Monteverde

Early the next morning, it was “on the road again” for me.  I was picked up at the tour office and shuttled from La Fortuna to Lake Arenal, across the lake in a little boat and met on the other side by another shuttle that took us to Monteverde.

Ok, technically we were taken to Santa Elena which is right next door to Monteverde.  Locals insist you use the proper name of Santa Elena, but tour groups and tourists call the whole area Monteverde.

When I arrived in Santa Elena I was dropped off at a place that some people recommended to me.  If memory serves correctly it was called El Toucan.  The reception staff however were not very helpful as when I asked how much the rooms were (private with a private bathroom if possible) they asked how much I wanted to pay instead of telling me the price.  Red flag alert!  I stated no more than $10 per night and they jumped on it!  Red flag alert #2… I asked to see the room first (always a good idea for any traveler) and they seemed nice enough but I did notice that the place was practically empty and the “private room” I was to stay in had 3 other beds.  So I decided to move along and see what else there was.

As I hiked up a teeny hill I spotted the tour van passing me, and the tour driver spotted me giving me a look of “what is that crazy tourist doing now?!?!” as I had just left where I was dropped off and was heading in the same direction he was driving!  In any event, I noticed many people being dropped off at the Monteverde Backpackers so I decided to check it out.  It was $16 a night and I don’t believe there were any private rooms left, so I opted to keep going.  I was told there was another hotel/hostel just down the road so I went to check it out…

Enter Cabinas Eddy… I literally get chills thinking of this place and the kind hospitality and beautiful accommodations that I was provided during my stay here.  I can’t say enough good things about the place and the people!!!  Cabinas Eddy is run and owned by 2 generations of “Eddy’s”, the father and his wife and his son (Eddy) and his wife and child.  For $8 a night, I was offered a beautiful and cozy private room with a private bathroom and HOT water!!!  I almost passed out when I found out the price for it and scrambled furiously to get money out to pay before someone else came by to snatch it up!!!  Well in all reality I first had to excuse myself politely to furiously get money that was stored in my bra out to pay, as I never travel with cash easily available but rather always store it in less likely places…

After signing in and settling in, I signed up for some tours.  One jungle night walk for later that evening, and after making sure the place was a good one that took care of its horses, I signed up for a horseback ride.

Monteverde/Santa Elena truly is a magnificent place!  Nestled in the cloud forest of Costa Rica the biodiversity is rich and the land literally reminded me of the hills of Ireland!!  Rich, lush and rolling, this area really was a beautifully magnificent sight to behold!!  Now, I should mention here that I have never been to Ireland, but the land is what I would imagine Ireland to look like.  Since being there I have met several people from Ireland whom have also visited Monteverde and have asked if it reminded them of home, and they have said absolutely yes!  So I really don’t mind so much making that comparison even though I haven’t actually been to Ireland…

Anyway once again I’m getting off topic!  I spent only 2 nights in Monteverde, which really unless you plan to do a bunch of tours is about the right amount of time.  They are also quite famous in that area for zip lining and for sky walks as they are in the cloud forest.  The weather while I was there was quite nice as it was sunny and warm in the day and got chilly at night!  The winds even picked up for the second night I was there, which locals said was very unusual for this time of year (normal for December time).  The cool mountain air at night was so refreshing and nice and made you want to bundle up making for some of the best night sleep I had had in a while.   The food was fantastic as I was once again indulging in casados, and the people all very friendly!  None as friendly as the Eddy family though as on my second day there they offered me a homemade tamales!  It was so darn scrumptious!!

I of course did find time to do a little fiesta-ing in the town too and on my way back from one bar ran into some people whom I had noticed around town in La Fortuna.  They were staying at the backpackers place which is where I ended up going and meeting a ton of other travelers.  I stayed up till quite early in the morning talking and drinking and playing cards with my fellow travelers and the hostel manager.  I know I’ve probably mentioned this before, but it really does still amaze me how many travelers are on the same path.  There are so many who have just had enough of where they were and what they were doing and decided to simply pack it up and move on.  One such case was of a guy from England I believe who was an architect there.  He once loved that occupation but then just got burned out and decided to pursue his true passion: photography of primates!  He has since been traveling the world in pursuit of every variety of primate!  There were and are of course just your regular garden variety travelers on vacation or on a sabbatical, but quite surprisingly to me even more who left everything from their previous life behind to just travel and try something new.

