A Travellerspoint blog

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Zip Lining and Cloud Forests

I arrived in the town of Santa Elena on Sat Aug 13 after taking a van, then a boat, and another van from La Fortuna. The journey took about 4 hrs and seeing that boat gave me anxiety even though I had used the bathroom before leaving the hostel and didn't drink much water since because I knew I was getting on a boat. Hopefully I can get over my boat/bathroom trauma soon! haha

I got to my hostel around 12:30 pm and decided what tours and activities I wanted to do. I decided on zip lining with Selvatura in the Monteverde Cloud Forest at 2pm, a guided tour through the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve at 6:30am the next day, as well as a walk through/over the Cloud Forest on hanging bridges. I grabbed a quick bite of local grub at the "soda" next to the hostel and got ready for zip lining. It was just my luck that it started raining right when I got to Selvatura Park for zip lining but it was still AWESOME!! One of the coolest things I've ever done. I hear there is a really great line in Cape Town off Table Mountain. I'll probably look into doing that when I'm there if it doesn't break the bank! The zip line consisted of 13 cables, the longest being 1km (which we had to double up on to make sure we would make it to the end) and then there was a Tarzan swing. This was a platform 26 feet in height that you climb to the top of and then walk off. It was pretty crazy and I'm pretty sure I can bungee jump now. I would assume that the courage it takes to take the step off the ledge is similar. I have a video of the Tarzan swing. Unfortunately the girl who taped it for me turned the camera upright so the video will be sideways. I will eventually upload it to my Facebook & Flickr accounts. (I have created a Flickr account to upload all my pictures. There aren't many uploaded yet but I will hopefully get around to it soon. If you have a Yahoo, Gmail or Facebook account you can log into Flickr using one of the three. Just search my name and add me as a contact).

Delicious Fresh Pineapple Juice

Delicious Fresh Pineapple Juice

Local Grub

Local Grub

Zip Lining

Zip Lining

End of the cable - so fun!

End of the cable - so fun!

After zip lining I went back to the hostel and chilled for the night. It was actually quite cold in the cloud forest. For the first time since getting to Costa Rica I wore jeans and my fleece. The next morning I was up bright and early for the nature walk through the Cloud Forest Reserve. It was a three hour guided tour. I was hoping to see some slothes and monkeys but had no such luck. We mainly saw birds and that was in large part to some bird enthusiasts on our tour. We saw some really colourful ones though! Following the tour I went back to Selvatura Park to walk the hanging bridges. The walk through the forest was quite similar to the walk through the Reserve and all the views I saw on the hanging bridges were similar to what I saw during the zip lining, so it was a bit of a let down but oh well!

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I returned to the hostel from the hanging bridges in a hurry to meet up with Melissa, a girl from NYC that I met at the hostel. We had planned to go check out a sloth reserve that Melissa had found online. We caught a local bus and took it straight to the end of the route. When we got off we were at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. There we asked where the sloth reserve was and found out it closed a month ago! booo :( At least the bus hadn't left yet and we were able to catch it back to town. Instead we checked out an Orchid garden. They were all really pretty but also very tiny! At least half of them were no bigger than my pinkly finger nail!

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On Monday morning I left for the beach town of Tamarindo on the Pacific coast. I have been here ever since and plan to stay until I have to fly out of San Jose on Monday, Aug 22 to Argentina. My next post will be about my time here! Pura Vida!

Posted by eppalea 16:39 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (3)

