Max isn’t yet 1, and with this recent trip to Costa Rica he’s been on 13 flights – he’s a lucky guy…and we are pretty lucky parents to have a wee one that travels so well. Its just too bad he won’t remember all of his adventures – I do wonder though, how these experiences, at even such a young age might shape the boy he might turn into. Of course I hope he will be a globe-trotting, adventure seeking teenager, but, given he has his daddy’s genes, and his current obsession with the Xbox controller, I think there might be a higher chance that I’ll be begging him to turn off the damn Xboxnintendoplaystation…or whatever that machine I still don’t understand will be called 13 years from now.
Less than 60 seconds of thought went into choosing Costa Rica as our next vacation destination. If you think I’m exaggerating, I’m not. All it took was a little advertisement that said “Flights, Liberia, $1 (plus taxes).” Decision made. Oh yah, I did have to run it by Rob and my boss, but considering that denying this demand would have been on par with a five-year-old receiving a chunk of coal in their Christmas stocking, both knew better than to say no.
Within 15 minutes the flights were purchased. This was Monday. By Monday evening we’d decided where we wanted to go (Monteverde, Arenal and Manual Antiono – which we infact skipped in the end). By Monday night our hotels/car rental was booked. Tuesday I frantically tried to get my files in order for work. We packed Tuesday evening, and Wednesday we made the 5 hour drive to Toronto so we could depart first thing Thursday morning. This was last minute even by my standards. Even more scary was that I had to leave all the packing up to Rob. He passed the stay-at-home-travelling poppa test with flying colours, only forgetting our sunglasses and his bathing suit.
Enough about that, onto gorgeous, wonderful Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is a wonderful, fabulous, beautiful country. For anyone who wants to go beyond the resort vacations (which they have as well), and do a little “adventure/eco-tourism” there is great infrastructure (minus some rough roads), tremendously friendly folks, decent food, and enough to see and do to please everyone of any taste for months. One week was not nearly enough.
For those of you with attention spans shorter than mine, I’ll break our Costa Rica adventures into 3 posts. Here goest the first one: Monteverde Cloud Forest.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
Our first stop was the Monteverde Cloud Forest. The drive up to Monteverde is rough…made more so by the wrong turn we took. Driving down an already rough road a farmer flagged us down. “Monteverde” he said. We nodded “Si”. He then pointed towards what hardly amounted to a steep trail. I thought for a moment that it was some kind of sick joke that the locals played on tourists. It wasn’t. And Ticos are way too nice to even consider such a thing. It was the route to Monteverde (there were others that were better, but to find them would require a navigator better than myself). We bounced along the road, Rob pretending he was a rally car drive in our piece of junk Suzuki Jimny -who has even heard of a Suzuki Jimny? I held on for dear life and kept looking back to make sure Max wasn’t being thrown too violently from side to side. I was fairly certain that a flat tire was just a matter of time and started to figure I could “run” for help, and leave Max and Rob to fend for themselves amongst the deadly snakes and tarantulas. At least we’d had enough foresight to buy some bananas, dulce de leche caramels and milk. We probably wouldn’t starve.
We made it to Monteverde (without a flat tire) a little later than we had hoped, checked in, had dinner at a very cute, but over-priced cafe, with a great atmosphere Tree House Restaurant and yep, you guessed it, there is a gigantic tree in the middle of the restaurant. Max flirted with other children, was enthralled with the musicians, and the waiter took him on a walk to greet the other customers. I started to relax.
The next day we headed off to the Selvatura Park: http://www.selvatura.com/ – an adventure park in the cloud forest with zip-lining for the adventurous and young children-less, and canopy walkways, hummingbird gardens and butterfly gardens for all the rest of us. In retrospect we may have enjoyed wandering a more quite portion of the park, but the opportunity to walk in the canopy sounded too good to pass up – and it was indeed pretty neat to be among the upper reaches of incredibly tall trees. The walk was lovely. Trees and moss draped us in shades of green and a cool, gentle mist filled the air. Max looked around happily until the fresh air got the most of him and he drifted fast asleep in his carrier.
The walk was followed by a visit to the Hummingbird Garden and a butterfly garden. I had to keep my expectations in check following a visit to a butterfly garden, which was void of even a sad little moth in Guatemala. The ones here did not disappoint. The butterflies were gorgeous; the hummingbirds buzzed around our heads. It was definitely pretty cool.
Although Monteverde is definitely on the tourist trail, its a great little town, and you can easily make your way off the tourist track and explore the reserves (there are 3, Santa Elena, Monteverde and the Children’s Eternal Rainforest – I love the name, and the concept even better – this forest was preserved through the contributions of school children all over the world.). Avid hikers and explorers could easily spend weeks birdwatching. Besides the ziplining, the canopy walks, the hummingbird and butterfly gardens, there are several snake, reptile and frog aquariums and I heard young boys just begging to go back again and again. One of the definite highlights of our trip was a guided night hike. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable, and that is indeed a point I’d love to make about lovely Costa Rica. For every guide we used or tour we took we were accompanied by the most kind, professional and knowledgable experts imaginable. The night tour was an excellent example. Costa Rica has invested heavily in eco-tourism, and its citizens are truly proud of the amazing diversity their country has to offer. There was a moment at the beginning of the night hike where I was fairly certain we had been overly ambitious bringing Max with us. I imagined his cries and screams of protest scaring away any hope of wildlife that we and those on the tour with us might see, but after a tense minute or two, he fell fast asleep, and Rob and I scrambled through the forest looking and listening to the animals of the night.
If the beautiful cloud forest isn’t quite enough for you, Monteverde has another gem. Coffee….and boy is it delicious. On that point, a favourite quote of the trip came from our night hike guide. “I’ve been to Canada,” he said. “It is a beautiful country, but there is something I don’t understand – Tim Hortons. Canadians love it, but really, the coffee is not nearly is good is what we have here”. He could not be more right, and I could not offer any kind of explanation. Monteverde coffee is delicious. On our second (and last) day in Monteverde we decided to do a tour of a coffee plantation. I don’t normally like doing tours, but a coffee tour was something we had missed in Guatemala, and that both Rob and I were curious about. I prepped myself to be one of a dozen camera toting tourists trampling about. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be just us. We went with Monteverde Coffee Tours – run out of the St. Elena Coop: http://www.monteverde-coffee.com/
A driver named Maximo picked us up. We drove a little ways, and stopped to pick up a yoga-esque Tico (trust me, if you saw him you would know exactly what I meant. He had long thick hair in a ponytail, a big welcoming smile, and a muscular but thin build). A few minutes later we pulled into a picturesque farm and were greeted by the owner, a kind man who was proud to show us around his farm, and teach us the art of growing, picking and roasting coffee .
The owner happily walked us around his farm for an hour or two, pointing out interesting trees and animals and chatting enthusiastically about his family and the farm’s history – oh and coffee, lots and lots about coffee. Our visit complete, he invited us into his home for a taste of the wonderful brew. We downed several cups, munching appreciatively on the freshly baked sweet bread which his wife had baked. Max happily chased the gato around the spotless house to the delight of all of us (except the cat) and we had a long chat about coffee, Costa Rica, and the changes that Monteverde had seen over the past several years.
Buzzing on too much coffee we said our thanks and good-byes – and headed to our next destination – Volcan Arenal. But, that, my friends, will be the subject of another post.