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Dave and Jan's travels, day 278:

21st February
Monteverde - like Playa Grande - is one of Costa Rica's myriad National Parks. This one serves to protect some cloud forest, named because it's over 1,500 metres high, is swathed in cloud more often than not and it gets 3,000 millimetres or more of rain each year. All of which leaves it beautifully green and lush, not to mention full of birds, butterflies and other tropical finery.

February 20th (Dave's birthday!) dawned damp and cloudy. We set off to do a "sky walk" and a "sky trek". The former is a walk through the cloud forest. However, to enhance the experience, it includes several suspension footbridges that span gorges a few hundred feet deep. This allows one to appreciate the higher parts of the forest canopy as well as the normal view from the tree roots.

The Sky Trek is also designed to provide a different perspective on the forest. This is another, similar walk, only in this case the gorges are crossed by sliding across, dangling from cables slung across the gap. First you put on a harness that looks like a high-tech nappy (that's a diaper to the North Americans). A small pulley is attached to the cable, you are dangled from this, and then launched into space. It's rather like Disneyworld on safari, and a huge amount of fun. See photos at right.

What made all this even more fun was our guide, Sebastian from Ecuador, whose great sense of fun, fluent English and detailed knowledge of the cloud forest made the whole thing many times more fun. We also got to see a lot of hummingbirds, and learnt a lot about the fauna of the forest. He's highly recommended to anyone heading that way.

That same afternoon, we headed off to the butterfly garden - see photos. The perfect birthday was rounded off with a visit to a fine local restaurant with red wine (!) and rare beef steak. It might not sound like much to you, but particularly in the case of the wine, I can report that abs(tin)ence really has made the heart grow fonder.

The next day we went for a more conventional stroll through the cloud forest. The forest really is lovely. Huge tree ferns covered in moss alternate with trees that support hundreds of epiphytes. An epiphyte is a plant that lives on another without stealing nourishment. The bromeads are the most common local variety, and each one of these is a water storing marvel supporting its own little ecosystem. And they provide splashes of red colour in the canopy. One slight disappointment was that we didn't see the famous quetzal, the local pin up bird, but we did see a lot more iridescent hummingbirds.

From there, we pressed on via the local cheese factory (another treat!) to the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose.


   (click thumbnails for a larger picture)

Sky trekking

Cloud forest

Butterflies, Monteverde