The Cloud Forest....... - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The ride to the Cloud Forest area was through the mountainous region around Santa Elena and Monteverde. Our ride was full of bumps as the road is unpaved purposely by the areas founding Quaker residents to keep tourism in check. The town of Santa Elena is the home to two of the last remaining "Cloud Forest" reserves. The two reserves straddle Costa Ricas continental divide, Monteverde facing the Pacific and Santa Elena facing the Caribbean.

Our friend Maria from Austin as well as Jerry (D's Dad) joined us in Santa Elena and our happy to report that we ate like kings, hiked a ton and zipped through the jungle like Tarzan. Here are some details on what we did during our time:

1) Reserva Biologica Monteverde - The 10,500 hectare cloud forest houses 2500 species of plants, over 600 animal species, and thousands of creepy crawly insects..
We decided to hire a guide for a 3 hour tour of the reserve. It turned out to be well worth the money as we were able to spot the elusive quetzal (colorful bird) several times on our hike, many squirmy insects, as well as some other cool creatures. The forest was lush, damp, and dim (not so good for our pics!). We realized that we had no idea why it was called a cloud forest...besides the obvious clouds clustering close over areas of the forest. We found out that the forest is cloaked in clouds most of the time because the warm, moisture-laden air from the Pacific is pushed up the surrounding mountains creating condensation. Because the mountains are ~5000ft tall, the clouds get stuck and trees appear to float in the clouds.

2) Reserva Forestal Bosque Eterno De Los Ninos - We spent a couple of hours at the Children's Eternal Rainforest named for a group of Swedish schoolchildren who started a campaign to save the cloud forest by purchasing up land for preservation. Their 22,000 hectare reserve project (bigger than the well-known Monteverde Reserve) has become a focus of teachers and schoolchildren around the world. It's pretty amazing what a bunch of kids can do!!!

3) Reserva Santa Elena - Another smaller reserve started to ease the pressure on the Monteverde Reserve. It looked pretty much the same. The biggest difference is that this forest faces the Caribbean side of the Continental Divide in Costa Rica (meaning plants grow facing the direction of the ocean).

4) Skytrek - Check out the link to see photos of what we did. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We were given a tour of the jungle by dangling from a harness attached to zip lines which gives you a unique view of the area and a huge adrenaline rush at the same time. The longest zip line was 750m and about 40 seconds in length, the tallest was 127m high off the ground! Very fun and crazy as we did a total of 11 zips and some of us conquered fear of heights (Good Job Maria!!). Jerry was a sport and loved it! We don't think that he quite knew what we were getting him into!

5) Lisa and Maria also went on a guided night walk through the jungle one evening. They said it was pretty cool despite the evening downpour and having to walk back to the hotel a few kilometers in the pitch black of a rainy night (no streetlights, flashlights, or kind local drivers).

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