When I was planning my trip to Costa Rica, I told myself I wouldn’t visit too many parks that are such a hype that you can’t see the trees through the tourists. But I could not stay away from the iconic Monteverde. In fact, I find it hard to describe it in a factual sense since I approached the experience as one of pure fantasy. On one website I had seen it described as “Elven”. Even though I can see why that word was chosen, especially as a Tolkien fan, I felt more like I was entering Fangorn Forest. The ancient, chaotic yet artful accumulation of life that feels like it doesn’t want to leave one inch uncovered. The trees rule the lands, not the elves, and I felt like any moment they would shed their roots and wander the hills freely, as if surveilling their kingdom.
Perfectly accessible from Liberia by bus with only one transfer, I was glad I could reach the park cheaply. It seemed to be a busride like any other with highway views and a fast pace until the last hour of the journey. My past travels have taught me that the rougher the road, the more rewarding the surroundings. This was certainly true in this case as slowly but surely, the landscape became more remote and mountainous. When the temperature started to drop and the tops of the hills were slowly disappearing behind thick clouds, it was clear we would soon arrive. The first thing I was looking forward to, was putting on a light jacket and standing in the rain. A true Belgian in some sense, I suppose, I rather missed the chilly, rainy weather.
I knew I would want to visit the forest in two parts. One with a local naturalist to help me spot some wildlife, and another on my own to enjoy nothing but the thick, lush nature and hit some viewpoints. I am very pleased to say that during this trip, I saw my first sloth. It was sleeping with its back turned to me and was pretty far away, but still. About 30 minutes into the walk, our guide announced we were getting close to the parts where you can spot the best birds. An expert birdcaller, he secured for us the sighting of the resplendent quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala. Too fast for my camera, but amazing to see especially since this was the nesting season.
Regardless of the great wildlife spotting, I enjoyed my solitary wander most. I chose a route that wasn’t overly visited and simply soaked up the atmosphere building up to some amazing views. Most viewpoints selected on the way to the highest point, were quite interesting in that they were facing a wall of trees and bushes where in between them you can see that if cleared, this would free up a view of some spectacular, rolling hills. It wasn’t that type of viewpoint, though, and in some ways I liked these views most of all. You can sit and hope to spot some birds, insects or monkeys. But you also have a front row seat to the balanced chaos that is the cloud forest and its passionate desire to grow.
This blog was contributed by Mieke of Belgium, who completed an internship at Instituto Estelar Bilingüe in March 2018.