Part 4: La Rana Arenal to Monteverde, Costa Rica


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The Trip

We spent the night at a very small hotel with only 6 rooms.  The owner was German and his wife was a Tica.  The accommodations were great and we enjoyed our stay.  We headed toward Tilaran and it was very, very windy.  The ridgelines were covered with wind turbines and were churning away at a high rate.  We did a resupply in Tilaran and then headed toward Monteverde.  The road was Baja-rough and we got a 4 hour Costa Rican massage in our rental 4x4.

The photos below are what we saw.

The grounds at La Rana Arenal were nicely done.  Above is a Giant Bird of Paradise plant.

I am not sure what this plant is called, but the roots grow down to the ground from the trunk.

The dense jungle started at the boundary of the hotel grounds and most of the trees had various epiphytes including Bromiliads.

The owner of the hotel has a bird feeding station and puts out fruit to get them to come close.  This little fellow was very colorful, but flighty and nervous and very hard to photograph.

This could be a species of Toucan given the colored beak, but I am not sure.

This bird got close enough for a reasonable photo.

We had left the breakfast area and had returned to our room when I heard the owner shouting that "los tucanos estan aqui", so I came back with the camera.  This guy was chowing down on the papaya but watching us closely.

He came with his buddies but they would only come to the feeding station a few at a time.

This flock consisted of 6 birds.  They were cautious and watched us carefully.

We left La Rana and headed toward Tilaran around the north shore of Lake Arenal.  The area is frequently windy and is a hot-spot for wind surfing.  There were a number of surfers out enjoying the stiff winds.

Four hours of ass-busting, rutted, rocky road later got us to Monteverde.  Oddly, after all that dirt, we hit a paved road in town.  Then it turns to dirt again on the other side of town.  The shot above is representative of the roads in the area; they are much rougher than they look.

The winds were howling in Monteverde and blew continuously during our stay.  While exploring town, we reached a cliff that had a view looking to the southeast.  I postulated that we might be able to see the ocean were it not for the fog and the next day would prove that assertion correct.

We chose to stay at the Monteverde Country Lodge and the room was nice.  The wind blew really hard all night and despite a well built hotel, the noise kept waking us up.  Next day we elected to see the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.  The reserve was a short (dirt) road from the hotel.  When we arrived we found this group of folks with their attention focused on the trees.  It seems that a group of howler monkeys were making their way through the canopy by the visitor center.

We got tickets, and they were a bit pricey for a walk through the jungle - $20 each.  About 100 meters out of the visitor center area I spotted this critter in the trees.  At first I thought it was another howler, but it turned out to be a pesote.

We spotted another of his troop on the trail.  But the lighting was poor and he was on feeding mission, so he was on the move.  Nose to the ground he worked the area around the trail with the diligence of a Tijuana street vendor, missing nothing along the way.

His buddies were equally diligent and used their snouts like a plow when they went through the leaves.

We passed some huge fluted ficus trees next to the trail.

The jungle was incredibly dense and it would be very hard, if not impossible to walk through the thick growth.

Several kilometers later, we came onto a ridge on the continental divide and got our first view of the Pacific Ocean and the Golfo de Nicoya to the west.  The wind was blowing hard at perhaps 40 mph with gusts much higher.  The strength of the wind required me to remove my hat to take a photo.

The mountains at the crest were very steep and travel would be nearly impossible without an established trail.

To the east we could see the steep valleys of the Cordillera de Tilaran.  Note the low cloud ceiling.  Most of the time the crests of the Cordillera are in the clouds.

At the end of the trail was a lookout point that allowed us to see the islands in the Golfo de Nicoya.

The high winds were rapidly blowing clouds over the Cordillera throwing dark clouds over the jungle below.  The wind was blowing so hard I am surprised that I was able to get a stable photo of the valley below.

Because of the stiff winds, we left the ridge and headed back toward the visitor center via an alternate route.  We passed some plants with huge leaves.

The alternate trail we took brought us past a suspension bridge high over the canyon below.  While not as impressive as the Hanging Bridges of Arenal, this was still worth the visit.

We ascended another steep hill on our route back that brought us to a small viewpoint.  Since our last view of the ocean, a large fire had started and was throwing a huge smoke plume into the air.

We actually came upon another group of howler monkeys but taking a photo was really hard.  They are dark, the jungle is dark and the sky is bright and there were leaves and branches in the way, so this was the best I could do.  The monkey is looking at us from 100 feet above.  One of the guides warned us to not get directly underneath them as they take great pride in their excretory aiming prowess and frequently target the unwary tourists with devastating effect and great emotional trauma.

We stopped at the Argentine Cafe for lunch and Kathleen spotted this nice flower.

We returned to the hotel and got free of our sweaty DEET-covered clothes and then had a great dinner at Sofia's restaurant.

Monteverde is an interesting place and has some nice hotels and restaurants.  The area is very popular with tourists and we saw many bus loads of folks coming through town.  The Cloud Forest is worth a visit and if you go, plan on wearing comfortable shoes and bring a rain coat of some kind.

Tomorrow, we head west toward Papagayo and the Pacific Ocean.

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