I should have titled this post “How to conquer the world in 3 hours!” Alas that went against my goal to use more SEO friendly blog titles. Anywho, last month I traveled to Puerto Rico for a destination wedding of a good friend and sorority sister. I had known about this trip for quite some time, but the planning for Trinidad and the Caribbean cruise had commanded all of my attention in the months prior. I’ve actually been to Puerto Rico twice before this trip so I was looking forward to returning. We did all of the usual touristy things on that first trip, the forts, Old San Juan, El Yunque rainforest. It was awesome but this time around I was determined to find a new adventure in Puerto Rico.
The challenge was that I was only going to be there for 3 days, I didn’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on whatever I found, and I only had a limited amount of free time. I also couldn’t risk being too pooped to party at the wedding on that Sunday night. The week before my trip I came across a great website, depicting day trips and adventure in Puerto Rico. Jackpot! There were so many other exciting activities that I had not come across before.
I found a company called Rocaliza, specializing in rainforest and waterfall adventures in Puerto Rico that included zip lining, hiking, climbing waterfalls, and repelling down a waterfall. This sounded like an amazing experience. However, I’ve never done any rock climbing and I’ve only repelled once….from a tree when I was 14! This hardly qualified as experience. And let’s be honest, I’m not in the best shape of my life. I was worried that I might be biting off more than I could chew with this one, but that little voice in my head said “Do It For The Blog!” That’s become my mantra of late. How can I be “The Outdoorsy Diva” preaching to everyone else about conquering fears and living in the moment and chicken out of this? Not an option. So, I sent an email to the company for reservations and then I started to get really excited. I did mention it to my travel mates, but this wasn’t something they were really into. So I was all set and booked to go on a rainforest adventure as a solo traveler. **Pats self on back**
If you’ve read enough of my posts, then you know this little ordeal didn’t go without any hiccups. Initially Rocaliza said I was all set to go. Then they said they weren’t sure they would have enough people to meet their minimum required for a the trip. Luckily that worked out and they were able to get enough people. Then I realized in the airport that I hadn’t packed any shorts for my excursion! I packed dresses and cover ups and bathing suits, but not one pair of shorts or a tee-shirt. After a few choice swear words, I headed to a Ron Jon surf shop in the airport terminal and picked up a pair of surfer girl shorts (without trying them on). The night before the excursion something told me to make sure the shirt and shorts I bought fit. The shirt was fine but the shorts were…well let’s just say there was a bit too much junk in the trunk. There’s no way I would be able to do strenuous climbing and who knows what else in these super short super tight-fitting shorts. But God smiled on me and I located a 24 hour drug store within walking distance the morning of my excursion and they had water shorts in my size and a decent length. I was saved and none too soon because the Rocaliza van was there waiting in front of my hotel just as I returned from the store.
After the stress over my wardrobe I was so relieved to be on the van and headed off to the rainforest. It was only about a 50 minute ride to our destination and our guides were nice enough to stop at a Walgreens to allow us to use the restroom and get any last-minute items. Lucky for me because I also managed to forget my socks in my haste to not keep the van waiting on me at the hotel!
It’s a very scenic ride to the Carite rainforest. Our guide shared with us that we would be hiking along the start of one of Puerto Rico’s largest rivers up in the mountains. This river starts as a stream and eventually provides freshwater for the majority of the island. We also learned that the land we would be entering was in fact owned privately and not a national park. How would you like to own part of your own rainforest? Pretty cool.
We arrived, and got fitted for our helmets and harnesses right away. The adrenaline was pumping and I was excited but also extremely nervous about what was to come. Our guide, Marcos reminded us repeatedly that this was a strenuous activity. So I prayed….please don’t let me be carried out of this forest. Amen.
We set off up a road headed toward the forest on an extremely steep incline. This hill could give a San Francisco hill a run for its money. Marcos said if you can get up this hill then the rest of the day would be a breeze. He wasn’t kidding! I was regretting this decision with every step. But I pressed on and made it to the top. Unfortunately one of the elderly members of our party took a tumble down at the base of the hill. Marcos departed to see about him and we all trekked on into the forest with our other guides, Ely and Nail, and into the adventure of a life time.
