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Costa Rica 2012 Day 5 (3/4/12): Monteverde to La Fortuna

One of the tricks of traveling in Costa Rica is learning how to work the doorlocks. Seriously. Most of them are double locks. So, if you should find yourself locked out of your room, I will show you a quick video on how to get in:

Our plan for the day was to take an early (7:30am) morning tour of the Cloud Forest of Monteverde. It’s a cloud forest because it’s high up in the mountains and often covered in…clouds. This is a reknowned forest with a lot of interesting plants and animals, most of which having better things to do than be seen by tourists at 7:30am. Still, the prize is to see a Quetzal, a rare bird whose key feature is a long tail.

Off we went into the forest with our guide, Eric, who has been a tour guide for longer than the German college student who was on the tour has been alive.

We saw a lovely bit of waterfall.

It didn’t take Eric long to find an interesting bird to look at. He told us what it was but not being into birds much, I forget what it was, but here it is now for your pleasure:

There were also plenty of trees acting as hosts for other plants to grow on them:

And trees with long aerial tree roots. We learned about them too, but since I’m on vacation, well…

AFter a lot of interesting yammering by the tour guide and being shown tarantulas hidden in their burrows and stuff like that, and after much hunting and waiting, we saw a juevenile, female Quetzal (as seen through Eric’s scope):

Not the greatest example or shot in the world, but there you go. This is what it looked like without the scope:

There were also fine examples of strangler trees. In this case the vines use the tree, often a fig, as a host, climb up the tree and eventually strangle it:

This is what it looks like inside the hollow but very much alive strangler tree:

There were hummingbirds flitting around. We even got a photo of one in its nest via Eric’s scope:

AFter the tour we drove back into town. It was still blowing pretty hard, but it was nice to get into slightly warmer climate–I had been chilly, a welcome change, during the whole tour of the forest. AFter checking out at Cabinas Eddy we hit the road to La Fortuna.
La Fortuna is a tourist city that sits at the base of Arenal Volcano and near Lake Arenal. To get there you have to drive over a mountain range with mostly gravel roads, and most of the gravel is huge sharp tire eating rocks you’d use as the base layer, not the finishing gravel. It’s 3+ hours of tough sledding.

Here’s an example of the road:

And yet another video of what it’s like to drive. This video is a little more interesting because after scores of kilometers without encountering anybody heading in our direction, we finally got in a bit of a traffic jam:

When we finally got out of the mountains and close to Lake Arenal we bumped into the remnants of a “around the lake” sort of mountain bike race that had been going on all weekend. Afer driving around most of the lake, I can appreciate the challenge those bicyclists had. They just don’t make gears low enough.
But for me it was yet another hazard to dodge on the long and winding road:

Lake Arenal is a manmade lake for hydro-electricity. It’s about 30K by 5K in dimensions, BIG.

We ven got a quick glimpse of the famous volcano. Like our Mt. Hood, it’s often covered in cloud, and we never actually got to see the top of it:

Finally! we arrived at our hotel, Cerro Azul, a very nice place with four cabins for less than $60/night. I found the hammock on the back porch inviting after the brutal drive:

There was a lot of bird activity in the “backyard”, so Brenda amused herself with trying to capture several of them with her camera. This is just one example of the oodles of photos she took:

We asked our nice hosts if there was a good place for tipical food and they suggested La Parada, which is just off the park in the center of town. Good choice if you ever find yourself in La Fortuna and want a delicious and nutritious meal for a reasonable price.

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