Cloud Forest

The last destination of our honeymoon (though not the last I’ll blog about–I’m unchronological that way) was the cloud forest of Monteverde. It is a charming little town in a gloriously beautiful area. Oddly enough, the town was founded by Quakers from Alabama in 1951. Yes, Alabama. They moved to Costa Rica because it has no standing army.
We stayed at the Monteverde Lodge and Gardens. It was a cozy place. We saw all sorts of wildlife, including a raucous pack of white-faced capuchin monkeys, foxes, a gorgeous blue motmot, and a two-toed sloth right outside our window. Here’s the Professor in one nook of the gardens.
The Professor in the gardens at our hotel
The region was cooler than the other places we visited, but just as humid due to the clouds at ground level. But it was a refreshing and clean and wonderful sort of humid. The air felt so wonderful to breathe. And there were rainbows.
Rainbow
In the national parks, the canopy was completely covered in things growing. Trees filled the skies, vines grew on the trees, and moss and ferns and bromeliads and orchids grew on all of these. Life everywhere.
Canopy in the cloud forest
We were lucky enough to see Resplendent quetzals, male and female, nesting, at both Monteverde Biological Cloud Forest Reserve and Santa Elena Reserve. Years ago I dreamt of quetzals flying, and since then they’ve been a spiritual symbol for me. I don’t even know how I knew about them, except perhaps from my Merriam-Webster’s, which has a drawing in the Qs that I’d always stumble across when looking up words. The males have two extremely long tail feathers, as well as gorgeous colors, and a beautiful crest. Here is a picture of a male, through our guide’s scope. Unfortunately it doesn’t show its long tail feathers. It looks as though he’s wearing a red vest. It was quite moving to see them in person, especially as they flew in and out of their nest, a hole in an old dead tree.
Male quetzal
The less colorful but beautiful female.
Female quetzal
We spotted all sorts of life in the reserves. Here’s a camouflaged katydid.
Katydid
A strangler fig. These huge trees begin growing in the canopy of another tree, then send down roots, which grow larger and larger, and eventually they overtake the tree, killing it, and take its spot. Gruesome, but beautiful in their intricacy.
Strangler fig
There were several orchids growing, of great variety. Here’s one.
Orchid
And another.
Orchid, up close
Another sort of flower, common name Hot Lips. The “lips” are actually bracts. It was especially showy in the rain.
Hot lips
Another pretty flower.
Flower
Fern leaf.
Fern
Bromeliad.
Bromeliad
Hummingbird outside the cafe.
Hummingbird
At the butterfly garden, they allowed us to release newly emerged Morpho butterflies into the garden. Here’s the Professor holding his, encouraging it to fly.
The Professor encourages his Morpho to fly
The tops of the Morpho wings are a gorgeous blue. I managed to catch one sunning, a very rare sight. These were so beautiful to see flying through the canopy: trailing floating flashes of blue.
Morpho butterfly
We also got to see glass-winged butterflies.
Glass-winged butterfly
At the Orchid House, we saw orchid flowers smaller than a millimeter across. I couldn’t get a picture of those because they were so very very tiny. There were many other interesting and lovely varieties growing along tree trunks and on one another throughout an outdoor garden. Here are some of the flowers blooming.
Small orchid
Black octopus orchid
Orchid
Orchid
Orchid
After a day or two, I got sick. It was the one place where they recommended drinking bottled water, and one night, oh so foolishly, I did not. At least it was the last spot on our trip. And I did have some Cipro, so I hate to imagine how sick I would’ve been without it. And I was still able to get out and do some stuff, just not as much. And sitting in the room for hours did allow me to get some knitting in. Behold the five-toed sloth sitting in our hotel window.
Hedera sock progress in Monteverde
Here’s the finished sock, if you would like to see it. It is gorgeous yarn (thanks, Melanie!) and I like the pattern okay, but having now finished two top-down socks and one toe-up sock, I think I’ll stick with the latter from now on. I have a very high arch in my foot, and the toe-down style sags badly. Anybody know some tips to alleviate this?
While I was knocked out of commission, the Professor went on a tour of a coffee plantation, wandered downtown, found the Bajo del Tigre hiking trail, and zip-lined through the canopy. I was kind of glad I missed the zip-lining.
I missed seeing how coffee is grown and harvested and dried and packaged, but the Professor gave me a full report. He also let me have a sip of his coffee at the Tree House, a restaurant in a huge tree in downtown Monteverde.
The Professor gazing out of the Tree House
There he made the coffee the traditional Costa Rican way. Which I guess means super strong. The coffee in Costa Rica was completely amazing. I gave up coffee years ago, but I splurged almost every day there, with no ill effect. Divine.
The Professor making coffee the traditional Costa Rican way (i.e., strong)
We also went to the frog house (ranario) and serpent house, where we saw some amazing species. I think the most fascinating to me must have been the glass frogs, which you could see through to their innards. The babies looked like little balls of slime. But cute balls of slime. We also saw an orange-kneed tarantula at the ranario, which was not contained. It was living in the rocks. It was big, and fuzzy, and terrifying, even though it ran from us and hid, because we took the tour in the dark, with just flashlights, as that is when the frogs are most active.
So long, Monteverde. I hope we will be back again someday.
The Professor in our room at the Monteverde Lodge and Gardens

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