Monteverde: Escaping the heat in the cloud forest


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Published: October 16th 2013
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Tortuguero to Monteverde, via La Fortuna


Volcan ArenalVolcan ArenalVolcan Arenal

The view from our room
After a two hour boat ride and a four hour bus ride interspersed with two breakdowns in the middle of nowhere due to break failures, we arrived ragged and tired in La Fortuna. Checking into our hostel, we found out that we were the only people staying there. The tourist town usually a hive of activity during peak season was now empty, with just a splattering of gringo's and locals wandering around. Most people come here to view the active Volcan Arenal that towers over the town, and to enjoy the hot springs that stream out of the volcano. There are numerous fancy hotels, including a 5 star place, that have been built next to the hot springs and charge a ridiculous amount of money to visit the springs. However, there is a free one that the locals use, and for a small fee we got driven out to it and were able to soak away for a few hours before the storm clouds rolled in. The storms that we had seen from the Caribbean beaches ravage the mountains every night were in full action up here, which was much needed as it is oppressively hot during the middle of the day.

The next day we caught a taxi up to the national park where a beautiful waterfall pours out of the side of the mountain, and the cool water makes for a perfect spot to swim in. There is supposed to be another swimming hole with a tarzan swing further downstream, but despite walking for nearly an hour over wobbly suspension bridges and up and down ridges that cut off access to the river, we were unable to find it. Instead we turned around, swam at another pool and then trundled back to town just in time before another storm unleashed for a few hours.

Feeling a bit beaten up by the sun after a three months of solid exposure, and longing for some cool weather for a few days we made our way up to Monteverde. This involved getting a bus, then a boat across the lake that borders the volcano and then a van up into the mountains where Monteverde and Santa Elena are nestled. The last leg of the journey was a slow and very bumpy one, and at one stage our van had to pull out a minibus that was firmly stuck in the mud. The roads, if they can be called that, were pot hole ridden and full of large rocks and it took nearly two hours to do the 60km journey.

The area around Monteverde is an important Cloud Forest, of which not many remain in the world. It is cool, humid, misty and windy most of the year and it creates a unique environment where many birds and mammals thrive. It is also a massive eco tourism hub with numerous activities like bungee jumping, canopy zip lining and canyoning to chew through your money. We had come here to escape the heat and to see some different animals to the ones that live on the coast. So we booked in to do a night tour through a private reserve and an early morning bird watching tour, both with local guides who grew up in the area.

Late in the afternoon the mist rolled in and a thunderstorm dumped down buckets full of rain, but luckily it stopped just as we got dropped off at the reserve for the night tour. Over the next two hours we spotted Green Vipers wrapped around trees in the strike position, large Scorpions, Tarantula's,
Green ViperGreen ViperGreen Viper

Monteverde
a Racoon and a couple of Sloths actually moving for a change. The Sloths are active at night, hunting for food and moving at a much faster rate then they do during the day. While walking through the reserve lightning was still lighting up the sky and it was quite a surreal experience. As soon as the tour had completed, the heavens opened up again and heavy rain came down all night.

Up at 5.45am the next morning it was off with Freddie to do the bird watching tour in the mist. He carried around an enormous monocular to enable us to spot the shy birds that would not come close, such as the magnificent Keeled Bill Toucan. And we were all supplied with good binoculars for a better look at the birds that did not fly away such as the Emerald Toucanets. The colours on the Toucans we saw were unbelievable, with fluorescent yellows and greens and bright reds dominating their impressive beaks.

Later that afternoon, we caught a bus out to a Hummingbird garden in the Cloud Forest Reserve where numerous sugar water feeders have been setup from which hundreds of Hummingbirds constantly dart in and
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Monteverde
out to slurp away at the sweet treat with their extravagantly long tongues. There must have been at least 5 different types of the spectacularly coloured birds, and it was possible to stand right next to the feeders and have the birds fly around you, moving so quick it is hard to see them. They are loud too, the humming of their beating wings is like mini helicopters zooming past your head and they make a loud clicking sound. They are also cantankerous little things, constantly fighting and trying to hit each other.

Later that night we wandered down to the local Frog Pond and got to see some of the beautiful frogs that thrive in the wet country that Costa Rica is. Numerous poison dart frogs, ranging from red with black dots to green with black stripes, and beautiful rainforest frogs. Some are as small as a finger nail, others are big enough to eat bats.

Deciding that we had seen the animals we wanted to, and knowing that we would just burn more cash staying in Monteverde we packed up and caught the local bus at 4.20am to take us the two hours to the Pan American highway where we would get a bus to Nicaragua.


Additional photos below
Photos: 24, Displayed: 24


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SlothSloth
Sloth

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Tarantula Tarantula
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HummingbirdsHummingbirds
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