey pucks.

But Ruth compensated for these failures in the kitchen by bringing over some chocolate cake she had baked, and it was absolutely beyond a doubt the most scrumptious cake that either of us had ever savored. An appropriate finish to a memorable week and a memorable weekend.

Bring on the Birds

March 19th – 21st, 2002

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