Costa Rica. Arrival & Monteverde.

Well getting here was a challenge – our flight was delayed at Heathrow, which meant we had less than 30 minutes from our ‘plane landing in Madrid to the departure of our next flight.  We were seated near the back which meant waiting for everyone to disembark before we could get off, and then we ran the length of the airport to get to our gate.  Everyone else was already in their seats watching us as we made our way up the aisle gasping for breath!  By the time we arrived at our hotel for the night it was dinner time, so we had a quick meal in the bar before falling into bed, approximately 22 hours after leaving London.   Unfortunately our cases hadn’t made the transfer so we spent nearly 3 days in the same clothes!

Day 1 of our tour started at 0800 with a 4 hour journey by road to our first destination – Monteverde.  Set on top of the spine of Costa Rica’s continental divide, the scenery in this region is almost Alpine in places – huge hills and deep valleys, grazing cows, occasional houses, very lush and green, and wildflowers growing in the fields.  Our hotel was perched high on a hillside with huge aloe plants, cows in the field next to our room, pretty little birds flying around, huge bell shaped yellow flowers called Angel’s trumpets and beautiful bright purple flowers hanging down over the walkways.

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We decided to do a guided night walk through the forest, and saw a woodpecker bedding down for the night in its hole, hundreds of leaf cutter ants working very hard, a sloth very high up in a tree, and a bright green viper.costa-rica-8

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Day 2 and we were off again for another hike up in the cloud forest.  The cloud forest differs from the rain forest in that it doesn’t really rain, but is nearly constantly wet with condensation. Due to its high altitude ( 4,662 ft /1,440 m above sea level) Monteverde receives a steady supply of clouds.  It is often in fog, which catches on the branches of the tallest trees and drips down. We were really lucky because we had brilliant blue skies and no cloud, which was just as well as our waterproofs were in our cases en route from Madrid. The guide was really passionate about preserving the forest and its flora and fauna, and very knowledgeable about the various plants and trees.  The cloud forest contains both primary and secondary areas – the secondary area was used for farming 50 years ago and all the vegetation was cut down.  Now the area is protected and it has regrown very fast – however it’s much less dense than the primary area, where you can hardly see through the trees.  There are strangler figs everywhere – they grow up an existing tree, and smother it, causing it to rot from the inside.costa-rica-13

 

Trees also thrown down aerial roots.  When they reach the ground they bury themselves and are another channel to provide extra nutrition for the tree. It’s easy to imagine Tarzan swinging through the trees on these!costa-rica-10

 

The cloud forest is pretty much the only area where you can see the Quetzal bird as its habitat has been destroyed in a lot of Costa Rica.   We did see a couple but very high in the trees and I didn’t manage to get a good photo of it.  The one below was not taken by myself, but I wanted to show what a pretty bird it is.quetzal01

 

Somebody had some fun with this dead log and a leaf.

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Our hike ended at a pretty waterfall and then a visit to a hummingbird garden where sugar water is put out for them.  Some of the hummingbirds are tiny – a couple of inches high and it was quite a challenge to photograph them as they beat their wings 80 times per second! They don’t flap their wings, but rotate them in a figure 8.  This enables them to go backwards in the air and also to hover in one spot. They dart away so quickly and there were many times that I had a photo with no bird in it!costa-rica-14

 

Costa Rica is also full of brightly coloured butterflies and I managed to capture just two of them.  A butterfly will usually close its wings when it lands, whereas a moth opens them.

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The butterfly below relies on the pattern on its wings to deter predators.  Look at the tips and you’ll see that the pattern is like a snake’s head 🙂

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The afternoon saw us going on yet another walk – this time through aerial walkways high in the canopy.  You can’t be afraid of looking down from a great height if you want to do this as some of the walkways were 395 feet above the ground.

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