Adios beach, Hola mountains!
We had half a mind to be lazy and continue the beach tour down the coast, but in the end we decided it was a good idea to round out the Costa Rica tour with a trip up into the mountains...
In order to get to Monteverde we left on the 7:30 am bus to Cobano to catch another bus to Paquera to catch the ferry to Puntarenas to catch the bus to Monteverde. The ride up the mountains into Monteverde is something. It's steep and windy and beautiful and oh so sketchy. At one point our bus came upon a huge truck coming down the hill and as the roads are barely big enough for two normal sized vehicles to pass, let alone a bus and a truck, we ended up backing down the hill for about 50 meters. One side of the road was a sheer drop. I'm glad I wasn't driving...it was nervy enough to be sitting in the back of the bus!
In any case we made it in one piece and hopped off the bus around 4:30pm; another full day of travel in the book. We found the lady from our hostel who was waiting for us and we cruised to the hostel and got our jail cell, errr...room. It was small, very small...but, the bed was decent and it looked clean enough so we had no issues.
We booked ourselves in for the National Park the following morning and after a little rest we headed out to get some grub and check out tiny little Santa Elena, which is the more 'happening' of the villages up there. Dinner was good; a huge fish burrito for me and a huge salad for G. We were too full for dessert, but if we had been able to fit anymore food in we would have gone with the Mango Split: fresh mango with mango sorbet, vanilla ice cream, caramel, chocolate sauce and nuts. We made a note to make this ourselves one day.
We hit the hay early and were up and at 'em to grab breakfast before hopping the 7:30am bus from Santa Elena out to Monteverde park to hike in the Cloud Forest. We got in to the park and started hiking by about 8:00. We were super stoked on what a beautiful day we had been dealt. It's a cloud forest which means it is almost always either raining or heavily misting, but today sun would come out intermittently between periods of heavy clouds and mist. The mist added to the ambiance.
We set off and soon found ourselves alone walking through the mist trying to spot birds and other wildlife. It's a birders paradise there and we came across several groups of very geeky people peering through binoculars. One group was over the moon after confirming they'd spotted the rare and elusive three-striped worbler. G and I had a huge sigh of relief; we weren't sure what we'd do if we had came all the way to Monteverde and NOT seen a three-striped worbler. Thank God it didn't come to that.
We had done the recommended walk out to the viewpoint, over the suspension bridge and then up to the waterfall and could have easily made it back in time for the 11:30am bus back to Santa Elena, but decided as we had nothing else to do that day we'd stick around and hike some more and catch the 2:30 bus. We did the big loop out the back part of the park then took a break for a soda at the visitor center where we studied the map. We realized we'd walked almost the entirety of the Monteverde Park trail system, except we'd missed 2 little trails that we could do in a 30 or so minute loop.
We said 'what the hell' and headed back into the park at 1:45; planning to be back by 2:15 for the 2:30 bus. We did the loop and were happy that we did as we saw more wildlife on that leg then we'd seen all day. We saw monkeys, possums and even a Coati, which is a raccoon like thing.
We got back at 2:15 as we'd planned and all the sudden I had a bad feeling. There should have been a crowd of people waiting for the bus, but there was nobody. When I asked about the bus my fears were confirmed; the bus was at 2:00, not 2:30. Whoops!!
I have no idea how I got 2:30 into my head, but let's just say Gina was less then pleased at having missed the bus by 15 minutes and now having a 2 plus hour wait until the next bus at 4:30...and, it was 100% my fault. I wasn't exactly stoked to sit for 2 hours myself, especially with a irritated girlfriend on my hands so I went in and had the park ranger call us a cab. Well worth the $6!!
