The alarm went off at 6:10 this morning so we could get to the Santa Elena Reserve by 7:30 for our tour. The weather is perfect! We’re prepared for cold, but I didn’t even need a sweatshirt and we haven’t had a drop of rain. Henry (our guide) is charming and we set off on our 3-hour tour. What a wonderful day! I spotted the first bird of the tour, a big, dark-blue guy whose name we can’t remember and whose photo Doug will post later. Surprisingly, cloud forest tours do not usually result in lots of animal sightings, because many of the inhabitants are nocturnal, and the rest hide in the dense undergrowth. Everyone wants to see the queen of the jungle, the Resplendent Quetzal – an unbelievably gorgeous bright blue and red bird with a huge long tail that was revered by the Mayas and is the national bird of Guatemala. We did see cyanide-producing millipedes, a tiny frog with a huge voice, some beautiful birds, including 7 – yes, 7! different varieties of hummingbirds. And a huge list of amazing plants, many of which are familiar to us as houseplants and many stunning new varieties! The tour lasted about 3 hours and was totally wonderful. This reserve isn’t as well-known (or as near to town) as the Monteverde reserve, and the trails are delightfully empty (delightful to us, not so much to the locals who are suffering from the downturn in the global economy). Our certified tour guide is so knowledgeable! Trivia example: Tarzan did NOT swing from vines, he swung from (what our guide called) lines. Vines grow from the ground up into the trees and so can’t support much weight. Lines, on the other hand, are actually aerial roots that are integral to the limb structure of the tree, and grow down toward the ground, eventually rooting and providing more support to the tree. Fascinating, eh? I certainly think so!
After a wonderful tipico lunch (beans and rice with vegetables, for instance), Doug opted to stay home to finish his book and wait for Mitch and Wendy to arrive from San Jose, while Judie and I went out to visit the CASEM women artist cooperative, the local cheese-making factory, a tiny organic market called Whole Foods, and the hummingbird station (where we saw all the hummers and I got some great pictures which I’ll post if I ever find the time!). What a great afternoon. We contributed greatly to the local economy and had a wonderful time. The Ticos (what the Costa Ricans call themselves) are the friendliest, most wonderful people I’ve ever met, and that’s saying a lot! Did I say we’re in heaven?
When we got home, Doug was enjoying his book while Mitch and Wendy – who had arrived shortly after Judie and I left – were out exploring the neighborhood. After a wonderful drink made with local, fresh mango juice (and imported vodka), we went to dinner down the dirt road (1st gear all the way) for an amazing meal of paella made by immigrants from Barcelona, Spain. The salad course – avocados stuffed with perfectly spiced tuna/avocado and topped with a huge shrimp – was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten! We ordered way too much food and had way too much fun! By the time we made our way back home, we tumbled into bed exhausted.
Tomorrow we are going on a tour of the Monteverde tour with a guide named Melvin – meeting at 7:30. It is supposed to be one of the highlights of a trip here!