Buenos dias personas marvillosas,
On our second full day in Santa Elena we traveled to the world renowned Monteverde Cloud Forest. We got up at 6:30 am to catch the bus at 7:30 about 3 blocks away… it was the strangest (raro) thing… the bus left the stop 6 minutes before it was supposed to… fortunately, we were there 10 minutes early. In our travels to far, buses are between 10 and 50 minutes late.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest is about 6 km from Santa Elena, so the bumpy only took about 25 minutes. We were on the trails at 8 am for our 4 hour walk. The weather was fabulous with a wonderful blue sky (this was the first time we started the day in jeans and running shoes since Mexico City at the beginning of our trip). Though we walked for 4 hours we only saw about 3% of the reserve, the rest is closed and under strict protection.
Tropical cloud forests are incredibly rich ecosystems, supporting 20% of the world’s plant diversity and 16% of the vertebrae diversity in only 0.4% of the earth’s surface. A bit of history here… the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was established in 1972, in the face of growing threat of people moving up the mountain, clearing the land for farming. Wilford Guindon, one of the first Quakers to move to Monteverde, and a visiting scientist, George Powell with his wife, joined efforts to promote the establishment of a natural reserve. There is now over 4,000 hectares managed by the Tropical Science Centre, a not for profit environmental organization.
Now for our walk… we started without a tour guide and were all alone for the first 40 minutes or so. It was reminiscent of many things… reminded us a little of the trails in Stanley Park, the upper ecosystems were very fanciful places where other type beings could exist (little people, fairies or even Horton Hears a Who)… it also felt very X-File-ish (all you X-Files fans would understand).
We could hear all kinds of birds in the forest, but it was so dense with the trees about 200 feet high, we didn’t see any for a while. We ran into a group of fellow trail travellers who were surrounding a tour guide pointing out the red squirrel that was apparently the fastest squirrel in Costa Rica. It was a good squirrel, giving everyone time to take photos.
We moved on, leaving the group to look some more at the squirrel… they were happy seeing their first mammal in the cloud forest. The next group we ran into were very serious birders…. apparently they were looking at something, but we couldn’t see it.
Moving along these wonderful lush trails, moisture dripping of the leaves of the plants we could see closer to the ground, we arrived at the division continental: on one side rivers flow to the Pacific Ocean and on the other side, to the Altantic Ocean. The Great Divide runs from Alaska all the way down to Tierra del Fuego. We walked along the ridge feeling very happy and in wonderment over the way the earth is organized.
Further on that trail we found a very cool waterfall (Bridal Falls is better!) and on the last leg of the first 3 hour walk we were invited to look through amazing, tripod-mounted binoculars at a male Resplendent Quetzal… it was gorgeous and very resplendent indeed. Quetzals were very important to pre-Colombian cultures throughout Central America but are increasingly hard to find.
We took a tea break and then started on our last hour long trail… it was gruelling for me… up steps, down steps, my knees were finally rebelling. The joy in this part was that we walked across a 300 ft long suspension bridge between two mountain sides. It takes you into the forest canopy. It was very cool being above or near the tops of the canopy… the coolest thing though… Don walked across it and back with great dignity (for those of you who don’t know, Don has vertigo)!
When we were waiting for the bus to leave the cloud forest, a female Resplendent Quetzal honoured us with her presence about 15 feet up in a tree very close to the bus…. the birders I mentioned earlier were there and very thrilled at the sighting and took tons of pictures.
One last thing… there is a hostel next to ours that is called “The Sloth” which is a weird name for a hostel… hostellers are anything but sloths. One of the people we have met travelling last month suggested we look for sloths… well… Don saw one in a tree on the way to the cloud forest and yes… I saw the same one in the same tree when we returned to town six hours later… now that is true sloth.
La felicidad y el amor para todos ustedes!