From Rhodes ‘16
Today is Sunday, a day without rest for us travelers. We started off the day with a wonderful breakfast consisting of French toast, eggs, fruit, and fresh squeezed orange juice. We then proceeded to the world-renowned Monte Verde Cloud Forest Reserve, which was originally sponsored by the Monteverde Quakers in the 1960s. They were interested in preserving their watershed and the natural beauty of the mountains. What is really neat about this place is the fact that it sits on the Continental Divide, meaning that water flows both towards the Pacific Ocean on the Western slope and to the Caribbean Sea on the Eastern side of these beautiful mountains.
We began our visit of this huge reserve by hiking up the Camino Trail, which follows an old service trail making it nice and wide. It was tough going due to the altitude (a mile high) and the steep slope of the mountain. We stopped periodically to catch our breath and learn about local wildlife and its adaptations to living in very humid conditions. Mario, our guide, searched for tarantulas, picked up millipedes, and discussed different birds unique to this mountainous terrain. In one of those stops, a hummingbird dove at Travin due to the fact that he wore a bright red sweatshirt, he was mistaken for a very large red flower. It was a close call, but everyone was OK, including Travin. The hike was strenuous but it was all worth it in the end when we reached the summit of the mountain and were enveloped by quick moving clouds. The fantastical view was mesmerizing: imagine 30-mile winds blowing constantly and carrying warm humid air from the Caribbean lowlands up the slope of the Tilaran mountain range.
Subsequent to the hike, we went to an adjacent cloud forest reserve called Reserva Santa Elena, owned by the local high school. This place was equally impressive, but more subdued. George School has been coming here for years to help with the upkeep of the reserve. Following our delicious lunch, it was time to get to work. We split up into two groups of six and were given different jobs to do. One group was in charge of moving wood from one place to another while the other group was preoccupied with shoveling the sandy soil behind the main building to help fill in ditches along the main trail. This work took us all of 3 hours, but felt quite shorter because we were having so much fun.
After we had finished all the service that needed to be done, we stopped at the Monte Verde Friend’s School, which was built by Quakers and local families when they settled here in the mid fifties. We were able to enjoy a short meeting for worship in their brand new and picturesque wooden meetinghouse, which was built by the community with large windows, high ceilings, and wooden pegs instead of nails. It provided us with a beautiful and simple feeling of life in this enchanted place. Afterwards, we kicked back, relaxed, and kicked the soccer ball around the back of the school, while others chatted or did yoga.
On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at the Monteverde Coffee Cooperative and had some delicious beverages and small snacks, which I was able to enjoy thanks to my generous friends (since I left my wallet back at the hotel). The day was finished off with a nice dinner at the hotel. Our anticipation grows as we hit the road, leaving Monteverde behind and heading towards Arenal tomorrow.