I ended up meeting another girl who was staying at the same place as I am. She's in the apartment up by the house at the opposite end as I am so I might not have met her had we not both ended up at the same sunset spot earlier this week. We hit it off well enough and she invited me to go run around town with her seeing some of the tourist sites (she has a rental car - that helps a ton!).
We did free stuff, pay stuff, local stuff. It was a great couple of days and we saw and did a lot! See Free and Cheap Stuff to Do In Monteverde.
Eco Paz ParkThis was where we met. Eco Paz is a free park for the local community. They are constantly building and improving in order to provide a space for the locals to enjoy a healthier, more balanced and happy society away from the stresses inflicted by the busy tourist industry. Since it's next door to where I'm staying, I go over there to use their trails, view the sunset, and watch people play an adapted form of tennis.
Hollow TreeFirst we started off in the car where Google Maps took us on some 4WD steep local roads in a round about way (more efficient?? LOL) to get to one of the hollow Strangler Fig trees that you can climb up. This one was on (well-marked) private property but we just parked our car there and hiked in. We didn't bring cameras because she had read that people are constantly robbed on this trail. Well that was a mistake. It was a perfect tree to climb up the middle of. No photos. We actually went back to get our cameras but then got busted by the owner who was not pleased with us.
But before we got yelled at, it was a really nice hike and seriously the tree was so cool! I have been in one before in 2001 but once you're in it, you get that giddy "wow" feeling. We got inside the tree and climbed up its braided innards pretty high up which felt even higher because the tree leaned out over a chasm. And it's not a solid tree; it's what's left after the Strangler Fig grows it's vines around an existing huge tree until the tree inside dies. So you have lots of "windows" to look out of the tree as you climb it. God please don't let me slip and fall down the middle of this thing.
Okay now I'm good and filthy, on to the next attraction. :)
Bat JungleThis was not high on my list of things to do but I was going along with whatever the day brought and we needed somewhere to park anyway. People are really agro about you parking in their lots here (which are just patches of dirt off the road near their building)!
$8 each (without a tour) to get in and it turned out to be super interesting. The guy there really knows his stuff so there are many signs to learn about the different types of bats. We spent a lot of time in the bat room where you can view lots of tiny fruit-eating and insect-eating bats hanging around, eating the fruit they put out for them, and well, reproducing behind plexiglass. OMG you've never seen anything until you've seen a bat gang rape - yikes!
WaterfallAcross the street and about 100 yards toward town is a nice waterfall hike. I don't know the name of it. $6 each at the little reception office. It's about a 30 minute walk down to a waterfall - yeah, coming back up was a treat. I'm finally getting some good exercise.
The rickety bridge was a nice rustic touch, including the stream of leaf-cutter ants along the length of one of the handrails. We even saw a glass-winged butterfly. The water at the waterfall was super cold but I was still tempted to strip down to my undies and go for a swim. I wouldn't subject my new friend to that. Oh and I did mention that we were the only people there? They guy even had to unlock the gate for us. Our own private waterfall path.
View SpotWe drove up (dodging the potholes and giant tour buses coming straight at us) to (what we thought was) the Monteverde Cloud Forest but realized that it was 2pm and the park closed in 2 hours so it wasn't enough time for that. Isn't the hummingbird place supposed to be right here? I only see the big youth hostel. More on this later.
Following more of the scribblings on our paper map given to us by our host upon arrival, we tried to decipher where to go next. Back down the hill. Hmmm, what's this? "Waterfall view" it says on the map. Turn here!
We drove past the Jaguar Art Gallery (where I got to visit the other night) looking for a view. Small steep curvy roads, at least these are paved although that doesn't mean much. All of a sudden it opened up to a vast view of the hills. We stopped the car in the middle of the road, prayed that the handbrake held, and got out to take photos.
We hopped back in and further down that road, ah ha - there it is. A couple of wooden benches up on a hill on the side of the road. That must be our view spot. There were 2 locals there rolling a joint and a Canadian guy who had walked (?!) down there from his "so-called cabin." Kinda funny. But oh the view. Yeah, baby. All the way to the sea. Although there was some debate as to whether we were looking West to the ocean or East to the Arenal Lake.
The local guys showed us a photo he took of the view spot. "Ooh, can you send that to me??" Gotta love this day and age. He WhatsApp'd it to me right then and there.
Attempt Drive to WaterfallSo apparently a couple of years ago, a local woman died trying to save some tourists who got caught in a mudslide going to the waterfall and the road has been closed every since. Between the locals and the family that stopped by the benches (who were determined to get to the waterfall), we had an idea of how to try to get to it. Why not?