La Fortuna

Hiking and swimming holes

It was another early morning rise on Friday for the hike up Cerro Chato. The description of the hike according to the tour I took is as follows: Cerro Chato Extreme Hike is an intense 4-5 hour rainforest hike through lush rain forest to the extinct volcano Cerro Chato. Once you arrive at the crater, you can then drop down to a crystal-clear aqua-green lagoon. You'll have time for a break, take some photos and to prepare yourselves for the hike back out and down to the base of this beautiful mountain. And… if you have enough energy left, once you’ve accomplished the extreme part, take your time to hike down to the base of the 150-ft La Fortuna waterfall to cool off in the rushing tropical waters. My tour guide was picking me up at 7:30am. When I booked the tour the previous night the guy at the hostel who was helping me get a booking had to call a few places because they didn't want to take just one person. Because of this I thought it was just going to be me and a tour guide. It ended up being me and 10 other people which was great! Two of them (Nadia & Mayte) were staying at the same hostel as me too. They were from LA. There were 3 others from the States and 5 more Canadians. The hike was intense! It was 2 hours of straight up hill!! When we finally got to the top the clouds had rolled in and we couldn't see Arenal volcano anymore :( I did get a nice shot of it from my hostel and at the base of the hike. After reaching the summit we had to go down into the crater to reach the Emerald Lake. The swim in the lake was quite refreshing after the very hot and humid hike. I says the water was "refreshing" because it was cold. Like the ocean back home, cold but you still go in. I was the first one in and it took a lot of coaxing to get the others in. Most eventually did. After the swim we headed back down to the base and enjoyed some lunch. Then we ventured to the waterfall and I went for another swim, again coaxing most people in. Later that evening I went to the Baldi Hot Springs [http://baldicostarica.com/] with Nadia and Mayte. The hot water felt wonderful on my sore muscles. We ended up bumping into Chris and Anneke, the German couple from my journey to La Fortuna along with Adam and Kara, 2 other Canadians from the Cerro Chato hike. Nadia, Mayte, Adam, Kara and myself hit up the swim up bar to enjoy some delicious pina colatas and mojitos!! The next day I took a jeep-boat-jeep to Santa Elena, a town located in the Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Arenal Volcano - View from my hostel

Arenal Volcano - View from my hostel

Arenal Volcano - View from base of Cerro Chato

Arenal Volcano - View from base of Cerro Chato

We made it!! The group at the summit! (clouds preventing us from seeing Arenal)

We made it!! The group at the summit! (clouds preventing us from seeing Arenal)

Hiking down to the Emerald Lake

Hiking down to the Emerald Lake

150-ft La Fortuna waterfall

150-ft La Fortuna waterfall

Swimming in the waterfall hole

Swimming in the waterfall hole


Drinks at the Baldi Hot Springs

Drinks at the Baldi Hot Springs

Posted by eppalea 15:17 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

The Journey from Tortuguero to La Fortuna

Lesson of the day: Always use the bathroom before getting on a boat

On Thursday, I had a relaxing morning at El Icaco as I wasn't catching the boat back to the main land until 11:30am. I left the hostel at 11:15 and got on the boat. Once I boarded the boat I noticed that my 2L bottle of water was almost empty. I probably only had 1/6 of it left so I decided to go buy another bottle as my shuttle ride to La Fotuna would be 4 hours and that certainly wasn't enough water to hold me over. I didn't really want to carry 2 big 2L bottles so I chugged the rest of my original bottle and got on the boat. It had rained a lot over the past couple days so figured the ride shouldn't be longer than an hour and I had peed before I left the hostel. The boat was simple. Long and narrow, with about 10 rows of 3 seats. All the luggage was up at the front and the driver steers with a motor at the back. I sat in the front row on the left hand side seat. About 15 mins into the ride I felt like I needed to pee. CRAP! I tried to tell myself it was all in my head but that wasn't working. I told myself I only had to hang on for another 45 mins. Time felt like it was moving so SLOWLY and so did the boat! Then I realized that even though it had rained and the river was much higher we were moving against the current. CRAP, CRAP, CRAP!!! Since I had slept most of the ride to the island none of the landmarks looked familiar enough to me to figure out how much further we had to go. All I could remember were the first few turns we took when Ricardo was pointing out lizzards and kingfishers to me. So everytime we went around a few river bends I would get exicted - hoping and praying to see a dock. It was getting really bad. I kept looking at my watch. It was 12:30pm. One hour had passed and there was no dock in sight. I was getting desperate. I REALLY didn't think I was gonna be able to hold it much longer. I started to think of my options. 1) try ask the non-English speaking driver to put the boat onto the shore so I could pee in the bushes 2) squat off the back as everyone watches 3) pee myself?!? AHHHHHH!!! I was in sooo much pain. I kept crossing my legs as tight as possible. I gripped the boat's railing with all my might. My hands started to go numb. It's 1:30 now. Just as I thought all hope for me and my bladder was lost we turn a corner and there is a ramp. Hallelujah!!! But then it felt like FOREVER for the boat to actually make it to shore. As soon as we were close enough I lept off the boat, leaving my knapsack and the bottle of water I had bought behind. I started to run, dogding all the people waiting to get on the boats. Move people!!! I ran as fast as I could. At least I knew where the bathrooms were. Somehow I made it to a toilet. Never have I ever felt relief like that!! So once my bladder was empty I ran back to the boat to get my bag. Then ran back up the hill to find the shuttle. I found what looked like the shuttle but couldn't find the driver. Then I realized the bottle of water I bought was still on the boat. So I run back down again to get my water. There I ran into Ricardo and my shuttle driver (who speaks no English). Ok, I have everything and I found my driver. Time to breathe.

