Hiking, Rappelling, and Ziplining

Hands down we had the best outdoor experience to-date when we went hiking, rappelling, and ziplining at the San Salvador rainforest in Puerto Rico. We are adventurers at heart but as daily urban dwellers in a big city, we had forgotten how it felt like to be amidst nature and how much we really loved everything about it until that day. Part of what made our experiences so great and memorable was that we had fantastic guides, Alphonso and Andre, from Ecoquest who gave us tips on the outdoors and at the same time they were eager to share with us the Puerto Rican culture.

One of the villagers' homes
Though not as well known as El Yunque rainforest, our adventure at San Salvador rainforest was incredibly amazing. Located about an hour away from San Juan, we drove up very narrow, winding, and steep roads to get to the starting point of our hike at San Salvador rainforest. On the way up to our starting point, we passed by many villagers' homes and got a glimpse of what their everyday lives are like. Free from the hustle and bustle of urban life, they are contented with their laid back lifestyles. They are not envious of people who spend their days living by appointments and trying to get from one place to another at specific times of the day. They do not have jobs and live on government stamps while reciprocating by spending their days taking care of their surroundings of the rainforest as means of giving back. They pass the time mostly with domestic work such as maintaining and fixing necessary fixtures in their homes when needed.

After we put on our helmets and harness, we were ready to roll. On our first step of the hike we knew that we were in for pure adventure with no sugarcoating to the term adventure. We hiked through a river which meant that our feet were soaked right from the beginning. Not a problem though-- the husband and I were wearing our water shoes, which by the way were awesome and we loved it. Those water shoes were the best outdoor gear investment. They provided us with the very much needed grip and they were comfortable and fit to the contour of our feet. We traversed through shallow river streams with rocks beneath the water, hiked up steep rocks, and walked through trees. Due to the periodic rainfall on previous days, a lot of the rocks had moss on them but that wasn't the time for us to be dainty hikers. We had to lower our bodies and use our hands to hold on to the rocks for additional support and stability when climbing up the rocks (or hiking down the rocks towards the end of the excursion).

The water that flowed down from the waterfall was pure and safe to drink but I didn't try it although the husband T tried some of it by cupping it with his palms following after Alphonso. According to Alphonso, they had previously taken a sample of the water to a test lab in the city and the lab technicians couldn't believe that there were no impurities found in the water. This is also the water source for the villagers and our group were told beforehand by Alphonso and Andre not to put on sunscreen in order to protect and not pollute the water in the rainforest.

The highlight of our entire excursion was when we rappelled down 85 ft from a cliff and waterfall. When we got to the rappelling site, we watched Alphonso and Andre set up and anchor the ropes and carabiners and listened to them explain how the ropes and carabiners act as a support system for our bodyweight when rappelling. They also explained to us the set up of the backup and the backup for the backup. There were as many knots that were tied from ropes as there were carabiners that were used. After securing and locking the carabiners onto our harness, we started our descent one person at a time. To maintain the right posture for rappelling, we let our butts support our bodyweight while keeping our legs straight at a 90-degree angle from the body and used our feet as grip down the rocks while using our hand to feed the ropes to guide the descent. Since we were rappelling down a waterfall, naturally the rocks were slippery and we had water coming down onto our face and body and that made the rappelling experience more real for me. After I got to the bottom of the waterfall, I had an incredible moment. It was like one of those life-changing moments that went like Wow, if I could rappel 85 ft down a waterfall, I can do anything now.

I rappelled first so the husband T got some shots of me starting my descent. I, on the other hand, got to see him rappel down from the bottom.

There he comes at the top of the waterfall
Starting his descent at the top
Making his way down
And there he comes
After rappelling, we continued hiking towards our ziplining point where we began securing our harness to the zipline cables. We ziplined a total of 3 times from different locations in the rainforest with each zipline averaging about 400 ft long. Ziplining was incredibly fun and we let gravity do most of the work to propel us along the cable until the point when we had to slow down by applying pressure on the cable as we were arriving at the other end of the zipline. We crossed through canyons and trees and saw stunning views of the rainforest. It was liberating.

The outdoor experience that day was challenging and amazing. Would we do it again? Yes. We spend a lot of time outdoors throughout the year for running but rainforests also have so much to offer and we are not getting out there enough. Here's hoping to more.

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