Monteverde Cloud Reserve
25. April: Today's another day to get up early, since we need to catch the bus at 6:30 to Monteverde Cloud Reserve. The bus stop's on one corner of the Santa Elena square of roads (it's not a traditional town square, but four roads at very approximate right angles). The bus is late, so Annewien gets a coffee from the Panaderia right there which has the great smell of freshly baked bread wafting out enticing all to come in and get some. The bus itself is an old yellow American school bus and very slow in the stony dirt road. It's also slow because the ride to the park it uphill, coming back would be much quicker. The one-way fare is 200ñ.
At last we do arrive at the park and buy our tickets. The entrance is 10$ and the price for a guide (highly recommended) is 15$, he's waiting for us at a spot near the entrance called 'Hummingbird Gallery', where there are bowls hanging filled with sugar water around which all sorts of colourful hummingbirds can be seen feeding.
We first see a good slide-show in English, with good pictures and a narrator having a very listenable way of speaking somehow reminiscent of Ronald Reagan. Interestingly enough, the guides we hear have a similar way of speaking and I believe that they must learn style before they can become guides.
Link: Here's the Monteverde Park's Website, including a Web-Cam!
Annewien has always been wanting to see a sloth after she saw one in San Jose on the cover of a brochure of 'Tortuguero National Park'. Just after the slide show the guide says we'll first go and see a sloth and Annewien is overjoyed! The sloth is high up on a tree next to the parking lot at the entrance of the park, doesn't move, and looks more like a big ball of greyish brown wool. We're told that sloths are vegetarians but have just one stomach (in contrast to cows, which have four). So digestion is a very slow, tiring process, and the sloths would just hang upside down in the trees for days, sleeping. Once a week they would climb down the tree to defecate. Sloths in Costa Rica are either the two or three-toed variety. They have sharp claws to hold on to the trees and, although they usually looked slow they could be amazingly fast creatures when provoked.
We then enter the park and do a walking tour with our guide, who has a lot to tell and also sports a good pair of binoculars so we can take a close look at what is mostly not visible very up high up in the trees. One of the first things we see is one of the rarest. We actually get to see a live Quetzal, which is the national bird of Guatemala. They're not present in great numbers anymore. This specimen had a nest nearby and interestingly enough it seems they prefer to build nests near to humans, knowing that they're safer from predators there.
We saw a number of other birds, plants and trees, but the main attraction of the park in my view is it's atmosphere. It is moist and humid, cool, there is the nice smell of damp vegetation in the air, moss everywhere, there are small paths with wooden stepping-planks or tree-trunk slices covered with metal mesh as an anti-slip. Our guide is a Costa Rican with a smooth, interesting voice, vocabulary and facial expressions (Reagan again) and only seldom does he break into a Costa Rican accent.
Our tour ends at lunch and we decide to eat something small at the kiosk at the park and then make a tour of the park on out own. I had an Empanada and something else which I don't remember, Annewien went for an omelet and Coke. We slept a bit on the benches and then watched the various hummingbirds that were feeding on sugar-water here as well. Fascinating creatures! An English couple which we had seen in the morning apparently had the same idea as us and were also going to explore the park on their own in the afternoon. We would see them again the next day. For awhile it seemed as if the four of us had the same plans in mind!
Der Quetzal, Nationalvogel von Guatemala
The Quetzal, national bird of Guatemala (drawn by Annewien)
We re-entered the park (the tickets are valid for a whole day) and slowly walked in the direction of a waterfall. We had a map and forks in the paths had signs, so it was quite easy. I was starting to take a lot of macro pictures of the small things in the park, which at times seemed much more fascinating than the more famous attractions like the Quetzal. Poor Annewien had to wait for me a lot while I was taking pictures. We tried to find the 'Mirador' (lookout) in the park but were unsuccessful. We crossed the suspension bridge, which afforded a marvelous view of the jungle canopy deep down below us. Annewien had made some sandwiches and it was a really nice to have one during the tour.
Monteverde Park was neither as cold or muddy as I had expected, my fears of being under clothed and under shoed were unfounded. The guide had said that this period was extremely dry and certain parts of the park were in poor condition due to lack of rain. We caught the 16:00 bus back to Santa Elena and tried to check mail at an internet cafñ. The printer didn't work, so I had to read through the mails onscreen. We spend an hour there but the free coffee we were supposed to get as Internet customers never came. We then go to 'Daiquiri' restaurant again and have chicken-rice, same as yesterday.
We book a ride to the 'Sky Walk' tour for the next day (2$ pp). It was a nice, long day, and we were dead tired. The night in the wooden cabin was as windy and shaky as the night before. I was starting to get used to it.