We get up to the shuttle and I climb in. Shortly after a couple arrives and they climb in. Then the driver starts speaking to us in Spanish. None of us can understand him. The couple, Anneke and Chris, are from Germany and can speak English but no Spanish either. I manage to gather that the driver is trying to tell us that there are 2 people missing and we have to wait 30 mins for them to arrive. After an hour the missing couple (Julian and Sylvie) arrive. They inform us that 2 boats passed them and neither stopped to pick them up (they were on a different part of the island). They are from Switzerland and can speak English and Spanish. Yay! At least someone can communicate with the driver :) We are finally on our way but within 10 mins we hear an aweful "clunk" noise coming from the right front part of the van. Oh great! To try and put into perspective how the clunk noise was created, we are driving on roads with giant potholes, like huge! And they are everywhere. I almost feel like I'm getting whiplash since the van is jerking so rapidly back and forth as the driver tries to avoid said potholes. After about 5 mins of hearing the aweful noise everytime we go over a bump the driver pulls over. He checks the tires and isn't sure what is wrong. We keep driving. We make it an hour to Cariari. He pulls the van into a mechanic shop. We all get out and a mechanic checks it out.

Our busted shuttle

Our busted shuttle

My fellow travellers

My fellow travellers

As we wait for the status of our transportation Julian proceeds to tells us the string of bad luck he's been having over the past 72hrs. He says he probably brought on this turn of events. Turns out the shock is toast. It's going to take an hr to repair. Joy! So I suggest we go find somewhere to get a drink. They all agree and Julian takes the lead. He turns right as we exit the mechanic shop and sees a tavern sign. As we get closer he says it's closed! Seriously!! Chris (jokingly) tells Julian to keep walking right and we will all go left! I lead the way now and manage to spot an open bar. We enjoy a few beverages and when we go back to the van an hour later it's fixed and we are good to go!! The rest of the journey went smoothly and when I arrived at my hostel at 7pm I took a shower, book a hiking tour for the following morning, and went straight to bed!

Posted by eppalea 19:36 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

San Jose & Tortuguero, Costa Rica

A night in the city & the Turtle National Park

So after posting the Washington DC blog entry I decided to get some supper. It was just getting dark so I decided to stay within the hostel and eat at the restaurant there. The menu was all written in Spanish but luckily my server spoke English. I ended up deciding on a Hawaiian pizza. So North American, I know, but it was my first night and I didn't feel like being adventurous in the food department yet. The pizza was absolutly delicious!! Best Hawaiian pizza I've ever had. The pineapple was just so juicy and sweet!! AWESOME!!! There was just a little too much for me to finish though so I asked my server for a takeout container. When he brought one to me he asked where I was from and I said Canada. Then he asked where in Canada so I told him Nova Scotia. Then he asked me where in Nova Scotia!!! I said Antigonish and then he told me he's from Michigan and his grandparents live in Cape Breton!! He knew where Antigonish was because he's driven by on the way to Cape Breton. CRAZY!! I asked how long he has been working at the hostel and he said he was previously there for a year and then went back to the States for 3 weeks, didn't like it so he came back to San Jose.

