Vacation’s all I ever wanted…

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Ok, so you know how I’ve been insisting this trip is NOT just a vacation? Well, we did get to take a few days off now that we have survived the first two weeks. Since we were crazy busy at Cabo Blanco and Palo Verde writing papers, going to seminars, editing papers, and doing scientific research, Jane and Jenny decided that we deserved a break. So on our way to La Selva Research Station, we did a pit stop to refuel our energy in Monteverde: the infamous cloud forest.

 

We knew these few days would be different than the last two weeks immediately. For one, our accommodations were within walking distance of a town! What a treat! Also, we weren’t doing a research project at Monteverde. We were free for our three day stay to relax and recharge our batteries. And finish up our research papers. And practice public speaking. And learn from Pat Walters, formerly of Radiolab, how to tell an interesting story. And hear natural history lectures about the area. Ok, so maybe we weren’t completely free to do what we wanted, but we learned a lot and all of these activities were super fun.

 

My favorite day was when we got to take a hike through the Monteverde Reserve with Mark, a resident naturalist. Our first stop was hummingbird feeders that have been hanging in the same spot for 20 years! Because of that, there were about 30 hummingbirds buzzing around, feeding on the nectar and not being scared of humans at all. Most of our group was able to have a hummingbird actually land on their finger by merely toughing their hand to a feeder. And while we stood there trying to identify all the species, the birds would whip in-between us, barely missing a shoulder or a nose. I’ve never seen so many hummingbirds in one place before and it boded well for the hike, though it was hard to pull us away from the feeders.

The rest of the hike was beautiful, despite us being peppered with rain off and on. We were all excited to be in the much cooler, greener cloud forest, and we asked questions about everything. We saw tons of birds and plants, a few white faced capuchins, and an incredible view at the end of our hike. There was also a point where James, another student, spotted a quetzal, which is a rare bird in Costa Rica and though many tourists try to see one, few actually do. We needed binoculars to see it, but we can definitely check it off the bird list!

 

The next day we did another hike to the San Gerardo Field Station, which was gorgeous as well. I couldn’t get over how green and lush everything was. All the ferns and dripping water everywhere reminded me of New Zealand. But there was also a lot of mud we had to trample through. Luckily we all have rubber boots so we plowed straight through. This hike was all downhill for the first half, so we took our time enjoying, again, many plants and birds. We also managed to see a huge tarantula in the middle of the path, which was orange and black. Pretty hard to miss. At the end of our hike was the San Gerardo Field Station. There was a ping pong table inside and hammocks on the porch that overlooked Arenal Volcano, which was covered in clouds. In the short time that was left before lunch, we all split into different areas based on the amount of energy we had left.

 

But once lunch came, we were all the comedor. And lunch was amazing! It was by far the best meal we’ve ever had. Which was sort of good and bad, because we all ate a lot to fuel our return hike, but it was all uphill and we were stuffed. So the hike started out rough because we were tired and full, but then it became even worse when the torrential downpour started. A large majority of us got soaked, right down to our cellphones. By the time our clothes dried several hours later, I was definitely missing the dry heat of Palo Verde.

 

All in all, we really enjoyed our stay in Monteverde. Breakfast and dinner was spent on a large back porch of the property, which had a glorious view right down to the Nicoya Peninsula, which is where Cabo Blanco is located. It gave us the perfect backdrop for late nights of chatting and game playing. But all good things must come to an end, so after a quick 3 nights, it was time to pack it up and move out. Everyone likes to sing and dance…

 

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View from our porch. It was usually cloudy, but I caught it in a clear moment. Great bird watching spot too!

 

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Best lunch ever! Though this is our typical meal (rice, beans, meat, salad), the tortillas and avocado made it outstanding!

 

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Hiking downhill to the Arenal Volcano overlook, though there wasn’t much to see once we got there. Too cloudy.

 

Quetzal that we saw. We definitely did not see it this close, but this is what they look like. Really hard to spot in a bunch of green trees so James did a great job finding him!

 

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