Saturday, February 20, 2010

A couple weeks ago we took a fun overnight trip to Monteverde, which is a cloud forest about 3 hours east of us. Monteverde is right along the continental divide, so although the weather is sweltering in Guanacaste right now, it is cool and damp up there in the mountains.
We went to Monteverde with our friend Andrew, the math teacher at CDS-G. The road there was very rocky and bumpy, and we were glad to be in Andrew's car since it is in better shape than ours. Once we got there, it took us a good hour to find our hotel. The town is not exactly laid out on a grid, and even the lady at the tourist center gave us lousy directions. We eventually found our place, which was kind of a funky little hotel surrounded by hydrangeas, orchids, pines and bromeliads.
Next we went on a tour to El Trapiche, a coffee and sugarcane plantation. We got to see how coffee is grown, dried, shelled, and roasted. Also, we saw how sugar cane is grown, pressed, cooked, and made into sugar. We even got to make our own candy from sugar that had just been cooked. This was such a cool, family-owned and operated tour, and we learned a ton about Costa Rican plants, agriculture, food, and farming.
After the Trapiche tour, we rushed off to our night hike tour that we had already made reservations for. Even though it was really cold and dark, we had no time to go back to the hotel for jackets, lights, or food. We snacked on our homemade candy until we felt sick, and caught up with our tour guide just in time to see a gray fox at dusk. We also saw toads, frogs, tarantulas, and glowbeetles. Unfortunately we did not find any sloths, but it was still a fun hike. The only downside was that there was some annoying old man who insisted on identifying (incorrectly) every animal we came across. He also had a an extremely bright headlamp that he shone in everyone's' faces and blinded the animals with. Oh well.
After that we took a trip to a little Spanish restaurant, Sabor Espanol, that we had read about on the internet. It was kind of far away, but once we got their we had the most delicious orders of gaspacho, stuffed avocado, seabass, and steak with mushroom sauce, not to mention the delicious sangria. After our dinner we ended up staying for hours after closing, and talking with the young Spanish couple who owned the place. It was really fun to compare our experiences as foreigners living in Costa Rica, and it was a great opportunity to practice speaking Spanish.
The next morning we got up early and went to the Monteverde cloud forest reserve. It was a gorgeous hike through giant ferns and crawling vines, with so many bright hummingbirds and exotic flowers lining the trail. We caught a glimpse of an emerald toucanet that a tour group had spotted. However, the most magical moment occurred at the end of our hike. As we were leaving we heard a distinct bird call and saw a dark figure swoop into a perch in the canopy above us. After getting out our binoculars we were thrilled to see that it was actually a resplendid quetzal, the most beautiful bird in Central America. The female quetzal is impressive with her metallic green feathers, but the male has the same feathers with big white and red patches on its chest, and green tail feathers that are two or three feet long. We soon spotted the male quetzal, plus another female. They flew away after a magical 10 minutes, but we soon encountered them again up the trail. We watched them for another 15 minutes, and as they flew away we saw that there were actually five of them this time. This was definitely the highlight of a trip that was already amazing. We are looking forward to going back to Monteverde again.