Up in the Clouds

We spent all day yesterday traveling from Montezuma to Monteverde– proving my travel time to be grossly underestimated. It went surprisingly smooth, though– even enjoyable, which I think puts into practice the saying “it’s not the destination that counts, but the journey”.

We woke up around 4:30 AM, packing day-of toiletries & clothing that was drying from a last minute washing the day before. We walked to the bus stop along the beach with the sun rising behind us. We had anticipated taking the 5:30 bus, but were told that the next bus was going to be at 6:30, which I’m assuming was due to the low season. We hung out for the hour or so and Jason read while I chatted with a Norwegian girl who was taking the bus back to San Jose. When it finally came, we hopped on and only rode it for a short 7 km to the neighboring larger town of Cobano, where we transferred to a different bus that would take us to the ferry. After a 70 minute ferry ride to the port town of Puntarenas, we had a few hours to wait until the bus to Monteverde took off. We grabbed lunch at a local soda and ice cream at a little shop as an indulgent late morning snack.

It eventually came time to board our bus and we took off for our last 3 hours of travel before reaching our destination. The bus was packed, so we were lucky to find seats, as late-arrivals had to stand for some time before they exited at their stop. The majority of the ride was on the Trans-American Highway, but once we veered off for the last leg of the journey we were at the mercy of a bumpy dirt road that became slicker the higher we drove, due to the storm forming in the higher altitude. The views were spectacular and, although I tried, I couldn’t seem to do it justice through our camera.

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Overflowing rambutans at a roadside stand.

We finally reached Santa Elena [a small town outside Monteverde] by about 5 PM, catching a cab right away to the bed & breakfast we’re staying at for the next few nights — Camino Verde B&B. We met the owner, Andreas, right away and were shown to our room, which overlooks the small downtown just up the road from us. We set down our things and were out the door right away to the soda next door for a quick dinner of casados [rice & beans] & chicken fajitas, which was super tasty! And for $5 a plate, you can’t beat that. We spent the rest of the night hanging out in our room, indulging in a favorite TV show via the laptop [a perk of having high-speed internet once again!], and then crashed for the night.

We, naturally, woke early to the sun shining through our window and a beautiful view of the mountains & town center. We had breakfast of coffee, eggs & pancakes and, after a quick stop at the grocery store, made up a lunch of peanut butter & banana sandwiches. We grabbed a shuttle by 8:30 and headed out to the first hike of our trip at the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. We were able to spend the entire morning hiking through this beautiful rain forest, which had about 4 hikes to choose from that all vary in length. We chose to hike to hike, not to search for wildlife, so we ended up completing the first, and longest, trail in half the time estimated, which left us long enough to hike two more trails before the shuttle was scheduled to pick us up again. All in all, we completed about 10 km– and it felt good after such a long day sitting on a bus!

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The trails are all marked off very well, both the path itself & the signage. Despite the rain, we didn’t come upon too much mud and there were boards from [what looked like] fallen trees laid out in all the right parts so you didn’t sink into the muck. We did encounter a few trees that had recently fallen into the path that had not been cleared out yet, but nothing that was too much of an obstacle. On the last hike we did we were able to climb an observation tower about 50 feet high that overlooks the trees, all the way to Arenal Volcano– about a 3 hour drive from Monteverde. The clouds had started to descend onto the forest a bit more by then, so by the time we climbed up [my legs shaking from the height!] we were only able to catch a small glimpse of the volcano.

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Trying not to look down! On top of the observation tower.

Trying not to look down! On top of the observation tower.

Arenal Volcano in the distance behind the clouds on the left-hand side.

Arenal Volcano in the distance behind the clouds in the center.

The forest itself is really gorgeous– a vibrant green canopy protects the forest floor, with vines hanging everywhere and enormous ficus trees wherever you turn. Clouds literally settle within the forest, creating a hazy atmosphere in the path ahead and make the views a pretty cool sight as you look down onto the clouds, not up! We only saw a few birds and insects, but we’re told that any time of the year, besides rainy season [which we’re in now] you’d be able to see great wildlife. You can also hire a guide, but we chose not to for this trail and are saving that cash for a guide on tomorrow’s hike at Curi-Cancha Wildlife Refuge. We’re told this would be the best area for a guide because there’s more wildlife and he or she would be able to spot the creatures and explain what they are way better than we could probably attempt.

Giant leaf!

Giant leaf!

Its been raining in the afternoon today, and also rained in the afternoon yesterday, but as long as we’re able to get some morning hiking in, I’d say our stay here will be pretty enjoyable. Both Jason & I are already loving this little mountain town, and with fresh mountain air replacing the salty sea spray of the beach, it definitely feels more like home.

Oct 20 2013 Emily Spaeth Category: Travel Updates

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