Edit Blog Post
Published: November 4th 2010
We arrived in Monteverde at around 11am. We had picked up the 6.30am bus from San Jose after spending a night in Gaudy's Backpackers in San Jose. While there I caused Del to go hungry by assuring her that a full foot long (I forget the metric measurements) sandwich in Subway would be too much for her and she was far better off with the small size. Big mistake. I didn't hear the end of it until I'd bought her a pain au chocolat, chocolat doughnut and coco flan from one of the most well stocked corner shops I've ever been in.
The ride to Monteverde, which is high in the northern, coffee growing, mountains of Costa Rica, was bumpy, winding and long. It did offer good views though the higher we climbed. Happily, the public bus dropped us very close to our hostel, the Pension Santa Elena. This hostel was large but retained the ability to be able to give good service to its guests, which is not always the case with large hostels. The establishment was split into three buildings, the old building (OK but a bit cramped and noisy, this is where the communal areas and dorms
Del and Bayo
The horse liked to stand still a lot. "Vamos Bayo" became the key phrase in our horse-handling.
were), new building (mostly private rooms) and some cabinas. After viewing it all, it wasn't busy so we decided to go with the new building. We had a quiet room and ensuite, although we did have to fumigate it when we arrived with bug spray, but after that all was well. It also had the oddest shower, aesthetically pleasing with stone walls and floor but bloody dangerous as well. The control looked like normal but cunningly, it operated like a compass, with left/right, up/down movements, controlling the on/off, and hot/cold.
I'd chosen this hostel because the Rough Guide had said how knowledgeable the staff were with travelling around Costa Rica and beyond as well as being able to book tours and travel arrangements cheaper than most other places. So, we went straight back to the reception desk once we'd unloaded and asked what was available. The weather was good; sunny but noticeably colder than elsewhere because of the altitude. The clouds at this point were really only on the horizon, although it was plain to see that they would only be heading one way as the day wore on. We chose to try and make the most of our
The cloud came in and I thought this part of Costa Rica began to resemble parts of England.
luck so organised a two hour horse-ride through the grounds of a local horse and banana ranch. The two hour ride was $30 each with a guide to spot out wildlife on the ranch, which had a lot of secondary forest for the horses to....horse around in.
Now, it should be noted at this point that I've only ever been on a horse once. I was about four. My aunt was riding and I was in her lap. The horse bolted and we both fell. She, selflessly, twisted in the air so that I would fall on her. Thanking her for her kindness I broke her nose. I'm not sure she's ever forgiven me. Only joking Aunty Van!
Reassured with the knowledge that Delphine was an experienced rider, albeit, mostly from when she was a teenager, and a natural with all kinds of animals, we approached the ranch full of confidence. At first sight of the horses I noticed two things: Firstly; they were big and tall and really heavy looking. Secondly; the one all saddled up for me, the bigger of the two, twitched and threw itself backwards so hard it somersaulted in the air and landed
with a (my) spine breaking thump on its back.
Winded, it moved skittishly away while the ranch hands tried to calm it down. Looking at it, with my complete inexperience of horses, told me that if I attempted to get on that monster he'd throw me just as sure as anything. It's wide eyes, flared nostrils and rabid foaming mouth were also not good signs. I think “Fuck that. I am not getting on him.” does not require translation into Spanish. The ranch hands went to find me a new horse from the other field without further prompting.
The next minute did not bring me any further confidence. The horses, all of them, ran away. Like wind gods, manes flowing and everything. Like, and I'll say it, like they really didn't want me sitting on their back for two hours. So, there we are, with our bull red helmets and smelly bus clothes, having just signed health disclosures, watching our potential mounts gallop away from the experts.
Eventually, a horse was found for me. Del slipped onto her horse's back like she'd never been off the saddle. I swung my leg over as best I could and
Towards the valley at sunset
on the walk to the bat cave.
we were off.
Horses are surprisingly tall. I felt very high. Some quick instructions “If we're going up downhill, lean back and push feet firmly out in front of you. If we're going uphill lean forward and also keep you feet in front of you.” Simple. The horse lurched and stumbled in the mud but the theory worked and slowly I started to relax and enjoy myself.
Our guide led us through pastures and woods and plantations. Sometimes we were in the open and other times we had tall trees either side. Other times we passed through old banana plantations where the plants had lost their productivity so had been left to grow without care and this is where the horses were allowed to play. Older coffee plants, a remnant of a previous agriculture grew uncultivated and undisciplined. Two hours passed with the last half hour in the rain. Wet horse smell.
We also visited the bat jungle the next evening, an informative and totally worthwhile few hours learning about bats from one of the more impressive seventeen year old guys I've ever come across. Did you know that the largest colony of bats in the world,
in Texas, eats 250 tonnes of insects a night? Or that one of the reasons that bats are so agile in the air is that they can move each of their wings independently of the other? Bats are found in every continent in the world apart from Antarctica and eat everything from birds, snakes, insects, rodents, lizards, nectar, fruit, blood and other bats.
In short, we left, you guessed it, batty.
Monteverde is famous for its cloud forest. A large patch of primary forest that is mostly covered by thick cloud rising up from the valley floor far below. This cloud can only make it up over the mountains by releasing most of its heavy moisture as it encounters the highest parts of the mountain range, of which Monteverde is one. It's also great coffee growing territory.
The whole area is saturated with water. The forest looks primeval, with low visibility because of the cloud and moisture in the atmosphere, cool and damp temperatures, particularly underneath the dense forest canopy, until the sun breaks through occasionally, turning the trail to sizzling steam in only a few minutes. The trees are huge. Their trunks are broad and swollen
These ears, modeled on a bat's, we amazing. Any kind of sound, feet scrapping on the floor or mouth/finger clicks or knocking was magnified and bought out 3D like.
with water. Moss and lichen cover virtually all organic surfaces. Several species of plant have specialised in making their homes on other trees or plants where the organic matter is so thick they can take root. There are strangling trees, parasitic plants and purely passive plants and funghi that take hold in any crevice of the original tree and bloom and grow and multiply without doing any harm to their unwitting foundation partner. As a result, everything in the forest has a fuzzy edge to it, with few sheer, clear boundaries. Green comes in all its hues and shades.
We also went to see the frog....froggery (real name for a collection of frogs has left my memory - damn one litre bottles of Nicaraguan beer)(Del is now telling me off and corrected this by supplying the name "terrarium' or 'renario' in spanish.). Loads of different types of frogs (Costa Rica boasts quite a collection) for Del to enjoy and squeal over. Her favourite was of course the Red-Eyed Frog that adorns our Important Folder (often abbreviated to The Frog Folder) at home and is the emblem of Costa Rican tourism.
We left reluctantly as there was quite an
active artisan presence in Monteverde, which had been absent in other parts of Coast Rica. Also the topography and wildlife and the cooler mountain temperatures had made a refreshing change from the grind of 30c heat, islands and water and banana plantations.
Tot: 2.262s; Tpl: 0.081s; cc: 12; qc: 60; dbt: 0.0453s; 2; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb