San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Sensational Cable

FASTER, higher, scarier: In a countrywhere canopy tours and bungee jumps are practicallyold hat, companies are constantly vyingto up the activities’ thrill factor.TuruBaRi Tropical Park is no exception andhas started Sensational Cable – a ziplinestretching across a 300-foot gulf that whizzesthe rider 60 mph over forest and river.Sensational Cable compounds the traditionalseated zipline experience by positioning therider belly-down simulating flight, Supermanstyle.TuruBaRi, located halfway between SanJosé and the Pacific coast, installed the 3,500-foot long cable just over a month ago at a costof more than $20,000.“It’s unique. It’s a way of literally flying,”said TuruBaRi spokesmanRodrigo Saborío. “You can’tfeel your weight, and you feeltotally free. We’ve seen somethinglike it in France, butthere’s nothing like it in LatinAmerica.”“We spent a lot of timedoing research to get it working,to calculate everything,”Saborio added. “It took two orthree months of testing.”CLARIBEL Chaves, a23-year-old worker at the parkfrom Turrubares, was the first person to ridethe cable. She’s done it more than 10 timessince.“It was very fun,” she said. She admittedthat she was hesitant at first, but the managementwas able to convince her to be the guineapig.This reporter may not have been the first –Saborío estimates that more than 100 visitorshave ridden the cable since its opening – butapprehension still took over when it was myturn to fly like Superman.The adventure began with an easy climbup a few flights to the Sensational Cabletower, my heart beating harder with every step(and not from the exercise), my grip on themetal railing tightening. The attendantsplopped a helmet on my head and strapped meinto a body-length vest. I lay on my stomachon a cushioned table, trying to breathe evenlyand enjoy the view east over the park, to theopposite tower below.The attendants hooked the back of my vestonto the cable and then lowered the table, sothat I swung gently like a rescued dolphin on aDiscovery Channel special, I imagined. Myfriend Jen Rowell giggled and took photos, butI was too excited to be embarrassed.THE attendant counted down from threeinto a walkie talkie, letting the operators on theother side of the chasm know I would soon beracing towards them at the same speed carsdrive on many U.S. highways.Three, two, one, and the attendants let go ofmy feet. My front end tipped forward a bit, myfeet lifted, and I began to slide slowly awayfrom the tower.I heard a “Good luck!” from Jen, and then Iwas flying. I rode smoothlyover the edge of the cliff,coming within arms’ length ofsome branches on the way.The cable zipped loudly, avibrating buzz that got louderas I gained speed.The speed was exhilarating,but not terrifying; I hadtime to look around, toadmire the view, even towave to friends who were ridingthe gondola alongsideme.I quickly left them far behind, however, asthe opposite tower grew closer. The muddyTarcoles River (one of the most polluted in thecountry, our guide said, and home to some verylarge crocodiles) was below me, green hillssloped in front of me, but I felt disconnected; Icouldn’t really be flying over them at 60 mph,could I?There was wind in my face, the dirt roadthrough the forest looked like a hiking path andthe trees looked like brush, but I felt like I waswatching out of an airplane window.THERE was about a minute in all to peeraround before the cable’s braking mechanismslowed me down with a thump. Then I reachedout to grab the attendant’s proffered hand.Reeled in a bit like a fish, I was lowered, laughing, onto the table.A few minutes later Jen came off theride with some abrasions on the side of herneck from the body harness, but with a grinon her face nonetheless.The cable is “surreal, the closest to flyinghumans can achieve,” she gushed.“The ride gives an adrenaline rush aftertake-off, which for me has yet to subsideand left me wanting to go back and do it allover again,” she said later.THIS addiction is a side effect Saboríopredicts for all who ride the cable.“The tourist is always looking for moreadventure, and this is like a drug. You wantmore, and you do the canopy [tour], andthen you do the cable, and because on thecanopy you are sitting, the sensation is completelydifferent.”Cesar Sun Nino, 26, another cableattendant who was the second person to ridethe cable, agrees.“I had never done something like this,”he said. “I rock climb and I do canopy, butthis cable is completely different. I don’tthink you can compare it with anything,except maybe skydiving.”Having done a skydive, I admit that itnow takes quite a lot to get my adrenalinepumping. The Sensational Cable is a thrillride, but not one that left my stomach inthe dust; the ride was long enough that Iforgot how fast I was traveling. Unlessone is afraid of heights, I would predictthat the ride will induce more pleasure thanterror.TURUBARI Park, which opened topublic in July 2003, is a 495-acre tropicalparadise with gardens, rivers, adventureactivities, and restaurants. Located 75 kilometerswest of San José, all-day tours canbe arranged, including transportation, a personalpark guide through butterfly andflower gardens, lunch, canopy tours, horsebackrides, and of course the SensationalCable.According to TuruBaRi tour guide LuisCarlos Brenes, the park was converted to atourist destination to protect the land fromdevelopment. The company put in trails,restaurants, gardens and the gondola.The park is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. sevendays a week.Adventure activities (SensationalCable, canopy tour or horseback ride) withlunch and gondola ride included start at$45 for children under 12 and $60 foradults. Park tours and transportation areadditional.For more info, call 250-0705,, or

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