Walking in the clouds
Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
187Trip End Ongoing
As we arrived in La Fortuna, a small town at the foot of Volcán Arenal, we were in for quite a shock as we realized that the whole town was dedicated solely to serving the tourism industry
The next day we pressed on, leaving the cloud-shrouded volcano behind, and wound our way along the beautiful hillsides bordering Laguna de Arenal. Once again we felt as if we were driving along a byway in Devon, England, or maybe in the South Island of New Zealand. However, we were reminded that we were still very much on the tourist circuit by the profusion of cute tearooms, restaurants and gift shops along the way - again, with what we considered to be astronomical prices
Did we mention that being up in the rain forest, naturally it....rains? And rain it did, generally throughout the night, as well as on and off during the day, interspersed with nice sunny spells. Gentle rains, and gusty, persistent winds. Further around the lake we discovered a wind farm with 30 or 40 huge turbines - from the look of the trees in the area it was obviously a suitable spot for exploiting this natural form of energy. As we headed on towards the Montverde and Santa Elena Reserves in the heart of the cloud forest, the road got rougher and more potholed and the light started to fade.
We had expected that the Monteverde community, established by a group of Quakers in the 1950s, would be a quaint village in a picturesque setting, but instead we were disappointed to find a rather haphazard collection of nondescript buildings alongside the muddy and rocky, potholed road. No camping facilities appeared to be available, and we spent the night in an overpriced but grim and very basic lodging.
The next morning revealed the magnificence of the surrounding cloud forest with extensive views across to the Pacific coast on the Golfo de Nicoya, but the town itself confirmed our first impression and seemed unimaginatively commercialized, rather messy and, worst of all.....full of gringos
- we didn't see them all, but it almost seemed like it! Seeing the green flash of the Emerald Toucanet, following a huge flittering Morpho Blue butterfly, or watching a Spotted-crested Treecreeper carefully listening before extracting insect larvae from beneath the bark as it examined a tree trunk from base to tip, made up for lack of finesse in town.
That evening we were fortunate to find that a beautifully located and inexpensive camping spot with all facilities was indeed available in the grounds of a small lodge run by a German family, and so we able to happily set up our base for a few more days of exploring the surrounding area.