Saturday, July 9, 2011

Monteverde Cloud Forest

We decided to avoid the crowds at the hanging bridges and canopy zip lines – and we opted to go to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biologic Reserve (or, Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde).  This is what their literature says:

“The tropical cloud forests are enormously rich ecosystems, supporting 20% of the world’s plant diversity and 16% of the vertebrae diversity in only 0.4% of the earth’s surface.  The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is world renowned for protecting what has been labeled as the most famous cloud forest in the world, with over 100 species of mammals, over 400 species of birds, 120 of amphibians and reptiles, tens of thousands of insects and over 3000 of plants, including the largest orchid diversity in the world with over 500 different species.

“The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was established in 1972………………to expand, consolidate, protect, and administer over 4,000 hectares that the Reserve currently occupies.  Only 3% of the Reserve’s territory is opened to visitation; the rest is under strict protection.  The Reserve has been chosen as one of the seven natural wonders of Costa Rica.”

We hiked the Sendero Bosque Nuboso (Cloud Forest Trail) to La Ventana (The Window), which is the scenic overlook right at the Continental Divide – yes, we stood in the spot there east meets west, the twain actually meets.  Or maybe divides.  Anyway, it was about 4,700 ft above sea level, with wind and fog and clouds blowing in from both directions – which is what creates the almost permanent cloud on top of the cloud forest.  

We headed back on a different route, and encountered a hanging bridge, a good 100 ft long – and, looking at our little map, it appeared that we should cross the bridge, so we did, hanging on for dear life and trying not to look down.  We chatted with two young Tican men at the other end, and they said that they thought we should continue from the other end of the bridge – so we had to cross back over the bridge again!!!!!  Neither of us were thrilled with this, but it does test one’s personal fortitude and, well, chutzpah?  choyach?  Something like that.  Tests your inner strength. 

 We hiked for over 4 miles, with who knows how much change in elevation.  Cloud forest is amazing – old growth forest with all kinds of giant ferns, orchids, moss hanging off everything, flowers at all levels of the forest, rivers and small waterfalls and tiny plants growing on bigger plants growing on trees – and tons of things that we never saw.  We didn’t see any mammals, absolutely none.  May have heard some howler monkeys.  Heard some birds that we didn’t see – something with a lonely flute-like sound, which may have been the quetzal – never saw one, and that’s what I really hoped we’d see.  We saw a lot of hummingbirds, a variety of small brown generic birds (wrens?  sparrows?), some swallows or swifts – but again, nothing majorly exciting.  Saw a bunch of butterflies, some of whom dive-bombed us kamikaze style, some who led us along the trail until they lost interest and fluttered away.  But that was about it for the wildlife, which was a bit disappointing.  I’m sure we’ll see monkeys later on in our trip, but I was hoping we’d see some wish list animals.

After lunch, Richard dropped me off at the butterfly farm – always fun to wander through the gardens and see the butterflies, who are just so exuberant and seem actually happy to have people come in to their garden.  This place has 4 gardens, each representing a different ecosystem and environment – in the first garden, the owl butterflies were chasing the blue morphos away (with the morphos acting as if they really didn’t care), and then the owl butterflies would land on the people!  Really, I had 3 different owl butterflies land on me (though not all at once)!!!!  These are very large butterflies, maybe a 5” wingspan, and the underside of the wings looks like the face of an owl, with a big black-ringed yellow “eye.”  A bit disconcerting to have this owl half-face sitting on your shoulder!  Anyway, I had great fun, just enjoying the enchantment of the butterflies.

We’re having an afternoon break, and will see what the evening brings.  Might be something relaxing, might be something active like a night hike.  We’ll see – we’re both tired after about 5 miles of walking thus far today.

But here at the hotel, in the lobby (where we have internet access), there were a bunch of butterflies on the windows, who apparently came in during the day.  So I spent about 10 minutes carefully catching each butterfly by cupping my hands around each one, then taking them outside and releasing them in the wind.  A few sat on my hand a moment of two, looking at me, like "Gee, thanks lady!" before they flew off.

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