Skooter reporting 06/17/12
Monteverde: Best for forest walks
I befriended Eduardo Venegas Castro who has spent most of his adult life in Monteverde or Green Mountain, having served as the director of two of the area’s most prominent cloud forest parks. As we walked beneath the trees, I heard him say, ‘the cloud forest is an interminable source of surprises ‘. Yeah, full of surprises indeed because this bright morning, he leads hikes around the mountains, equipped with a spotting scope, a camera, binoculars and a small birdwatcher’s book. With me, I have only a camera in my possession.
On both sides of the continental divide, the Monteverde area is a conservation zone safeguarding cloud forests where evergreen vines and lichens hugged to every available surface, and jewel-colored quetzals and hummingbirds flutters between the trees. As we hiked through the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, it is easy to understand Eduardo’s sense of mystery. The park sits at more than 1,650m above sea level, it soaks in near-constant cloud cover. Glumly light conditions are complemented by a running soundtrack of drips and trickles, intermittently interrupted by the startling, synthesizer-like cry of the three-wattle bellbird.
The vegetation around appears absorbed on covering everything in sight: heavy plants sprout leaves the size of patio umbrellas and the vines of the strangler fig twist around wild avocado trees. Everywhere you see there are bright spurts of orchids, some of them no bigger than the head of a pin. Costa Rica has 1,400 or more orchid species and out of these roughly 600 prefers to stay in Santa Elena as their home. My pal, Eduardo grins as he looks beyond the trees where a coiling mass of green vanishes into the mist. The forest does not reveal its secrets easily.
Half-day tours are available from flordelistours. com (from £30 per person, including park fees).
Where to eat
On the road to Monteverde, cosy Chimera serves excellent tapas (from £3; 00 506 2645 6081).
Where to stay
On the site of a former cattle ranch, the large, ski chalet-style hotel El Establo has 155 spacious wood-and-stone rooms, each with a balcony or terrace. It’s possible to see all the way to the coast on a clear day, and the heated hilltop pool is ideal for a sunset dip (from £140).
Tomorrow we’ll be in Nosara – best for beaches.