Trip Start Jun 13, 2006
Trip End Jun 12, 2007

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Alex: Santa Elena (different town to, but sometimes referred to as Monteverde) was really something special. We left Balgue at about 8.00 and after our previous bus experience just expected to get to Rivas just on the mainland. Anyway by changing buses we managed to cut the journey time in half and made the 11.00 ferry off Isla de Ometepe. We made the usual snap decision to try our luck and see how far we could get, we might get half way we thought! We got a taxi from San Jorge to Rivas (5 mins away) and the driver somehow convinced us to go all the way to border or we would miss the connecting buses and be stuck. How true or not this was I don't know but at the Nicaraguan/Costa Rican border we just made a bus that came very close to and connected with a bus to Santa Elena, by sheer jamminess we got from Ometepe to Monteverde in one day - fantastic! Costa Rica is doing very well from the tourist trade (particularly the US) and the difference in living standards from Nicaragua was obvious as soon as we crossed the border, not that its particularly fancy but just not as bad!

We booked into a hotel which when we went back to after our tea we immediately regretted, on one side we had a restaurant kitchen (not quiet) and the other what we thought was a restaurant but sounded more like a nightclub! We changed to a very nice hostel the next day and had one of the nicest rooms (and bathrooms) we had stayed in so far. But the luxury did not stop there. Santa Elena made us realise how travelling has changed our perspective of a few things. We took as many of our clothes to the launderette as was possible without indecent exposure charges (they were beginning to pong a bit) and it pleased us far too much - we smelt practically every item before putting them away! The hostel had a kitchen so we could do some of our own cooking and go to supermarket, which was extra-ordinarly pleasant. But best of all we had hot showers, the first we have had for about 3 weeks (just to clarify, we have showered but it has been cold) - bliss.

Because Costa Rica is far more touristy than its neighbors our options we far more varied. Santa Elena and Monteverde's attraction is the Cloud Forest but, unable to make enough tourist dollars from this, a plethora of variations on canopy tours have sprung up. The basic is a series of suspension bridges through the canopy and the "adventure" version is the zip wire through and above the canopy and that is what we decided to do.

We planned our Ccanopy tour so we could visit the Santa Elena cloud forest first and take a walk around as they are both out of town. The forest was beautiful, there are numerous self guided trails and because everyone was so busy on the canopy tours (and it is the rainy season) we had the place to ourselves it was so peaceful and beautiful. Cloud forest is as it sounds, a forest in the clouds which means everything is nice and cool and a bit wet! The moss on the trees is amazing - like a green faux fur covering and everything is incredibly green and lush. It felt like a proper jungle, I kept expecting to hear David Attengbourgh doing a voice over. We didn't see much wildlife but heard lots of crazy sounding birds including some that sounded like wind chimes! After a good wander around we headed down to the canopy tour. I was slightly apprehensive but it was great fun. There are 11 wires in total, the first 2 are really short to get you into it but the rest are really cool and get very long. Two go through the canopy (making you feel like you are going to crash into a tree) and the rest go above it. You get amazing views of the forest and the surronding area and it is really good fun. The last two can be a bit slow apparently so you get to do them in pairs (extra mass, extra speed!), how they managed to stop Dean and I, I do not know! Well worth it.

As usually our plans changed, we had planned to go straight to Panama from Monteverde but we have a bit more time before our flight than we expected and have heard Volcano Arenal not far away is stunning, on a clear night you can see the lava flowing (and can watch it from some hot springs below) - that said it is rainy season, so clear nights are not guaranteed.
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