The morning of leaving Monteverde I ended up on the same bus as the people I had seen in La Fortuna and in chatting some more with them realized that we were once again going to the same place: Manuel Antonio.

On to Manuel Antonio

On to Monteverde Night Tour

Back to Costa Rica

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Monteverde Night Tour

Ok, here we go… There were pit vipers that were hanging out around the base of the trees, which we were told was a rather lucky sight as they are ususally much higher up during the time of year I was there.  There were tarantulas; one female that was nestled in her burrow on the side of a little hill whom the tour guide tried to coax out with a stick (I had to use extra zoom to get a close-up picture without actually getting in close, hence why the photo is a little fuzzy) and one male who walked across my path and decided to halt directly in front of me!!  Now, of course I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of everyone else because of my fear but then again I was so paralyzed that I couldn’t actually move.  Luckily one of the other girls on my tour stopped with me to lend some moral support even though she too was terrified of the critter.  Even more lucky was that another tour guide and group was coming by so the guide wedged the tarantula between his feet (not actually touching it but rather providing a barrier between it and me)  allowing me to make a literal run for it!

Now one thing I did learn about tarantulas that made me feel quite sorry for the little buggers had to do with their worst predator… No, not humans in this case but rather wasps!!  Wasps apparently will land on the back of a tarantula and inject it with a tranquilizer of sorts thus paralyzing the arachnid but not killing it.  The wasp will then lay eggs on the back of the tarantula and as the eggs hatch, the newborn wasps will feed off the tarantula, eventually killing it after 8 whole days!!  Being eaten alive… now that’s just NO way for any creature to have to die!!  Poor little buggers!!

Moving on however, another spectacular sight was the mama sloth and her baby!  The mother looked absolutely HUGE but apparently only weighed like 20lbs!!  These sloths (2-toed) are all fur and have the look of being humongous but really aren’t.  Her baby was really hard to see as unlike its mom, the baby was a dark brown color that blended in perfectly with the dark night.  What really suprised me the most about this pair however was how active the mom and baby were!  Sloths are named as such because of their slow movement and the fact that they sleep a lot.  But apparently at night they do become more active as we saw as there was a ton of grooming and movement, especially by the baby!

The tour guides were amazing and were able to spot the tinniest of critters from great distances!!  One such example was spotting a foot long walking stick!!  We were all huddled looking at this dense forest and the guide kept going “look, there is a giant walking stick”… We were like “where?!?!?!”   It blended in perfectly with the tree it was on and was only about 4 feet in front of us, yet it took a good 10 minutes for everyone on the tour to actually see what the rest were looking at!!  Quite impressive!

Another area we visited was the nest of a colony of army ants.  We were not able to walk on certain areas as putting too much weight on the ground had the potential for collapsing the Earth under us, plunging us into the depths of a million angry ants!!  If I recall my stats correctly, scientists have estimated about 2 billion ants in this one colony alone!!  What was most impressive about this spot was when the tour guide went to catch a soldier ant.  These ants guard the entrances to the nest and are the most fierce of all.  He picked it up by the body making sure to have a good grip on its head so it couldn’t bite him.  Then he picked up a stick that was about 4 feet long… He put the tip of the stick to the pinchers of the soldier ant and it immediately clasped on!  The ant was so strong and had such a good grip that it was able to hold on to the stick entirely on its own!!  Even more interesting, the ants were used by Indigenous people as stitches!  If someone got a cut that needed stiches, they would use soldier ants by making them bite on their skin to bring each side of the wound together and then they would pinch off the heads.  The head of the ant would not fall off for 8 days!!  Once they did fall off the wound was healed!  Quite impressive of the indigenous tribes!!  But also quite painful!

Perhaps the most interesting of all the things we saw on this tour was what we couldn’t see with out lights on… The tour guide picked up an old moldy piece of wood and stared at it with awe and fascination.  He said it was the most beautiful part of the forest!  We were all confused and wondered why an old piece of wood was so interesting, until we turned our lights off… Right before our eyes the wood began to glow!!  It was covered in rare bioluminescent algae!!!  We all stared in wonder and as we began to look around us in the dark, you could see all of the forest lit up in different areas by this spectacular algae!  We also spent part of our time chasing after a rare cat who, like most nocturnal critters, hunts at night but is very fast and therefore hard to see!  Even though we didn’t get to see it ultimately, the chase was rather fun!

Now for each tour it is never guarenteed of course that you will see a large diversity of animals, but again I would definately recommend it!

On to Monteverde Horseback Riding Tour

Back to Costa Rica