It was beautiful! It was shaded and cool. The forest was so luscious and green. There were no more paved roads or pathways. This was real nature. We followed the rocks of the stream, listening to Ely’s warnings of extra slippery rocks and where we should step to avoid a fall. The rocks became boulders as we journeyed upward into the mountain. 10 minutes in and I was feeling terrified and already exhausted. We climbed like little spider monkeys over the rocks and into the stream. I stopped to catch my breath and for a split second everything in my body screamed at me to just stay there. I’d just sit right there in the cool breeze….. I’d sit there and do what exactly? Wait for 3 hours until the group returned??? That certainly wasn’t an option; I had no choice but to suck it up and press onward. Just when I thought I was ready to pass out we reached our first reward. It was a small but very scenic little waterfall.
The cool water felt so good and we had a chance to sit down and catch our breath. We took turns taking pictures in the falls. I didn’t dare bring my real camera. However,this would be my first time putting my new LifeProof iPhone case to the test. It was time to journey on. Seeing the falls had rejuvenated me and I knew we would be rewarded with even more beautiful views as we pushed on. Our next challenge was a formidable rock face. Ely went ahead of us and threw down a rope to assist. It wasn’t very graceful. I fell once, but I managed to walk up the face of that rock and climb to the top. My first real challenge of the day was complete! I felt so accomplished.
Our next challenge was to pull ourselves up between boulders using a rope between a pretty tight squeeze. This was a completely vertical climb, but with Ely giving me directions on where to plant my hands and feet, it was really a piece of cake. I was getting the hang of it now!
Of course that was before we approached what I like to call The Rock. It was taller, steeper, and there was water rushing down the face of this big bad rock which made it impossible to see where your grips were located. After watching some of my counterparts misstep and come sliding down the rock, I was feeling pretty intimidated. By this time our little group had become like a family. Everyone cheered each other on as we took our turns. This definitely helped me get in the zone and do what I had to do. I stood in front of the incline and prepared to face my fear. Ely yelled directions and encouragement to me and I followed her every instruction. It’s kind of like solo twister. “Place your left foot where your right hand is.” Whaaaaa??? As crazy as it sounded I did it and next thing you know I was climbing like it was nobody’s business. Up I went! I didn’t slip or falter at all and I didn’t even need the rope! I made it to the top!
We journeyed on through more rocky paths. We had to maneuver around the edge of a deep pool. One of our group wasn’t so lucky and fell in. We climbed under things, over them, across them and contorted our bodies in all sorts of weird angles. Just when I was starting to lose my energy once again, we were rewarded with the ultimate prize. To date it’s one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen in my life. It was a large rocky cave with a waterfall flowing down through an opening in the top. The mossy walls and wet rocks created a phenomenal landscape. The pictures I took with my phone came out great but they still don’t do it justice. We walked through the shallow pool and ventured deeper into the cavern. I climbed up the wet slippery rocks even deeper until I was behind the falls. As I stood there looking down and out across the forest I felt at one with nature. It was euphoric!
The guides had fresh tropical fruit waiting for us after we explored the waterfall. It was just enough of a sugar rush to propel us onward to the next half of our adventure….time for ziplining!!! It was gorgeous. I didn’t get stuck going across the line, which was my biggest concern. We zipped from 3 different platforms but it just wasn’t enough. I could have done it 10 more times and still not been satisfied. Looking out at the greenery, listening to the Coqui frogs chirp their song, it was just a magnificent ending to the day. After making our descent back down out of the forest we were treated to a wonderful spread of authentic Puerto Rican food and homemade sangria in an open gondola with a spectacular lunch view.
I will never forget the warmth and hospitality of everyone involved at Rocaliza, the comradery of our group, the beauty of the rainforest, or the sound of the rushing waters of the mountain. I had done it! I had conquered my fears and surpassed my mental and physical limitations! I felt like the ultimate bad ass. As far as I was concerned, I had conquered the world that day….and it only took me 3 hours!
Lauren G. , Outdoorsy Diva™
“Adventure is a lifestyle!”