Trip Start May 20, 2006
Trip End Jul 18, 2006

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Last weekend I took advantage of the federal holiday to head up to the mountains with some workfolk. Destination: Monteverde. The Green Mountain. Hippy haven of Costa Rica and ecological wonder of the universe.

After travailing one of Costa Rica's most infamous roads, we made it to Monteverde Saturday in 4 hours from San Jose. We checked into our hotel, the Sapo Dorado, named after the endangered, if not extinct, golden toad that used to inhabit the area. The hotel was wonderful. We each had our own private cabin with an exquisite view of the Nicoya Peninsula, its Gulf, and the Pacific beyond. On the hotel's menu were organic dishes catering to every diet, from vegan to carnivore, with ovo-lacto in between.

With nothing planned for the evening, I, along with new-found friends Jessie and Mark, headed to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve for a night tour. Our guide, who had been giving tours of the forest for 15 years, was amazingly adept at spotting critters in even the most obscure locations. We saw all kinds of animals: insects, tarantulas, worms, frogs, birds, and bats galore. We also learned about the flora of the forest. Cloud forests differ from rain forests in that they are at higher elevations. Thus, they generally receive less precipitation than rain forests, but nonetheless have more humidity through condensation. The end effect is a unique environment of unparalleled botanical beauty. We concluded our tour by turning off our flashlights and walking in the natural darkness. We could still spot all kinds of life, from glow-in-the-dark worms to fluorescent fungus. Truly spectacular!

The next day it was an early start for Selvatura, an adventure park located inside the virgin cloud forest of Monteverde. We kicked off our experience with a zip line canopy tour of the park. I had never done a zip line before and for me this was certainly a highlight of the weekend! Selvatura's canopy tour is one of the longest in Costa Rica. Its longest line is a whopping 600 meters. That's over 6 football fields! After careful instructions from our guides, we geared up and zipped through Selvatura's 18 platforms, sometimes as a high as 350 feet over the forest floor. We topped it all off with a jump off the "Tarzan Swing", a pendulum drop of 50+ feet and guaranteed adrenaline rush. What a blast! I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Before leaving Selvatura, we did a 2-hour hike through the park's walkways and suspension bridges. While the diverse animal sights were amazing, it was their sounds that were truly captivating. Birds calling, monkeys howling, crickets chirping... everywhere! The bridges floated hundreds of feet off the forest floor and we had spectacular views of the canopy. The hike was a serene ending to our fabulous Selvatura adventure.

That night we took in the cultural side of Monteverde, with dinner at Sofia's and live music down the road. My number one tip for anybody heading to Monteverde: do not miss a meal at Sofia's! This place is amazing. It takes fusion food to new heights, combining Central American flare with haute cuisine. I tasted entirely new flavors and can honestly say I had never eaten food like that before in my life (which is saying a lot). After dinner, we retired to a bar down the street for a digestif and some live "music." "Music," however, was probably an exaggeration, as the show was simply 8 guys playing congas, with tatted groupies spinning wild-eyed in the background. Nevertheless, it was fun to listen to and sounded pretty good. This was the granola side of Monteverde I had heard about: the "Berkeley" of Costa Rica, as it had been described to me. I wouldn't go that far, but I certainly felt right at home.

After sleeping in on Monday, we headed down the mountain back to San Jose. Monteverde was a wonderful trip. I made some friends and got to know one of the most amazing places in the world. Pura vida!
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