Though I was exhausted, we hit the road as soon as I scraped myself out of bed, headed for the cloud forest in Monteverde. At first, the going was busy and sometimes a bit bumpy, but quick. We drove through dry pastures and forests, with many of the trees having lost their leaves due to the heat. This time of year many of them flower instead, leaving forests dotted with lovely yellows and pinks.
After about an hour, we turned off the main highway toward the park and almost immediately, the road turned into a gravel pit. We sighed our gratitude that we’d gone to the expense of renting a four wheel drive vehicle as we skipped up the unnaturally steep roads, our heads bobbling as we climbed into the mountains. We saw almost no-one along our way until Ben slammed on the brakes in the middle of the road. In front of us sat a big grey iguana. Ben hopped out to take his photo, but he all but vanished into the brush.
Ben: We continued to climb into the mountains via ridiculously steep, rocky roads. It felt so good to push the button which activated 4 wheel drive. Bree and I debated for a long time about whether to splurge for the extra 4 wheels in spite of it being dry season in Costa Rica – it seemed a no-brainer after bouncing along these roads. Even if the four wheel drive hadn’t worked, the higher clearance of the slightly larger car made all the difference.
There are a few ways to get to Monteverde. One has bad roads (which, according to our guidebook is intentional. They don’t want to improve roads which would lead to more tourists which might overwhelm the tiny towns near the cloud forest), and the other has awful roads. We apparently took the route with awful roads, but were rewarded with phenomenal views of the hills and the plains below, not to mention some epic driving!
Eventually we made it to Santa Elana where we checked into Pension Santa Elena which allowed us to pitch our tent in the garden and headed off to the Santa Elana reserve. We spent more hours than it should have taken wandering through the dense, foggy rain forest with literal clouds of mist washing over us in waves feeling thankful we weren’t baking in the thick tropical heat we’d experienced this morning. The forest was unreal in how many layers of growth it has – talk about serious sensory overload. The trees – mostly banyan style – had vines and roots twisted around like ropes on the ground. Pretty much every square inch was covered in a heavy blanket of moss, with bright red flowers poking out.`
Bree: Walking seemed to be the worst way to soak up the intense detail that saturated the forest. Instead, I wished we had brought lawn chairs so that we could sit an stare at the rain, the leaves, the spiders, the beetles, the birds, the tiny tufts of moss and the giant trees that housed the whole symphony of life. All of this contributed to one of the slowest 3.5 kilometers we’ve ever completed.
Amusingly, because it was sort of raining (misting mostly),Ben and I were both dressed in our rain jackets, which we later discovered makes both of us look forty pounds heavier. We laughed all evening about our collection of horribly unflattering photos.
Soon, we were trundling down the hill in our little car, until we were back to the hotel for dinner. It was a quiet, easy night right up until we went outside to set up our tent. As we pulled the fly over the nylon structure, a tiny white cat snuck up and perched herself under the vestibule. My best efforts to scare her out and reclaim my tent as human territory was met only with hiss and a lively swat. Ben lured her out with a stick while I rolled back the vestibule, exposing her hiding place. Soon she was after the strings to the tent, swatting and biting at our home for the night while I cringed. A tent is no match for kitty claws. For the next fifteen minutes the cat and I engaged in a standoff, her approaching and me running her off. Finally, I scared her off for good and we climbed inside, hoping we wouldn’t be cold in our light fleece sleeping sacks.