|Amy zip-lining above the Cloud Forest|
For a bit of scenery change we headed into the highlands in the central north, the Cloud Forest. Sitting only a few hundred meters altitude, nestled between the countries most active volcanos this area has moderate day time temperatures and cool nights, almost year round rain and some dense moist forests. Our first town was La Fortuna at the foot of Volcan Arenal. This very active volcano only just recently stopped spewing lava from its crater but there was still plenty to see and we were lucky to be in town during a local cowboy style festival.
|Cowboys and cowgirls|
Our accommodations here were the most luxurious of our trip, backpackers catering more to a resort style setting, with landscaped grounds, pool with swim up bar, deck chairs and full tropical feel. The town of La Fortuna was a relatively nice small mountain town, heavily based on tourism. With lots of gift shops and expensive restaurants, and unfortunately nothing free to do at all. Still, we managed to see and do a bit without breaking the budget too much. We enjoyed a more authentic experience of watching the horse parade through town. Was strange though as I guess there was some sort of competition occurring but only a few of the horses and their riders were preforming or displaying the fancy prancing style riding. All the others just crowded round the multiple stages around the town who were cooking food and giving out beers. None the less, the riders had fantastic skills, I have never seen a cowboy, riding a horse, holding their baby, eating food and drinking a beer all at once, but many riders here were fantastic at it!
That night we also went to the Rodeo part of the festival. There was a surrounding fair with all the usual forms of entertainment and it was cool being part of such a large community event like this. The rodeo turned out to be a bit pricy for Costa Rican standards, that being $10 each, but in conclusion it was certainly worth it. Not that we have any other rodeo experience to compare it to, but it was fantastically entertaining. The event started with fireworks and a wall of flames which the bull riders were introduced through. The bull riders were extremely good, the bulls were bucking hard, the announcer, although speaking mostly Spanish was entertaining and we did see a bit of carnage too. Each bull rider would have a go each and some even attempted, and was successful at riding with no hands! Once the ride was over, two horse riders would come out and lasso the bull and take it away.
|Bucking hard, hanging on.|
We did one excursion the following afternoon which we thought took in all the highlights of the area in one adventure. We journeyed to the other side of the volcano to a scientific observation station looking right out to the old volcanic flow field, with views to the distant Lake Arenal. We did a forest walk seeing some wildlife and walking across a swing bridge, and finishing at a beautiful waterfall swimming hole. The guide and I were the only ones to go in at first but everyone eventually followed. The water was quite cold actually, and the waterfall very powerful. The guide led us behind the waterfall where we could then dive out from behind into the pool. Very cool indeed. After that, back around the other side of the volcano, we went for a evening dip in the hot water river. Probably the coolest experience of the trip. This was a full on mountain river that was a perfect 38 degrees C heated naturally by the thermal activity of the volcano. The guide set up candles, as it was now dark and led us down a track to a pool with a small waterfall flowing into it. We were then served a cocktail and given volcanic mud facials and chilled out in the pools for an hour or two.
Next, we headed to the relatively close Monteverde, the most famous cloud forest. Getting there was fun, taking a service called, Jeep-boat-jeep, it cut out the 7 hour plus bus ride and instead we took a bus then crossed the lake on a boat and got into another bus. No jeeps anymore I guess. The lake ride was nice with good views and the second bus ride was crazy, up and over such steep hills, on unpaved roads. These drivers have their work cut out for them. We stayed at a place called Sloth backpackers, and seeing a real one was the top priority for Amy. That night we went on a guided night walk. It was a bit disappointing, but we did see a good some unique wildlife. Snakes, insects, birds, mammals and that sloth that Costa Rica is so famous for.
|A Side Stripped Palm Pit Viper.|
|Flying into the next platform|
Continuing with the paid activities, we did a zip-line canopy tour. This was also one of the coolest activities we did our entire time in Costa Rica. It was setup in a beautiful area of cloud forest, so dense and green. We ventured above and through the forest and canopy on 18 zip lines which was just the best way to see and experience the forest. Between some stations we had small walks along the forest floor or other zips led right from one line to the next right up in the trees. The lines differed in length from 100meters to 1km on the final one which went right across a big valley and we were really zooming. As to its name, we were up in the clouds with misty clouds blowing through. Afterwards we stopped in at the humming bird gardens, where there were bird feeders attracting lots of humming birds. There must have been hundreds of these tiny, beautiful little creatures buzzing around us.
After we talked to some girls on our tour, finally finding one free activity we went for a walk to a 'climbing' climbing fig tree. Double climbing you ask? Well, it would have originally climbed another tree and then now we get to climb it! It was a strenuous 30 min walk from town and then just poked away off the road. It was a wicked thing, a strangler fig tree that would have climbed a host tree and laid a lattice around the other tree, eventually killing it and the other tree must have died and decomposed quickly, I imagine with the help of ants and termites, leaving a perfect hollow climbing tunnel for us way high up to the top of the canopy. It really was awesome.