So I didn’t sleep too well last night, just before I was going to sleep, by the light of my tablet, I saw above me, on one of the bunk bed beams, a scorpion. It wasn’t the biggest scorpion in the world but for a man who has grown up in a country with virtually no dangerous animals 2.5 inches of this thing was more than enough to make me jump out of bed. After weighing up the pros and cons of hitting it with a flip flop, trying to flick it away or just leaving it I decided to just leave it and move bed (thankfully I’m the only person in my 5 man room). I thoroughly inspected my new bed and found nothing further that might attack me during my sleep, even so I couldn’t help thinking that there might be something. Needless to say it took me a while to drop off to sleep. This morning when I went to look at the scorpion it had disappeared, I literally have no idea where it had gone but I shook every piece of clothing before I put it on and banged my shoes just to make sure he hadn’t made a home amongst my belongings.
Tropical cloud forests are enormously rich ecosystems supporting 20% of the world’s plant diversity and 16% of the vertebrae diversity in only 0.4% of the worlds surface. Monteverde is world renowned for protecting what had been labeled the most famous cloud forest in the world, only 3% of the reserves territory is open for visitation with the remainder under strick protection.
The Monteverde cloud forest lies 6km away from Santa Elena (where virtually all the ‘non fancy’ hostels/hotels are located) and being the sort of guy who likes to save money where he can I decided to walk there. I’m so glad I did because the views were so rewarding and you would’ve totally missed them had you been travelling in a bus. The ticket to the reserve is $15 but due to a conservation rule of the park only 160 people are allowed in at one time so I was glad I left early to beat the crowds and the swarms of tourist groups I encountered when leaving. Once inside the park has a number of different routes you can take, each well signed and you are given a map to follow so even the least proficient navigator shouldn’t get lost.
I was asked how long I wanted to walk for, I said about 4 hours (actually only took 2.5) and my free map was highlighted with the paths to take. The main highlights were a view point which gave you an incredible opportunity to look over the top of the forest canopy, the second was a suspension bridge which gave you a different perspective on the canopy as you were near the top and you could see the air plants (take nutrients from rain/mist rather than soil/host tree), the third was an impressive double waterfall with a very enticing plunge pool and finally the most impressive thing was obviously the fauna and flora. Everywhere you looked there was a mass of different varieties of tree, vines, ferns, other shrubs and orchids, it doesn’t take an expert to work out that this is a very diverse ecosystem. There was also a large number of different insects, butterflies and birds, one bird I saw was black and the size of a ‘serves 10-12 Christmas turkey’ but somehow of could fly as I saw it about 25m up in a tree. I also got to see the rare quetzal, a vibrantly coloured bird which is not only the currency for Guatemala but also a symbol for the country, the male grows long, blue, twin tail feathers during mating season and it was these that enabled me to see the quetzal. These birds were very important to Maya and Aztec people with the royalty and priests wearing the tail feathers during ceremonies.
By the time I got back to town (via a coffee tasting session) I was starving having walked about 25km already, I had a fairly chilled lunch before deciding I would walk up the Cerro Amigos (Friends Mountain). The route up to the top left the road a couple of km out of town and climbed at least 300m in 3km. For those of you who can’t picture that it is steeper than you could drive in a non 4×4 vehicle. About half way up it started to drizzle, one of the problems of being in the clouds, by the time I reached the top I was damp partly from the rain but mainly from the sweat. The views would’ve been world class had there not been a thick blanket of cloud restricting views to 50m. At the top there are a number of telephone masts (the nickname to the mountain is telephone mountain) and a small hut, on inspection it looked like the maintenance mans house as there were clothes around and in one locked room a TV and sofa although I didn’t see the man himself. The way down was nearly as taxing as the way up and I met a trio on their way up who enquired of how far, I told them the distance and said it didn’t get any flatter, theory didn’t seem disheartened but I think they might have been with the lack of a view from the top.