Zip-a-dee-do-da and Fun in the Forest!

Published: May 3rd 2015
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Sarah: We had a good last morning in Manuel Antonio - eating leftover pizza, drinking smoothies and soaking up the last few days of coastal sunshine! We arrived early evening in Santa Elena in the Monteverde cloud forest. We were pleasantly surprised by how mild an evening it was, especially compared to the hot nights we had at the coast! Once we were settled in to our room we headed out to a little restaurant recommended by the hostel owner for being good AND cheap AND with a free desert - sold. It was a very sweet little place, with what looked like 3 generations of family cooking in the kitchen and bringing out very tasty grub for us: rice, beans, chicken, all the usual suspects! The free desert of a little flat cake with dulce de leche filled in the corners very nicely!

The next day was set to be 'jobs' day. As we were going to be here for a further five nights we set about writing a comprehensive shopping list and brought the necessaries for an array of meals and lunches. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the cooking facilities, especially compared to the Lima 'one pan, no chopping board' kitchen that we had recently coped with! In the afternoon we took a trip to the local 'Ficus Tree'. This is a strangler fig that grows around a host tree, which then dies, leaving the strangler fig with a 'hollow' trunk. This one is popular as it has grown in such a way that it's roots/trunk have left enough of a hollow for adventurous tourists to climb up inside! Unfortunately, we had sort of stumbled upon this attraction on an afternoon stroll and were wearing flip flops, which weren't (we discovered) appropriate tree-climbing footwear (getting stuck and left behind in roots). Bare feet were also tried and abandoned! Anyway, it looked cool and we went up a little way!

We enjoyed a nice peaceful evening cooking in the kitchen, making sarnies for the next day and listening to music followed by some cocktails / coffees in what is advertised as "one of the top 10 most weird restaurants". Not sure how this accolade has been awarded but they've basically built a cafe/restaurant around a tree, so there's a tree in the middle of the room. It is quite quirky, not sure about weird? It was quite impressive when the cloud started to come in through the branches and in to the restaurant so we were surrounded by natural dry ice!

The next day we took a trip to the Monteverde cloud forest reserve. It was a bit of an early start to catch the bus, but day bags had been packed the night before and the 7:30 am bus was caught. We arrived at the park and were provided with a map and advised which trails to take to make up a 3-4 hour walking loop. Our heads were in the trees trying to keep an eye out for the Costa Rican 'resplendent quetzal' (a very pretty green and red bird with a long tail). Sadly, no dice on the resplendent quetzal on Thursday, but I will keep looking! However, while our heads were in the trees we did spot: a few quatis (raccoon type creatures, one of which ran right past my feet while I was looking up!) , some black guans (big clumsy turkey like birds), a squirrel (not your regular grey mind you, it was sort of blackish red), some agoutis (oversized guinea pigs), lots of little birds and some very loud humming birds! It was a really good walk and I could hear lots of different birds but haven't got so good at spotting them, despite my Amazon training! We also saw some monkey shadows towards the end of the day, but no clear sightings through the leaves! The evening brought a chicken salad, recreated in the style of our Amazon chef. (Shredded chicken, very lightly steamed broccoli and carrots, mixed with garlic, onion, pepper, obligatory avocado, sweetcorn, olives and mayonnaise , or whatever you happen to have in your fridge. Replace the chicken with a boiled egg for veggie option and add whatever herbs / spices take your fancy).

Then we come to Friday, which was to be zip line day! We had booked on a 15-line canopy tour where you can zip line through the trees including two tandem 'zips', a 1km superman-style headfirst 'zip' and a Tarzan swing! Compared to the 6(?) lines that we did in New Zealand, this was a bit more extreme! In New Zealand they also did all the braking for us but this time round we were given super thick gloves and told how to break ourselves before crashing in to the platforms! It was really good fun, particularly our first tandem which was about 400 metres across the valley with amazing views. The other highlight was definitely the Tarzan swing. Several people had gone screeching and whooping down before us which made us quite nervous! The swing is similar to a very long rope swing and starts on the edge of a platform which you are then pushed off from by the guides. There is a very brief free fall towards the platform below before the slack is taken and you swing out through the trees towards the valley to be almost level with the platform that you took off from. It definitely got the adrenalin pumping! The superman headfirst line started from the highest point and gave me wobbly cheeks and watery eyes as I 'flew' through the sky at quite a speed!

Stir fried rice is on the menu again tonight and sarnies need to be prepared for our trip to Santa Elena reserve tomorrow. Therefore I will leave you here and get busy on sarnie duty while Nick gets busy behind the chopping board!

Nick (Saturday 2nd May):Bit of an update since we never got around to loading up the above....further to Sarah's closing sentence above, I am obliged to admit that I never did get busy behind the chopping board - instead, I got carried away gassing with much enthusiasm to a pleasant-enough Mexican chap in our kitchen about football such that when I looked around most of the food prep had been done! Anyway, the rest of the evening was spent pretty much as all of the others, chilling out in our room and watching random American films on TV (there's not a huge amount to do during the evenings in little ol' Santa Elena).

Today we were up at a reasonable time to get some brekkie down us before catching a bus at half-eight to the Santa Elena reserve, for a bit more hiking through the cloud forest. In short, it was very similar to our previous walk, through the Monteverde cloud forest reserve. There were fewer visible signs of life this time, although the birdsong echoing through the forest remained just as evident, but the big upside was that this particular park was a lot quieter in terms of visitor numbers and therefore we were pretty much on our own for most of the time. After all we had seen in the Amazon, not to mention the other wonderful beasties we'd already spotted in Costa Rica, the lack of visible wildlife wasn't really a problem...we were just enjoying being out for a decent walk in the spectacular jungle scenery (don't let the term 'cloud forest' deceive you: we are still talking in terms of dense foliage, stranglers fig trees, bromeliads, vines and creepers!). The weather was fine and sunny, although we were grateful for the shade afforded by the tall trees and it was ideal conditions for walking. Over the course of five hours or so we managed to walk almost all of the parks winding trails with - being on a mountainside - their many ups-and-downs. With only a brief stop around midday for a sarnie, we were both fairly pooped by the time we'd finished and happy to spend the hour or so wait for the bus relaxing on a bench and reading our respective books.

Back at our hostel now, relaxing and again getting ready to cook dinner. Tomorrow is our last full day in Monteverde, and one we've earmarked for simply relaxing around the hostel and probably pulling together some ideas for the coming weeks; on Monday, we will be up very early once again to begin what will be a marathon stint of travelling, commencing with our six thirty a.m. bus back to San Jose (5 hours). From there, we'll be flying to Los Angeles (7.5 hours) for a 24-hour layover, before an 11 hour monster to Fiji, 4 hours hanging around there before our final leg, a brisk 5 hours to Sydney. Phew! When we leave it will be early on the 4th May, and what with crossing the International Date Line we'll reach our final destination around midday on the 7th...but it will be well worth the effort, our reward being three weeks to explore the Australian Pacific Coast! We just can't wait - South America and Costa Rica have given us both two absolutely amazing months and plenty of memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives, but now it is time to look forwards to the next phase of our big adventure! So, loyal readers, watch this space because the next installment will be from Down Under!

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3rd May 2015

Up and away
Womderful descriptions as always. Makes us feel part of your travels. Looking forward to your next phase. Enjoy your stopover and we'll hear from you in Oz. Lots of love as always. Isn't the time flying by??? XXXXX

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