Today we had a road trip between us and our destination, Santa Elena Cloud Forest. We got on the road around 8AM, knowing we had a 3.5-4 hour trip ahead of us. Snaking our way back around Lake Arenal we headed south for the reserve. Once we passed the small town of Tilaran, the road turned to gravel. When I mean gravel, I mean; dangerous, potholes the size of bathtubs, how is this even considered a road, gravel. BHW looked at me and laughed, a good sign that this is way out of his comfort zone (he will argue with this observation, wife knows best though). The terrible condition of the road and his nervous laughs continued for the next 1.5 hours. About every 20 minutes he hit a huge unavoidable pothole or fling a rock underneath the car and BHW mumbles.. 'Well, that didn't sound good.' My brain was literally knocking around in my skull by the time we reached the city of Monteverde, where Santa Elena Cloud Forest is located.
We made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up at the entrance to Monteverde Cloud Forest. After an exhausting drive; we decided to go there instead of Santa Elena. Monteverde is the more well known cloud forest in the area, hosting up to 200,000 visitors a year in comparison to the 20,000 that Santa Elena receives. I wanted to keep my distance from here and visit the lesser known but equally as beautiful Santa Elena, but I gave in and we entered Monteverde. Everything was so green inside the cloud forest! I cannot get over how many species of plants and animals even just one tree has on its bark. I mean, you can't even see the bark of the trees because it's covered in moss, air plants, orchids, and many other plants! We hiked for about 3 hours, encountering even more and more beautiful things as we got deeper into the forest. For hosting up to 200,000 visitors a year.. I was impressed that during our hike we only encountered about 8 other people. The forest was impossibly quiet. The animals and bugs were making their noises.. but everything else was silent.. even our voices felt muted in the dense forest.
Upon exiting the forest we wanted to visit the nearby Hummingbird Gallery. Of course we drove right past it the first time around. We have yet to get into our 'driver/navigator' roles. Let's face it, I will never be able to successfully manage a map. The Hummingbird Gallery is basically a souvenir shop for Monteverde Cloud Forest. The kicker is that they have about 10 hummingbird feeders where hummingbirds flock. They flit around so close that their wings graze your skin! It was a serious thing of beauty. The hummingbirds who weren't flitting around the feeders sat peacefully in the trees. I couldn't believe how close they let me get to them for a good shot. I thought one was going to dive right into my camera!
The Orchid Garden was our final thing to do for the day in Monteverde. We thought we would take a quick walk through and see some amazing orchids before our treacherous 3 hour drive back to our hotel. When we bought our tickets the guy at the desk said the tour would start momentarily. We weren't really interested in a lengthy tour.. but I'm so glad that we stuck around for it. The guide kindly informed us that if we just walked around the grounds we would miss almost every orchid to see. He was not lying one bit. He introduced us to orchids and the structure that they all share, no matter how big or small. He even showed us how to pollinate an orchid, using his pencil, it was pretty awesome. Halfway through the tour he showed us the worlds smallest plant! I was honestly in shock at how tiny this thing was.
The ride back was just as awful as the drive in, except this time it was dark. Once we hit pavement I think we all let out the gulp of air we were holding in the entire drive. We stopped at dinner at Lake Arenal Brewing Company.
Unfortunately we all just wanted to get home so we rushed through dinner. BHW also didn't feel so hot so we wanted to get home even more. Once we got to the hotel I think we all collapsed into bed and were asleep within minutes. Whew. What an adventure! Tomorrow is full of more hiking, less ridiculously terrifying driving, and some spa time!