It was our last big adventure in Puerto Rico – ziplining! Definitely a first for me and one that I was looking forward to with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I decided against bringing my DSLR with me (visions of my camera plummeting to the ground ran rampant through my head) so all pictures I have stolen from my friends who brought their more handy little counterparts. I felt naked without a camera!!!
The company that we went with was EcoQuest which runs the ziplines out of Campo Rico Ziplining, a large estate that’s only a short 5-10 minute drive from San Juan. They have several packages but we went with the Ziplining adventure, which includes a short kayak and some hiking through the woods, interspersed with 5 ziplines of varying speed. We started off at the main office, where we signed off on waiver forms to release them from liability should we somehow snap off the harness and plunge to our doom in a ravine filled with necrotizing fasciitis. Shudder. Maybe I was more nervous about this then I thought.
Our guides were suitably reassuring, however, as was the sturdy harness we strapped ourselves into. Less comforting was the helmet, which didn’t seem thick enough to sustain a headfirst fall into the woods… also, it smelled excessively funky. Like the head sweat of a thousand tourists before us which had been left to fester and ferment into a nosebrew that rivaled the pungency of stinky cheese mixed with old curry. The only real complaint I had about the whole experience was that they should really Febreze those helmet linings.
After suiting up, we kayaked for just a few minutes to our docking point where we came face to face with our major enemy of the day – iguana poop. Iguanas leave really large, almost human size feces behind them! There was a huge one strategically laying right where one would like to step onto the dock… those iguanas sure are crafty. Calls of “Iguana poop, watch out!” echoed all day.
The first thing we would have to do was to cross two rope bridges to get up higher in altitude. It was very Indiana Jones-ish, if Indiana Jones also had a safety harness and a line attached to prevent you from falling off.
Actually, the bridges scared me a bit because the gap between the wooden posts was so wide, and when you walked across the bridge would wobble from side to side… obviously I’m not cut out to be an adventuring archaeologist.
It was now that the evil iguana poop claimed its first victim, who was crossing the bridge and did not hear our calls of iguana poop from before!
After an upward hike, we reached our first zipline! There was much explaining about how there are two cables and two pulleys so even if one breaks there’s another one, and then if that breaks too you’re dangling from a safety line, and then if that breaks it was time to go anyway. We each got a thickly-lined braking glove and then we learned the proper position, how to control the direction you’re pointing (I can’t even remember now, but it’s something like if your legs start turning left push with your left hand… or something) and then how to brake with the glove, if needed.
It was kind of lot to remember…. because all I remember now is sitting with my legs sticking out and sort of crossed… and then a little push later I was zooming out among the trees, all thoughts about which way to push flying out of my mind as the scenery streamed past. Push left? My legs were swinging! Definitely a trial and error thing. And now I knew what the helmet was for – once in a while my helmet would make contact with the zipline and make a very disconcerting grating sound. It was a very noisy reminder – lean back! Lean back!
And then suddenly my first ride was over and I was at the landing platform, getting unhooked and getting my bearings back. Wow! After that I wasn’t scared any more, but just intent on getting my ride right so I could focus on the feeling of flying through the air! Whoo! I’m Superwoman!
My favorite zipline was #4 Big Mama, the longest zipline at ~1,000 feet and soaring through the jungle with glimpses of meadow in between. Because it was so long, it really gave you a good chance to look around and enjoy before you had to prepare to stop. And then sadly enough, we were at the last zipline, where we would not be braking at all but the guide would be braking for us – so it would be full speed til the end! At this point I definitely felt like a pro at ziplining and controlling my body so NO FEAR! FULL SPEED AHEAD! DAMN THE TORPEDOES!
After an exhilarating ride we landed at our end destination – a very casual little bar just steps from the main office where we had started out. We quickly removed all our gear (especially the stinky helmets, ugh!) and sat to await our lunch, which was included in the package. And we sat, and waited…. and eventually were informed that there would be no lunch! Oh no! So instead, they offered us free mojitos instead and a discounted price on the tour. I’m not much of a drinker but I’m a super cheap Asian, so I love anything discounted. SOLD!
