With super heavy duty leather gloves on, I gripped a thick, steal cable, and stepped off the platform. Flying over a canyon in the Mindo rain forest, I would like to say the view was spectacular, but the truth is, I was too busy trying to apply just the right amount of pressure on the cable to do a lot of looking. Then, as I approached the far side of the canyon, I could see that the cable did not curve back upwards, and as I was approaching at Mach I, I wondered how I might slow down rather than the more obvious conclusion of this little zipline trip, which was that I would slam into the side of the mountain.
They had told me not to brake with my hands except in case of an emergency, and that the man on the other end would give me a signal if that were necessary. I could see this man, about half my size, watching me speed towards him, but no signal came. I then began to wonder how much physics training he had gone though for this role, and whether that training included case studies with foreigners twice his size. Still no signal, then, at the last minute, he grabbed a rope and ran up the mountain, which, based on some kind of pulley system, sent a dark, heavy object up the cable towards me. My harness slammed into that oversized door stop, and I began to slow down, although not as quickly, I believe, as he had expected. A second later I collided with the end of the line, hanging a few inches above the ground right beside him. A 10 minute hike up the mountain, and I was getting strapped back in for the return trip. Ay caramba!
Aside from ziplining, we took a 45 minute hike down through the rainforest to a beautiful waterfall, where just in case you were in the mood, they had built a platform so you could more easily jump to your death. They would tie a rope to you, I assume so it’s easier to haul out your body afterwards. I forewent this little adventure, but did watch a European girl take the plunge. Not so dramatically, she survived. I still declined.
We also visited a mariposario, not sure there’s a word for it in English, but maybe a butterfly conservatory. All sorts of amazing butterflies, and you could stick your finger in a bowl of decomposing pureed fruit, and get a butterfly to eat off of your finger. My favorite part was the display of “pupas” (cocoons). The pupas are camouflaged based on where they are. If they are near water, they are silver to mimic a drop of water. In a tree, they are green or autumn brown to disguise themselves as leaves. Pretty amazing.
Finally on the Mindo tour we went to a chocolate factory, where they showed us the whole process of making chocolate, from pods on the tree to drying and roasting and inspecting, etc. This tour finished with tastings of the chocolate in each stage of processing. They had begun producing chocolate in search of the perfect brownie, and that was the last thing we got to taste. Pretty close to perfect, if you ask me.
Photos of the Mindo tour are here (I had planned to hold my iPhone while ziplining, but turns out that was not feasible, so sorry but no photos of that).