Day 9: To Monteverde

Another early start as we leave the lodge near Arenal, this time without any flat tires. 🙂
The journey today will lead to another well known location in Costa Rica: Monteverde.
Most well known of course is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which consists of, you guessed it, tropical cloud forest.

The 120kms again take about 3.5 hours to drive, of which the first 80 can be completed in about 2. The other 40 are again unpaved and will at least take 1.5 hours, if not more. We took on the Costa Rican style of driving, and just went down the road easily but steadily. Mañana mañana.

Monteverde actually is the name of the region surrounding the reserve, and the main town is Santa Elena, where most of the hotels, lodges, restaurants and tour operators are located. This is also the village where our hotel is, Claro de Luna.
Upon arriving, we immediately were given a large list of tours and tour operators of things to do in and around the town. We decided to book a night walk and, of course, a canopy tour.

The canopy tour was first, and around 2 we are picked by a small minivan which took us to Selvatura, a big park right next to the reserve where all sorts of activities are available ranging from a butterfly garden to the canopy tour.
Right after paying, we suited up for the experience in a harness and were given strict instructions on how to act and how to position your body during the tour.
As you are basically suspended above the ground on a zip line, thee is quite some science to the magic, but the guides instruct you well. This being the first time for me, I didn’t know what to expect, but it is great! Zooming through the forest suspended high above canyons is truly amazing.
The tour consists of 13 zip lines and a few pathways which takes you through primary and secondary cloud forest and offers amazing views to the participants. The longest two zip lines are 700 metres and even 1 kilometre, so there is plenty of time to look around you when you zoom along the tree tops.
Canopy tours seem to be the staple for any visitor to the country, so we had to try it. And we both loved it!

After this, we were brought back to the hotel for a short change of clothes. We also packed our cameras for the night walk in the forest with a guide, and were picked up a few minutes later.
Walking through the forest at night is quite something else, as all the noises are unfamiliar and you just don’t know what is making those sounds. Really interesting!
Unfortunately, the forest seemed to be quite empty as we were there. We did however spot a Mottled Owl, a Leaf Mimicking insect, and some glow-in-the-dark moss. The Kinkajou was nowhere to be found, and we searched long and hard for it!
The second and third unfortunate events of the night were that it started raining and that both Kirsten and myself found ourselves standing in the way of Leaf Cutter ants, we didn’t have any issues in trying to chase us away by vigorously attacking our shoes, pants and eventually legs. With the ant soldiers growing to about 2.5 to 3 cm, you can imagine this was not very nice. Quite the opposite actually…

Tomorrow is a full day of us exploring the region, we’ll see what crosses our paths!


Day 8: In Arenal National Park

That is just our luck. 2 flat tires. Just when you least expect it!
Luckily, we were at the hotel still, and the chico from the front desk could communicate with the people from the rental company as they didn’t speak English!

2 hours later, and we were underway!
Walking in the Arenal National Park is generally nice as the volcano is big enough to provide scenic vistas all over the place. The entrance to the NP is, as seems to be the rule of thumb here in Costa Rica, $10 per person or a similar amount in Colones. No credit cards! Just cash.

The walk is really nice, and consists of two parts: the first takes you to several nice panoramic viewpoints, the second runs trough a forest and a big tree named ‘El Ceibo’. This part also gives you the best chances to see wildlife, like birds, small mammals and reptiles.

Today again was a really lovely day, with temperatures reaching well above 30 degrees, but again no rain! The rains only started to fall around half past 4 in the afternoon, giving us plenty of time to do whatever we wanted. But because of the high humidity and high temperatures, I’m running out of short pants and t-shirts faster then expected. Man, it is hot over here! 🙂

At 5, we are expected to be at a place called Ecotermales, where they have all natural hot springs in a few different baths ranging from hot to well over 40 degrees Celsius! Quite unexpectedly. This turned out to be a really nice experience, while I generally cannot stand being in swimming pools. The best part was that because of the low season for tourism over here, we basically had the place for ourselves. It was not nearly as crowded as it would be in a few months. Just great!

Tomorrow, we’ll be off to Monteverde, and we have heard many good things about that place. But first a 3.5 hour drive, and hopefully one without any more car issues…