Although not all that far as the crow flies, Monte Verde is a four hour drive around Arenal Lake from La Fortuna. We opted for the alternative transport via taxi-boat-horse-taxi. The last taxi segment proved to be the most exciting as we bounced around the back of the van with no seat belts through two hours of dirt roads. We only had to take one detour around an impassable section of road that looked to be a foot deep in mud.
On the lake:
On the horse on the way to Monte Verde:
We arrived in Santa Elena which is the town that everyone refers to as Monte Verde because that is the name of the biological reserve and the mountain itself. The locals are apparently a little miffed about that though. We checked into our hotel where we think we were the only guests. It was a small place with only seven rooms, all of which were off the main lobby/sitting/dining/kitchen area. Through the front door you were greeted by a proper reception desk with a hundred tourist brochures to the right. To the left was the TV with a couple rockers where the 13 year old son of the manager (so we presume) spent much of his free time watching futbol. Behind that were couple tables and then a kitchen area which was a cross between a typical american kitchen and something we might have rigged up under the canopy outside the camper. It appeared to be a one woman operation. She spoke the least english of anyone we encountered, but she was very nice and helped with our bus arrangements and cooked breakfast to order every morning when we emerged from our room.
Santa Elena seemed to be more of a city since it had some two and maybe three story buildings, but it was only a few blocks in total. Just a bunch of small hotels and restaurants to serve the crowds of tourists which appear every dry season to walk through the rain forest. There was a cool hotel/restaurant called the Tree House Hotel which had a giant tree going through the main entry-it is kind of hard to see in the pic, but we were sitting up on the second level and the tree hangs over you and the tables (that looked like trees):
We had nothing planned for that day so we looked through the brochures and thought the night walk through the jungle might be interesting. By the way, the sun set early there and it was DARK at 5:30. We joined a group of 5 other people and met our guide Javier who took us into the darkness. Not a minute into the forest did we come across a group of racoon type critters (I forget the name) who were not at all afraid of humans armed with flashlights and cameras. We also saw a tarantula and a couple frogs and small critters. It was a very interesting experience and perhaps our favorite of the trip.
Some popular animal that started with a Q that we came across on the night walk:
Here is a trantula we saw on the night tour:
The next day we did a canopy tour which wasn't much of a tour, but a heck of a good time traversing the forest by zip-line. That afternoon, we returned to the biological reserve to explore the cloud forest in the daylight. I was a little disappointed when we met our guide Ricardo, a white guy who spoke perfect american english. I felt better once I learned that he was the son of one of the 11 quaker families that settled in the Monte Verde area in 1951 to flea the war hungry states. His father just published the book that I saw on the shelf in the gift shop on the way in. They claim to be responsible for establishing the biological reserve (after they chopped down most of the trees to make room for their cheese farms).
Here is Eric and I on the zip lines:
Here is a video of me and the crazy tarzan swing we did as part of the zip-line tour-we got to do it twice since we were the only two in the tour. The second time we did it the had us go backwards where we just fell back off the platform: (the video starts off sideways)
Hiking in the forest (it was so green!):
Then the clouds rolled in (well it is the cloud forest):
We made it all the way to the Continental Divide and then it started to rain (the only day that we got soaking wet). We were maybe 45min to and hour back to the entrance to the park, but you know we had to see the great view from the continental divide:
Alright, give me a few more days and I will post our last stop...the beautiful beach!