I left Casa Yoses at 7:45am the next morning and took a cab to the bus station. Here I caught a bus to Cariari. This bus was pretty nice. Kinda like the Acadian line buses from home but the seats were a little narrower and there's no A/C. But considering it only cost $3 for an over 2 hr bus ride it was much nicer than I originally expected. I got on the bus 45 mins before it was scheduled to depart so I had a large selection of seats to pick from. Later a girl sat in the window seat across the aisle from me. I heard her speak English to a friend sitting in front of her. I got excited at hearing English, hoping she could help me at the transfer spot if I couldn't figure out what was going on due to my lack of Spanish (definitely should have learn some basic spanish before coming here!) Soon after a couple boarded the bus and the girl sat with me and the guy sat in the aisle across. They spoke English too. Yay!! I struck up a conversation with the girl sitting next to me. Found out they were from London. Were traveling for all of August and had just spent a week in Panama. I could hear the guy talk to the girl across the aisle. I heard her say she was from Canada! Double Yay! When we arrived at Cariari and I got off the bus I walked up to the Canadian girl and told her I was from Canada too. I found out she is from Toronto and has been in Costa Rica for over 2 months doing a intership. We sat together on the next bus which wasn't as nice as the last bus but not horrible either. It was a little more crammed and much hotter. The ride was just over an hour so we chatted and I found out she only had 3 weeks left in her intership and then goes back to Toronto where she's attending York University. I told her my sister lives in Toronto and discovered they live in the same neighbourhood!! Once we arrived at the location to board boats to the island we parted ways as she was going to a different part of the island. On the boat I was introduced to Ricardo, a guys who works for the hostel I'm stying at. He tells me about the different tours that can be done in the area and I end up agreeing to 3 hr canoe ride early the next morning and a turtle nesting tour later that evening. The boat ride, which is normally an hour, took almost an hour and a half since it hadn't rained in a week so the water level was really low. Ricardo pointed out a few lizzards and a kingfisher along the shore but shortly after I fell asleep for the rest of the ride.

When we docked at Tortuguero Ricardo took me to the hostel which was located right off the beach. Hostel El Icaco was very nice. I had booked a room to myself for the 2 nights I would be staying here. The room was cute with pink and purple walls, a double sized bed and my own bathroom. I was extremely hot and sticky from the bus rides so first thing I wanted to do was take a nice cold shower! As I go to turn on the shower I only see one knob and it's for hot water! Where's the cold? What if I want to take a cold shower?? I was already undressed so didn't want to get dressed again to go ask someone for help. I notice there is a faucet a foot above the ground so I turn that on. Cold water! Yay! But oh crap, now I'm going to have to squat down near this faucet and throw water on myself to cool off. Great! I spent the rest of the day relaxing and then went out for some dinner when I met a nice couple from Texas on their honeymoon. The guy ended up being from Fairfax, Virginia which is right next to Reston where I was visiting my cousin! The canoe ride started at 5:45am so I got up bright and early. Ricardo had told me to bring something to protect my camera. Good thing he did because within 30 secs of pushing off the dock started to rain, HARD! Luckily it was hot out and the rain only lasted
about 3 mins. The rest of the ride was quite enjoyable and I saw a decent amount of wildlife.
Bird from the cormorant family drying it's wings

Bird from the cormorant family drying it's wings

Toucan

Toucan

"The Jesus Christ Lizzard" (because it can walk on water)

"The Jesus Christ Lizzard" (because it can walk on water)

"Chicken of the Trees" (because they taste like chicken but live in trees)

"Chicken of the Trees" (because they taste like chicken but live in trees)


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Baby Cayman Croc

Baby Cayman Croc

White Faced Capuchin Monkey

White Faced Capuchin Monkey

After the canoe ride the rain returned and lasted a couple hours. It came down hard and was accompanied by some loud thunder and lighting so I hung out indoors for a while and indulged in the ridiculousness known as Bachelor Pad. The rain stopped and the sun came back out in the afternoon so I decided to check out the National Park. The Texan couple from the night before told me there was lots of bugs so I should wear long pants and long sleeves. I did, but man did I sweat my butt off!! It was soooo hot. I was hoping to see somemore wildlife like I had in the morning but no such luck. Just a few baby lizzards. I walked back along the beach and found some sand dollars. That was the only plus of going on that walk and coming home drenched from head to toe in sweat. I really didn't think I could sweat that much!! haha. After the walk and a shower I decided to go find some food and try my frist local dish. It was pretty good and I managed to finish most of it.
Casado con pollo

Casado con pollo

That evening I went out to see a Green Turtle lay eggs. It was a bright night because the moon was out. I had been told that turtles actually prefer pitch black and that when the moon is out they are somethings less likely to come lay their eggs so I was a little worried at first that I wouldn't get to see anything. Luck was on my side though! We arrived at the beach with our guide and he informed us there was a turtle currently digging the hole in which she would lay her eggs. We had to wait in an area away from her because they are easily spooked. We can only go observe once she starts laying the eggs as she will be in a trance state and then isn't as easily spooked. While we waited another turtle started coming out of the water and the guides told the 3 groups on the beach to stand still. The turtle made it all the way up the beach and then someone from another group moved, she got scared so she turned around and went back to the water. I felt so bad for her! After about 10 mins of waiting it was our turn to watch the turtle lay her eggs. It was really cool to watch. There were just so many, at least 100! Afterwards she started covering the hole, pulling in dirt and patting it down with her back flippers. The process can take up to 45 mins so the guide said we had to leave. I was ready to stand and watch all night but I wasn't allowed :( No cameras were allowed either so I don't have any pictures to show you but the turtle was almost 5 feet in length and weighed close to 250 lbs according to my guide.

