So after a magnificent time spent on the islands of Ometepe and in Nicaragua in general, it was time for us to cross the border over in to Costa Rica. Border crossings are generally a bit more stressful as you have to factor in a few different modes of transport (as most transport companies won't travel over the border itself), change money without getting ripped off, keep track of passports, etc, and this crossing was no exception. We started at 6am with a taxi to the ferry, then got the ferry to the mainland where we cheated and caught a taxi all the way to the border. Once there we luckily found a bus which was departing shortly for the capital of San Jose, traveling down the Pan-American highway which would take us most of the way to our destination of Monteverde, high up in the interior of the country. It's a good thing that I was checking our position on my phone as the bus driver completely overshot our pre-agreed dropoff point and by the time I managed to get his attention to stop the bus we were two kilometres past our turnoff. Of course you can't just reverse a bus back up that road so we were dropped off there and then and had to make our own rather hazardous way back, jumping off the highway every time a big truck rolled past. Fortunately we were just in time to catch the second and final daily bus up into Monteverde, which turned out to be a rather torturous windy route up into the mountains. This road would put the journey up to Alpe d'Huez to shame, constant switchbacks on varied surfaces, dodging all manner of local obstacles on the way. We would have been terrified for the whole 2.5 hour journey (of which I was standing in the aisle the whole way due to lack of seating) except for the fact that the scenery that we were traveling through was just divinely beautiful. It was as if someone took all the best bits from the Lake District, threw in a little Tuscany for good measure and then added as much verdant greenery as was humanly possible. It was sublimely beautiful, punctuated regularly by huge wind farms, blades spiraling in the breeze. Everyone on our bus was glued to the window, it was spellbinding. Eventually we arrived at the bus terminal and strolled downtown to our hostel, whereupon we made plans to visit the cloud forest early the next morning.
For a three month break from all things work-related, we're certainly not getting as much sleep as I expected to. We were picked up outside our hostel at 7am and driven a few km up the road where we met our guide who was to take us around the forest. The first thing he did was take us back out to the parking lot to show us where a family of badger-like creatures were fighting over the honey-water that one of their number had spilled from a hummingbird feeder. Then just inside the reserve he focused his telescope on something a few metres away which I couldn't make out yet when you looked through the glass there was a violet hummingbird, happily at home in its nest. Moments later we were shown the quetzal, a crazily coloured bird which ornithologists travel from all over the world to spot. We saw more in the first thirty minutes than most visitors saw in a few days! After all that excitement we walked around the rest of the forest for a few hours, taking in all there was to see, huge ficus', buzzing hummingbirds and hanging bridges. It was a properly amazing place to be and I'm glad we went there rather than doing one of the many adventure excursions on offer in the region. By the time we'd finished we'd missed the bus so decided to walk down the mountain back to town. This turned out to be an inspired decision as on the way we passed a bakery, a gelateria, a chocolate shop and a brewery which made the journey far more pleasant. Then it was a tasty taco dinner before retiring to bed relatively early as the next day was yet another travel day!
What a great introduction to Costa Rica!