Monteverde – Supermans

Monteverde was awesome! We spent one and a half intense days there. The sort of holiday you need to recover from afterwards.

The entry point to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is the town of Santa Elena. We arrived there from La Fortuna via a bus – boat – bus combination that was a lot more time wise convenient that the public buses.

Santa Elena is very touristy, but in the same time pretty small and with a great vibe. Being at an altitude of about 1300 m, the weather is perfect during the day and chilly at night. Something that really stands out is the humidity. We had some pretty interesting weather. It looked like drizzling, although there were no visible clouds. And the rainbows! Rainbows everywhere!

But let’s get to the main attraction. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a 20 minute bus ride away from Santa Elena. The road climbs from 1300 m to 1600. As we were approaching, the sun disappeared. We were engulfed by the mist. The drizzle grew stronger – less cute, more wet.

The humidity was coming from the Caribbean side. As the humid air was pushed higher up the mountains, water condensed and formed these clouds we were being engulfed in. Plants here didn’t need roots to suck up water. They just took it from the air. Each tree housed hundreds of other plants. The biodiversity was incredible.

It rained constantly, so I was switching between the DSLR and the waterproof compact camera depending on the type of photo. We reached a higher point – we were on the Continental Divide. On a clear day we would have been able to see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. At the moment though:

Battling the wind

Now let’s say you don’t like walking and you want to see some forest. And you want to do it at high speed. Preferably head first. Hanging a couple of hundred meters above a valley. No problem with a zipline canopy tour.

The tour we went on had 14 ziplines (if I remember correctly), including two Supermans and one Tarzan. You’re probably wondering what these are. A Superman is like a zipline, only that you’re hanging face first, similar to how you’d sit on a sledge. Your legs are also tied and you have no way to brake. You depend on the guy at the end of the line to stop you, or else you’ll be hitting a tree at too many miles per hour to consider your helmet useful. There were two Supermans. One was on a 1 km long line, with great views over the whole valley – although, because of the speed, it was hard to keep your eyes open. The second was through a tunnel underneath a hill.

But that was not scary. The Tarzan was in a league of its own. Imagine swinging on a vine. Only that you start from an elevated platform. And the first fractions of a second are practically in free fall, accelerating towards the ground below. The cord then pulls you and you start your swing, going high into the canopy, almost hugging a tree. You fall back and swing like this a couple of times, until you lose momentum and the guys catch you with a rubber tube.

One thing we missed so far was wildlife. During our hike through the cloud forest we saw a rodent, a quetzal and a hummingbird. We wanted more. So we went on a guided night walk. There were a bunch of groups, each one of about 10 people with a guide, walking around in a relatively small area. If one guide saw something, he would call all the other groups. We ended up seeing quite a lot of animals. There were so many of them, at one time we were wondering if the animals were planted there. Only a few are shown here. Excuse the photo quality, but it was pitch dark.

We also visited a little bat museum. On TripAdvisor it was among the top attractions. Don’t get me wrong, it was cute and all, but pretty boring.

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During our stay there, we finished all our colones (did I mention Costa Rica is expensive?), so I went to the bank to exchange some USD for CRC. Didn’t even enter the building, as I didn’t pass the security guard screening. He asked me, seeing as I was a tourist: “Por cambiar?”, “Si”, “Tienes su pasaporte?”, “Oh crap, brb”. Went back to my room, fetched the passport and returned. The bank was on top of a hill, by the way. Good workout. Got in at about 5:20. The bank was closing at 5:30. Just in time. Got a ticket. There were 2 more people waiting. There were 2 clerks working at the moment.

Another guy came in, saw us waiting, got a ticket and then went to the nearby supermarket. At 5:30 sharp the guard locked the door. The guy returned from the supermarket at 5:32. He tried the door, without luck. The guard showed him the time, with an “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do” shrug. The guy looked destroyed. He tried begging. He was very expressive, but of no use in front of the stone cold guard. He tried pleading with the other guard. His facial expressions suggested urgency, need, loss. I felt sorry for him.

But whatever. I was up. Time to change some money! In Costa Rica, banks are pretty curious. Not only “how much money would you like to exchange?”, but also “where are you staying?”, “where are you from?” or “what do you do for a living?”. After the round of questioning, I was given a pair of receipts to sign. Threw my usual scribble on them and waited for the money. The clerk looked at them, looked at my passport, put them next to each other, looked at them again and told me “las firmas no coinciden”. “What? What do you mean the signatures don’t match? Look, they’re my signatures. They match because I wrote them! They’re not identical, but they’re similar, look!” She was not convinced, so she did what every clerk does in such difficult and extreme scenarios: call her supervisor. So another lady came, looked at the signature from the passport and the signatures from the receipts and told me they don’t match. She printed another pair of receipts and gave them to me. I signed them, but this time not as sloppy as before. This time I was paying attention. And I was quite pleased by the result. It was a beautiful pair of signatures. She looked at them and she wasn’t convinced – they don’t match! I felt stupid. I was looking at my signatures – same shapes, same curves – and somebody was telling me they were not the same. She gave me one last shot. And I took it. I did a signature that would look counterfeit to anybody who is capable of telling if a signature is counterfeit. I calculated every move of the pen so it would look exactly as the one in the passport. And it did. Only that you could see the carefulness and hesitations if you looked carefully. She didn’t care though. They matched. She gave me the money.

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