Safely back in Santa Elena we were able to laugh about the situation...but all joking stopped when Gina went in to take a shower and came out 30 seconds later. As she'd been getting into the shower she had heard a noise and looked up to see the distinct silhouette of a healthy sized rat in the skylight. After regaining her composure, she went in and showered in the other shower that had no skylight and we thought that was the end of it...a one off vermin encounter. When I went to grab my towel for a shower I noticed a bug on the towel which wasn't a big deal until at closer inspection I realized it was a baby scorpion with tiny little pinchers and a wicked looking little tail. What the hell is going on here!! We're all for wildlife encounters, but we were happy enough with the monkeys, birds and Coati from earlier in the day, not so much in our hostel room...
That night as we laid down to sleep the pest encounter continued. We were in bed reading and suddenly we could hear scurrying and squeaking in the ceiling only a few meters from our faces. Sick!! It's one thing to see a rat in a skylight and another to hear them going about their ratty business directly above your face as you sleep!
We swore under our breath, but after only a few minutes they quieted down and we started to fall asleep. Then, our neighbors came home and proceeded to sit in the living room which was 2 feet from us through a wall. They sat around for like 30 minutes as the one American girl explained to a couple of Brits the merits, history and culture of her life as a Sorority girl. Holy hell! I'm not sure which was more terrifying; the rat hotel above us or listening in on life as a sister in Kappa Kappa Gamma. Finally, at precisely 11pm, which is when quiet hours in the hostel started and when I could have gone out in my boxers and told them my opinion on sororities, they headed for bed and we at last slipped off into sleep.
At 12:30am Gina got up to use the bathroom and in doing so we both were momentarily awoken. The rats in the ceiling were going NUTS! Scurrying this way and that way, squeaking, and making all sorts of strange, but loud sounds. It sounded like a rat orgy was taking place 6 feet from my face.
I stood on the bed to pound on the ceiling hoping it would scare them and shut them up. Bad idea; the ceiling boards moved slightly when I pounded which caused a few rat poo pellets to come raining down into our bed much to Gina's horror as she was still laying down in the bed.
After clearing the bed of vermin feces, I wasn't sure what to do next. I considered several options; waking up the owner, trying to go into another room, sleeping in the lounge room...all of them seemed too hard at that point, and after a few minutes the rat orgy seemed to calm down and once again there was silence.
We finally were able to sleep again, albeit very fitfully. We got up early and hit the shower to clean ourselves and promised each other that we'd not repeat that experience no matter how cheap the hostel or how broke we get. The thing is that it was a pretty good hostel and was the highest rated in town according to the hostel review websites. There was certainly no mention of rodents, so you just never know. I told the guy in the morning before we were picked up for the days activity and he said they only just found out about it the other day and were working on getting it fixed. They were super nice and had taken good care of us and we were leaving that day anyway, so I didn't want to be too much of a jerk about it, but he certainly got the point!
We were picked up at 7:30 by the Extremo Canopy Tour shuttle bus and driven 20 minutes into the hills where we were fitted with harnesses and readied for the high adrenaline portion of our Monteverde stay. The canopy tours are essentially zip line tours that take you through and over the forest. Both G and I had done one in the past, but nothing like this. Extremo has 4 lines over 400 meters long including one that you do 'superman' style- meaning headfirst that is 1 km long(!!). In addition, they've got a 'Tarzan swing' which is pretty ridiculous in and off it self.
The whole tour lasted about 3 hours. We did a few of the longer lines in tandem which was a lot of fun. We got some pretty cool video footage which will explain what we did better then I can in this blog post. Also, thanks to an update for the Offexploring iPad app which we use to post blogs and photos, we can now upload video...so keep an eye out for that.
Yeah, the ziplines and swing were a lot of fun; definitely a must- do if you are in the area.
We got back to Santa Elena and had a few hours to chill out in a café before we were being picked up for the jeep-boat-jeep transfer across the mountains to the town of La Fortuna where the mountain adventure would continue. It gave us some time to ponder our experience over the past two days: amazing hiking in one of the most biologically diverse Eco-systems in the world, plus a crazy fun zipline tour for kicks; both adventures sandwiching one gross night listening to rats fornicate and sorority girls have verbal diarrhea...I still think we came out on top, although maybe just barely!