A Costa Rican Massage

Trip Start Mar 29, 2013
Trip End Jun 20, 2013

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Monday, April 8, 2013

The road from La Fortuna to the Monte Verde Cloud Forest is slow, winding and for the most part un-paved. It's really not that far as the crow flies but it’s very very hilly – a bit like Gippsland but with fewer cows. If you do the whole trip by road it can take 7 hours or so to go 140km.  Rather than wasting a whole day in a bus we opted for the more acceptable 3.5 hour option of bus-boat-bus. Instead of taking the road around Lake Arenal you head straight across make a beach landing and get picked up by another mini bus on the other side.  We had a poor woman from the US on our boat who’d unfortunately picked up some kind of bug and was sick quite literally – luckily for us she was in our bus to Santa Elena! On the mini bus Jack and I quickly worked out a series of fast manoeuvres with the windows should the worst case scenario arise – fortunately she was a trouper and made it all the way – phew!

The road really is something to experience – a trip on this type of road is known locally as a "Costa Rican massage", personally I think it’s more akin to a chiropractic adjustment.  We did have great views of the Arenal volcano without cloud coverage and the further away you get from it the more you realise just how much it dominates the landscape.

Santa Elena is the main 'town’ in the Monte Verde area – we are staying at the Pension Santa Elena smack in the middle – part hotel, part backpackers full of American, German and French travellers. It’s a great little place – our room sleeps 5 so after having 2 shocking nights of sleep in La Fortuna – we’ve spread out. 

We opted to take a night tour nearby at 5:30pm. At 6pm the bus finally turned up – quaintly known as “Tico-time” – to take us and others from the hostel to the reserve. The night-walk was great - we’ve done plenty of these in our time and experience tells you to keep expectations low – this one was something else. A team of guides armed with walkie-talkies took small groups out separately but keeping in constant contact with each other so when one guide saw something everyone got to see it. On our part it meant hot-tailing it through forest pathways with torches from one place to the next, trying not to knock yourself out on low branches or break your legs on roots. This trip reads like a shopping list, we saw: an olingo, a kinkajou, a coati, several sleeping toucanets and other birds (no idea what), a couple of two-toed sloths (they really do look like green-furred Ewoks), a big tarantula, a tree-dwelling hairy porcupine, a green viper, a scorpion and other insects. 

So, happy as pigs in muck we came home and made a delicious dinner of cheese and tomato sandwiches without rice or beans in sight.
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