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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Costa Rica: The Cloud Forest

The Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve is immense, and the part the public can roam around in is relativelly tiny. I think that is, as Martha Stewart says, 'a good thing'.

Rolf dropped Ellen off in some ungodly place at some ungodly hour to go birding, then came back to deliver me to the bus in Santa Elena. The bus arrived, not so very fresh from Pulaski County, wherever that may be. If you want to feel like a kid again, come to Central America and ride old yellow school buses! Sometimes they get repainted, but often not.

I went with a guide, Elberto, who was leaving right away. There were two other people, an American couple taking a travel break before entering the Peace Corps. They have been assigned to Albania. They are examples of the new group the Peace Corps is targeting, not fresh out of college, but people with some experience whom the local people might take more seriously.

The 2 1/2 hour walk was nice and leisurely. I was a bit concerned about holding the others back, but they turned out to be slower than I was, stopping to look at little things, strolling along at a very slow pace. I was surprised when we got to the end, because it didn't seem we had been out very long. I'd been told it would only take an hour, and that's about how long it seemed.

Monteverde has a huge variety of orchids, but we saw only one. Most of the orchids grow high in the canopy, and they are very tiny. The one we saw was hidden under a big leaf that provides its nice, shady environment. It was brown and white, and about half the size of my little fingernail.

We didn't see a quetzal, the famous irridescent bird that Central America is famous for. In Guatemala, the currency is named for the bird. They are easier to see when the tiny avocados they live on are ripe. The avocados have only skins and seeds, no pulp, and the quetzal eats only the skin.

At the end of the walk we stopped to watch some monkeys, who mainly slept. I ate at the restaurant just outside the gate. We had a better view of the monkeys, and got to sit down, to boot. After stuffing my face, I went to a hummingbird feeding station for a while to watch them stuff theirs, then got back on the yellow school bus for the trip down the mountain.

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