Adrenaline and Frogs in the Cloud Forest

Trip Start Aug 01, 2007
Trip End Oct 04, 2007

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Tuesday, August 14, 2007

First thing in the morning, had a light tropical fruit breakfast (pineapple and papaya) with some pastries and then we were on our way to the canopy tour.
What is a canopy tour, you ask? Itīs a fun way to explore the canopy of the rainforest that you canīt normally see, using zip lines (omega in Hebrew) and hanging bridges, which allow  you to see much of the flora and fauna who live high up off the ground. There are also a few adrenaline surprises, the freefall rappelling and the tarzan swing.
We did the bridges tour first, with a guide and a group of half Spanish speakers and half English speakers (so we got to hear all the corny jokes two times). It was really nice to go on the tour with a guide, it was our first time having someone around to explain everything. We saw some cool stuff, mainly plants but also a few animals including some sleeping owls, another agouti, and a millipede that had a wonderful smell of marzipan (?). Since there is so much moisture in the forest and the plants are all competing for light and moisture, many plants have evolved to live on the trees themselves. Theyīre called epiphytes. They donīt kill the trees, they just use them as a habitat. On the other hand there are also parasitic plants which actually dig into the trees to get their sustenance. Anthor one is the strangler fig, which uses the tree for support, and grows around it, cutting it off from the outside and eventually killing it (accidentally, they say).
After the bridges, we continued to the canopy tour itself. What a rush! There are 14 zip lines, some of which are almost 2000 feet long (800 m). There are also some "Indiana Jones" bridges along the way, where you walk along a wooden bridge with wide gaps between the slats, but safely attached to the safety line, so it only feels scary. In the middle we got to the first surprise, the rappelling. It actually wasnīt rappelling, more like walk to the edge of the platform and jump off to the ground 30 feet below (10 m). Quite a shock. Thankfully they do stop your fall before you hit the ground, but itīs nothing like real rapelling where you have somewhere to put your feet and control of your own brake. The scariest part of the canopy tour was the Tarzan Swing. It starts off about 20 m (60 feet) off the ground, where you jump off holding on to a rope like tarzan (but safely attached of course). The first feeling is total free fall/panic until the rope kicks in and then you are swinging out over the rainforest and itīs awesome! We would have done it again if we could have.
After the canopy we got back to town and on the way saw a  two-toed sloth (nocturnal in this region) hanging out (sleeping, actually) in a tree in someoneīs front yard. We told the rest of passengers in the minivan we were in that there was a sloth and they shouted out excitedly and called a mutiny to stop so we could get pictures (but of course the driver had already stopped).
After the canopy we rushed to see the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. It is a long-runnning ecotourism project managed by the local school board and maintained and staffed by students of the local techical high school. The cloud forest is a green overload. All the trees are covered with moss and epiphytes. You kind of expect tarzan to jump out at you any second from the hanging vines. The trees look furry. Usually itīs covered in a cloud, but we were lucky and it was a beautiful sunny day. We didnīt see many animals - a few birds, a squirrel, and a crab, but the plants were amazing. We also hiked up to a tower where there was a view of the Arenal volcano. 
Back in town we went to check out the frog pond, where there were something like 30 species of frogs on display (live in terrariums). The evening is the best time so go since most of the froggies are nocturnal. We saw lots of beautiful frogs, some very very tiny ones, and of course Costa Ricaīs famous red-eyed tree frog. We interrupted several of the frog species while they were mating, I guess they didnīt mind too much.
The 14th was our 1 month anniversary since the wedding, so we went out to a nice Italian dinner to celebrate. After that we headed to Moon Shiva, an Israeli-owned place with live local music. Ido satisfied his hummus craving, and Phoenix had a Goldstar (Israeli beer) which was icy cold. On the way back we got lucky and instead of having to walk (we got there walking 1 km  uphill in the rain), a nice Spanish family gave us a lift (there seem to be Spanish people everywhere here in August).
All in all we were very happy with our Monteverde experience. Now itīs on to Arenal, the very active volcano, where we hope to see some eruptions and soak in the hot springs.

Pura Vida!

Ido and Phoenix 
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