Cloud forests and zip lines

Trip Start Nov 14, 2006
Trip End May 15, 2007

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Sunday, January 7, 2007

After the rain and cloud of Arenal, Monteverde was wonderful. It is around 1500m above sea level near the top of the central mountains on the Pacific side of the continental divide and is home to some of the lushest, diverse and beautiful forests in the world.

We arrived mid-afternoon and checked into Pension Santa Elena. This is a proper backpacking hostel, cheap but with good rooms, excellent staff and friendly clientelle. It also has its own kitchen, so Emily got to cook properly for the first time in months (and of course it was delicious). One nice surprise was how much cooler it was here. The wind blows over the top of the mountains at up to 90 mph and at this altitude we actually needed two blankets to keep warm at night. It was a refreshing change from the heat of the coast.

We spent a whole day visiting the Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve where we had an excellent and highly recommended tour with a very knowledgeable local naturalist. I've never learned so much about nature so quickly. After the tour, we hiked on our own over the reserve to the mountain ridge that forms the continental divide. The wind blows huge dark clouds from the Caribbean side that get stuck at the top of the ridge. The clouds then almost disappear as they blow across the ridge to leave clear blue skies on the pacific side. The views are simply spectacular. Next to the reserve is a fantastic (and free) hummingbird gallery where feeders are put out to attract dozens of hummingbirds who fly so close to you that a few times we felt their wings skim our faces.

The next morning we went on a zip line and suspension bridge tour with Sky Trek in lush virgin rain forest covered mountains. These were the best zip lines that we have ever been on. There are 11 cables in total - the longest is 2310 feet, the highest is 480 feet and the fastest reaches speeds of up to 65 mph! It was great to fly acoss the valleys and see the rain forest falling away below you. We then got to go on a self-guided walking tour around canopy level suspension bridges to get really close to nature....and to jump up and down on the bridges like five year olds!
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