The bartender prepared everyone’s drinks in a big wooden mortar. First, he put in a pinch of sugar (looked like brown), added mint leaves and a wedge of lime, and then used the pestle to grind them together briefly. Then he added shots of vodka (normal was 2… I asked for 1!) and topped it off with Sprite, then poured the whole thing into a cup filled with ice. I’m sure there’s other variations, but I liked how this turned out so I might try this one at home – light on vodka and heavy on soda!
We’re pretty lightweight, so by the time we finished the mojitos and got back in the van to return to San Juan, we were considerably rowdier. There was much bashing of men by all of us on the only guy (besides our guide) there, one half of a vacationing couple from Brooklyn. Brooklyn in the house! We learned that if you work for the MTA and someone spits on you, you can file for a one year paid medical leave! Wow!
Once back, we had lunch at an Argentinian steakhouse named Buenos Ayres that I wasn’t expecting too much of, but they really impressed me with the quality of the churrasco and also the pork ribs we got. I have to admit that when I’ve gotten steak in San Juan it’s never medium rare as I ask, always medium-well to well… and they got this right on! It was juicy, flavorful and tender. All that one can ask for in a slab of beef. Another thing I’ve noticed about restaurants here is that adults can order from the kid’s menu with impunity. I love it!
After lunch it was time for a quick nap and then preparing for our last night in San Juan – so we decided to go all out and glam up. Our plan was to watch the sunset from the rooftop bar Wet at the San Juan Water and Beach Club, have a nice classy dinner, and then end up at El San Juan Resort and Casino for dancing at Club Brava. Of course, the best laid plans never work out that way! We left the hotel at 5:45, thinking that would be enough time for a 10 minute drive to the San Juan Water and Beach Club to see the sunset at 6:15 – however, we didn’t factor in traffic! Somehow, when you’re on vacation you tend to think everyone else must be on vacation, conveniently forgetting about all the locals are living their lives! Weekday traffic made us chew our lips as we looked out the window and the minutes passed by, wondering if we’d end up watching the sunset from the taxi. Luckily we did end up getting to the rooftop in time to see the sunset – although most of it was obscured by puffy clouds. Le sigh!
After that, it was time to have our classy dinner. But where was a likely place? There was much Yelping and discussion about costs and distance, and finally we decided on a few possibilities and started on our way. Here’s another factor I didn’t consider – how painful it is to walk in my heels! It’s a love-hate thing – I love how they look and I hate how they hurt after just a little real walking. After what felt like miles of hobbling in my pretty studded leather heeled sandals, we reached El San Juan Resort and Casino and I begged my case – Hey, we’re going to end up here later tonight, why don’t we just eat here? Anything to alleviate the throbbing from the balls of my feet. We had probably walked for 10 minutes.
Inside, we learned that there was actually a restaurant that might suit us – Koco, serving Caribbean fare. The maitre’d declared us “angels” – hey, we did look good – and we got a nice round booth. The restaurant itself was definitely very classy in terms of decor and it was a good choice for our last “fancy” dinner.
Everyone agreed the food was great, but two standouts to me were the seared diver’s scallops and also the coconut risotto. I actually don’t like coconut, but the risotto was so creamy and rich with flavor I had to give this a thumbs up! And it was definitely a good portion size because the risotto is so rich it will fill you up. We followed up the delicious food with desserts – ice cream in a chocolate bowl and mango crepes with caramel dulce de leche. Definitely a great dinner to end our trip on!
Afterwards we had planned to hit the club for some dancing to work off the food, but our waiter warned us that it would be a young college kid crowd and that it would be better to go back to Condado and hit up his favorite place, Bar Gitano. Where, coincidentally, he would be going after work. Hmm….. We decided to check out Club Brava anyway – and he was right. The club wasn’t even open yet and there was a line that snaked out the air-conditioned room into the back gardens by the pool – and everyone definitely looked a bit young, at least to my jaded eyes. It might have been fun nonetheless, but we decided to head back to the hotel in favor of more relaxing and foot-friendly activities… mainly, lounging in the hot tub!
I couldn’t have planned out a better way to end our night =D