The next day I left the island and headed to La Fortuna. That story will be my next entry.

Posted by eppalea 16:45 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

Washington, DC

Day trip to The National Mall

On Saturday Aug 6 I ventured into Washington DC by myself. I figured it would be good practice for the upcomig year. So on Friday night I used the "trip planner" function on the Washington transit website. It told me that I could catch bus 551 at 9am (just up the street) and it would take me to the West Falls Church metro station, arriving at 9:20. I would then catch the train at 9:30 and be downtown by 10am. Chrissy dropped me at the bus stop at 8:55 and I waited for bus 551. As I'm waiting my mind goes back to last night when I was filling out the trip planner and I realize I forgot to change the date to Aug 6. So I wait for any bus to come and about 5 mins later a bus does show up. I ask the driver how long bus 551 will be. He informs me it doesn't run on weekends. CRAP! So I tell him where I'm trying to go. He says I can get on his bus, which will take me to a place I can catch a different bus to the metro station. I eventually make it downtown but it take me almost 2 hours.

The first place I explored was the National Museum of Natural History. It spent about 2 hours exploring the whole place. I really enjoyed the "Natures Best Photography Winners" and "Rare Gemstones" exhibits. The photography exhibit gives me inspiration to take some awesome pictures on this trip. The Hope Diamond (45.54 carats) was displayed as part of the Rare Gemstone exhibit. So cool to see such a unique, rare and beautiful stone.

One of my favorites in the "Natures Best Photography Winners" exhibit

One of my favorites in the "Natures Best Photography Winners" exhibit


The Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond

After I was done wandering the museum it was around 2pm and I was really hungry. I checked out the cafeteria in the museum but nothing caught my eye so I walked outside with the hopes of finding a restaurant or some fast food along the street. But when I walked out the back of the museum I see nothing but old buildings and a bunch of street vendors. I stroll over to the vendors to see what they have. It's the usual - hot dogs, pretzels, egg rolls, cheeseburgers. The picture of the cheeseburger doesn't look too bad. It's got some lettuce at least. So I order one. When I get it there's no lettuce. I just put some ketchup and relish on it and wander to the museum steps to eat. I'm almost through half of it and on my next bite the burger is cold!! Still frozen!! So I went back to the vendor, informing them my cheeseburger was still frozen. She said sorry and took it back. Now I really should have just said I wanted my money back but of course I didn't. So I stand there expecting to get a brand new burger but after about a min she hands me back my half eaten burger which was clearly just popped into a microwave. Not impressed. I take a few more bites and throw the rest to the pigeons.

My next stop is the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. As I approach it I see a sign for a lovely patio bistro. Just my luck!! Stupid crappy frozen cheeseburger :( I wander through the Garden. There aren't too many sculptures but a few that catch my eye. This first one reminds me of a story from my childhood - Sylvester and the magic pebble ( J I thought of you!! ). The other is a really cool silver tree.

Thinker on a rock

Thinker on a rock

Graft

Graft

After I wandered through the garden I headed down towards the Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Much to my disappointment the long Reflecting Pool was under construction.

Washington Monument

Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial


Lincoln

Lincoln

After checking out the memorials my legs were a little tired so I stopped at a bench next to a nice pond and read for a bit. Before heading home I went to the National Gallery of Art. Below is a picture of me in front of the Gallery and a few of my favorite pieces:

In front of the National Art Gallery

In front of the National Art Gallery


El Rio de Luz (The River of Light)

El Rio de Luz (The River of Light)

The Voyage of Life: Childhood

The Voyage of Life: Childhood

Autumn - On the Hudson River

Autumn - On the Hudson River

I started writing this blog at the Charlotte airport where I had 5 hr stopover enroute to San Jose, Costa Rica. As I finish this blog I am lying in my bed at a San Jose hostel. I will chill here until tomorrow morning when I will take a bus to Tortuguero National Park on the Carribean side of the country.

Tune in next time for tales from the Turtle National Park!

Posted by eppalea 15:21 Archived in USA Comments (2)

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