The trip from La Fortuna to Monteverde was spectacular. Once we crossed Lake Arenal by boat we started to climb up towards one of the highest geographic points of our trip at the continental divide. The trade winds are relentless in this area and huge wind turbines greeted us at the summit where we first saw the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Wind power contributes about 10% to the country’s electric production.
The ecosystems have changed to dryer and cooler up here. Our hotel is perched on a mountainside above the town of St Elena with a gorgeous view out to the Pacific. St Elena and its close neighbour Monteverde used to be sleepy little towns until the area was “discovered” by birders in the 1980’s. The Quaker community (which came here during the Korean war) of Monteverde and the native Costa Rican community of St Elena have lobbied hard to prevent development and road improvement. The roads are bone jarring and the area is still no where near what La Fortuna has become, but it is becoming developed. The Lonely Planet describes Monteverde “on a bad day like Disneyland in Birkenstocks” – I can add, wearing plastic name tags saying my name is “-“.
Monteverde’s main claim to fame is the cloud forest which we visited today. It is a magical place. The climate is changing though and already changes have been noted in moss and lichen populations in the forests. The St Elena cloud forest reserve we visited was reclaimed from cattle ranchers in 1977 and the growth and various waves of succession in the forest in the past 40 years is amazing. There is an amazing butterfly garden and breeding program in the rain forest which we visited, and some incredible local art in the area.
Tomorrow we leave for the Pacific Coast and our last leg of the trip.