More steep narrow roads, we found the place to turn, and drove down the muddy road into a lush forest. Hmm, that waterfall looked pretty far away. We ran into a guy on the road and asked him. He said it's really far and yep, the road is closed. But there's a pizza place up the way. A what?! LOL Out here in the jungle, huh? Okay well we turned around and figured we'd leave that adventure to the family we met earlier.
Hotel Belmar Tico TimeThen we tried for happy hour at the swanky Hotel Belmar. We were too early but stayed for a beer anyway. The view from their terrace is really good so we figured we'd splurge on the $8 pint from their microbrewery. I'm surprised they let us in, in our dirty I-just-climbed-a-tree clothing. My new friend is funny she said to "get ready" in Costa Rica means "let me put on pants that aren't muddy and I didn't fall in a ditch in".
SunsetJust as it was time for Belmar happy hour we got word that it was time for sunset and we had better hit the road. We quickly made it through a shared glass of Malbec and were on our way. I'm actually starting to learn my way around this town! We found our road and eventually started seeing people parked along the side of the road to view the oncoming sunset. We found a great spot where you could see all the way from where we were at 4,000 feet to the Nicoya Peninsula on the other side of the gulf. It was a beautiful thing. Very special.
I'm not kidding you, the sunset lasted for about 45 minutes. It changed the whole time and then at the end, a giant cloud rolled right up the hill at us. It was like the movie The Fog! haha Okay, what next?
Local Bars and BocasI'll just leave this that we had a really fun time making the rounds to some local bars. Bocas (appetizers) at Pura Vida, then more at Restaurat Varvilla (no, I did not misspell that), and cocktails at Tap House. That seems to be our usual round. Oh wait, don't forget Bar Amigos who also has good food. We have been coping quite well doing our sightseeing through a hangover.
CASEM Co-op BreakfastOkay so we got a little bit of a late start after a slow morning getting ready. Partially my fault for trying to get some laundry done before we headed out, partially because of last night's bar tour.
Also near the Bat Jungle on the opposite side of the road, more across from Stella's Bakery, is the artists co-op. Tucked away in the back of the CASEM building is a small restaurant called Cuchara de Abuelo with good prices and good local type food. I have heard that their service can be unbearably slow at times but we lucked out and were the only people in there.
On our way out of there, there was a coatimundi sniffing around one of the buildings. Stop everything, park car (in middle of parking lot, blocking incoming traffic), jump out for photos! Haha, the coati is the jungle rat here - basically a nuisance of a raccoon so I think the locals were laughing at us a little.
The Parking ScamWe went back to the Official Monteverde Cloud Forest Parking Lot. They wanted $5 to park. Hmmm, surely there must be parking along the road but he certainly wasn't giving it up. We found parking along the road right around the corner and walked back to the parking lot to go in the park. That's not the park! Wait WTF? They said the park is 1k up the road. Sooo not true.
We started walking it, then saw yet more spots to pull off the road and park so we went back to get the car. We drove all the way to the park entrance and there's free parking right there on the road at the entrance! And it was really far up the road!
So lesson learned; do not park at the official parking lot. Silly us.
Hummingbird CafeAh ha - there's the hummingbird cafe we couldn't find the day before; because we never made it to the actual park entrance being fooled by the "official" parking lot. The hummingbird place is just as it was 19 years ago. You just walk up the stairs and there are a few hummingbird feeders there. It's free and there are so many types of hummingbirds there posing to have their photos taken. It's very cool.
Monteverde Cloud ForestThis was our big ticket item at $25 each. I wasn't sure I wanted to go but I figured it would be silly to NOT go when I had a perfect opportunity and someone I was enjoying hanging out with. It's the type of thing that's easy not to do because of the price, then regret it once you're home and drop $25 on a couple of drinks at happy hour. And truth be told, my new friend sported a portion of my ticket. Thank you. :)
The guy at the reception asked how long we wanted to hike, um, about 3 hours? He quickly drew with his highlighter pen on the dry erase map on the counter. Go here, take this path, turn here, go see this view, blah blah blah. Got it? Um, nope. I took a photo of it so he could erase it and get onto the next guest.
Failed Sloth HuntThere's a place along the squiggly road between the frog pond and the 606 road where there's a large faded sign talking about sloths that isn't far from an actual city sloth crossing sign. We pulled over into the mud trying not to block the driveway of the house with the Beware of Angry Dog sign. I can't say if there are or are not sloths in this particular area but we failed to find one. Sigh.
Back home for a mellow night with Netflix.