Action and adventure in the clouds

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
Trip End Dec 08, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hummingbird Hostel

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Sunday, July 26, 2009

Santa Elena/Monteverde are the highland cloud forest regions of Costa Rica famous for the ziplining craze which may (or may not) have started there. Its not much of a craze, actually, but its damn good fun all the same. Personally, I found some of the ziplines themselves (a zipline being a stell cable slung between two platforms along which you travel, sometimes quite rapidly, by means of a pully to which you are harnessed) quite tame, as unlike the lads I have plenty of faith in such equipment and amn't likely to turn milk-white at the prospect of getting in a cable car. The tarzan swing was quite a rush, though, as there is a split second of free fall before the slack in the cable is taken up and you swoop out over the hilside below - it reminded me of my youthful escapades up the woods, albeit on a slightly grander and more safety-conscious scale! The final, 1km long zipline which most of us traversed 'superman'-style (i.e. lying flat, face down with a second harness holding your feet in place) was also of interest, though it didn't top the tarzan swing. This being Costa Rica, we got all of this for the, ahem, bargain price of $45, but it was good fun all the same.

While in the area I decided to do the other thing for which the area is reknowned: a night hike in search of wildlife. None of the lads bothered to come as I couldn't guarantee them what animals they would see that might be of interest to them (with the exception of Connie who did a coffee tasting tour instead because I couldn't guarantee him that he wouldn't see a snake), so myself and Jo set out ourselves on our intrepid adventure. With most typical timing, the heavens opened with a tremendous thunderstorm that coincided quite neatly with the two hour duration of the hike. The most tremendous thing about it, though, was not how tremendously loud it was, though that was indeed tremendous, but how tremedously bloody close it was, the virtually non-existent gap between the flash and the bang putting the fork somewhere within about 250m of us by my reckoning, expert as it is. This occurred about 1 minute into the trek, and initiated a hasty retreat back to the park office while we waited for the storm to move off.

When we did get going, however, we saw a very many interesting things, much more than I had imagined we would encounter on a dark and sodden night. Among the more impressive and unusual things that we saw were a venomous Palm Pitviper hanging menacingly from a low lying branch, a tarantula sheltering from the downpour in a fallen bamboo, a ginormous stick insect that was a good foot if it was an inch from top to tail, a fungus that glowed in the dark, some two-fingered sloths (including a mother and a baby), and some kind of racoon. Now, I know what your thinking - whats so interesting about a dang ol' racoon? And admittedly, if you were to spy one in a zoo you probably wouldn't give it a second glance. That, however, is the beauty of such a night hike - experiencing these critters in their natural habitat is just that much more rewarding. In this case, what we saw of the racoon was little more than the fiercly glowing reflection of his eyes illuminated by the sweep of our torch before he scampered up a tree, the glimpse of the disturbed animal made that much more thrilling by its fleeting nature. That said, I'm more chuffed at seeing the snake than the racoon, but you get my point...

In brief, that was pretty much my two days in Santa Elena, and brevity is increasingly of the essence, as the speed at which we are now haulin' arse northwards makes it kind of hard to keep this thing up to date!
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