Costa Rica: Monteverde

When you saw us last, we were leaving La Fortuna and heading up to the cloud forest. But it was a long journey and we really needed sustenance. There weren’t a lot of choices, but we found a nice little place right along the way in Nuevo Arenal.  This was the same village where last time we ate at the German bakery, but it was closed this time. Once again, Mina had arroz con camarones, and Linus had arroz con pollo. We also had some kind of creole soup that was terrific (the restaurant’s name was Gustitos Criollos or Creole Tastes). Oh, and what’s that? More guanabana smoothies? Of course.


As we drove up, we found a lot for Linus to enjoy on the ridge.


I don’t think it ever rained along the way, but the threat always seemed to be there.


The roads were about like this the whole way. Not paved, but not loose gravel – it would have been washed away with the rain. It’s a sort of hard-packed dirt. Very slow going, and we kept apologizing to the kids for getting cheap-but-light carseats.


And there were cows everywhere. I often thought how interested David would be to explore this place.


We arrived and found our next house, and then bought groceries. More drinkable yogurt!


Here’s a nice shot of our place. As you can see, it’s up on the second floor. The ceilings were extremely tall, and the tile floors kept everything nice and cool. The only downside was that there was no outdoor space for the kids as there had been at our previous place.


But there were toys! The woman who owns the place keeps a big bucket full of LEGOS and dolls for her guests.



We looked up restaurant choices for the night. If you haven’t looked at a map by now while reading this, I’ll tell you that Monteverde is way up in the mountains, far from the ocean. But one of the highest rated restaurants in this tiny town is actually a sushi joint. How could we pass that up?

You can see that I had a variety of rolls while the kids had udon noodle soup. Just in the corner you can see that I’m digging through to find mushrooms for Linus and noodles. They declared it delicious and tried to convince us to go back again the next night. Oh, and that’s mango juice on the right-hand side of the picture.


The next morning, we headed out for a hike at the Curi-Cancha Reserve. It had fungus!


It’s reputed to be the best place in Monteverde to find wildlife.  And as it turned out really large trees, like this giant ficus tree!



You probably know ficus as a houseplant that’s woven into pretty shapes. But in the jungle, they are a parasite that grows around a full-grown tree. Eventually they smother the original tree, which rots and leaves a hollow inside. This is what I’m explaining with my hands in that weird position.



And to prove that I didn’t make all of that up, here we are standing inside the tree!


Here’s what it looks like if you stand inside and look up.


Flowers! She’ll probably be upset when she realizes that Yen always focused on her face, not the things she was trying to get him to photograph.






Not sure what they’ve found… Isn’t the trail behind them beautiful? I was thinking about the effort someone had to take to plant and then prune it without getting to the see the final effect for so long. Perhaps related, perhaps not: Monteverde was originally settled by Quakers in the 1950s.


Nice place for a snack, eh?


This is apparently a pygmy squirrel – or so we were told by a guide who happened to be showing a paying couple while we wandered by. We didn’t bother with a guide because the kids wouldn’t have been able to stand still, and if they had, they surely would have scared the animals away. Well, not all. You’ll see.




If you look carefully, you can see Lake Arenal and the mountains on the other side. This is what we drove around to get here. It’s a manmade lake, actually.


More hummingbirds! I didn’t see most of these as I was administering snacks.







Notice how the kids are just trekking along, having a lovely time and exploring.



Mina began to pick things up and took the lead.


And then she suddenly stopped and began to back up. Yen said, “Mina! The leader can’t back up!” She said, “But Cha!” and pointed. Do you see what she saw?


I was so proud of her – not scared, but curious.


Here’s a closer look.


Then it was Linus’s turn. He found this giant millipede. It was about the length of my hand.


Totally unafraid, Mina continues on.

Oh, notice that the back of her shirt is open? If you’re Grandpa, you’re thinking, “Won’t she get mosquito bites?” It’s a real mystery to us, but we never encountered mosquitoes. It got a single bite on our last day in Monteverde, and that was it. In fact, we rarely encountered insects at all. I wonder where they were?


OK, this is a picture of Mina’s butt. She insisted. She’s at the absolute zenith of potty humor at the moment. I can’t wait until she outgrows it.





Our guide pauses to check the map.


We made a giant circle and came back around to the other end of that magical path.


These are orchids. I forgot to mention that there are orchids absolutely everywhere.




And coffee beans!


Yen usually placed his camera between Linus and Mina while driving. But Linus kept snatching it and getting some photos of his own.



We stopped off for lunch at a little local place. So local, that it’s inside a family’s home! While we waited for food, the little girl who lives there shows us her chickens.


And a treehouse and swing.



If you’ve spent any amount of time with me, you know that I have a rather difficult personality, particularly when I’m, ah, hormonal. Since officially entering “perimenopause,” I have been an absolute nightmare. I can’t believe that Yen remains married to me, and that the kids still speak to me. On this particular day, I went completely bananas. I yelled at Mina for absolutely no reason at all. Yen ended up dropping off me and Linus, and taking Mina to a playground so we could both calm down. I wish I could control this. I hate this about myself. Maybe I should be medicated. Either way, I don’t think it’s right to not mention this part of the trip because it was incredibly disruptive and unfair to everyone. And I just want to say that I’m really sorry.

Now here’s a flower.


This is a funny little space. It’s outside of a sort of art gallery, and just has a pile of dirt and a bunch of trucks inside a little garden. We took advantage.



This is the playground I mentioned before. After Yen and Mina came back (and I apologized to Mina and we hugged like crazy), we all decided to go back to the playground together. Linus’s favorite part was the exercise equipment for adults.


That night we asked the kids where they wanted to eat. They wanted to go back to sushi, but we saw a place with a tree growing in the middle. Sure, it was gimmicky. But their website said, “When you’re tired of rice and beans, give us a try.” So we did! We took a table up on the third floor, and the kids enjoyed running around.



Here we are back at the ranch, settling down for bed. The kids love having bunkbeds when we travel.


The next morning, we headed out to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve.





It really didn’t rain much, but Linus was enjoying his umbrella. Take a long last look at it, his raincoat, and Mina’s raincoat… At the end of this walk, we lost them. Good thing it didn’t rain again after that day!


One of the very few birds that wasn’t scared off by the kids hiking.


After the hike, we drove pretty far off the grid to an artist gallery I remembered from our last trip. I’d found a nice bowl there that is now in our dining room, and Yen wanted to find more carvings to bring home. And it happens to be called the Hummingbird Gallery, so Yen knew he could take some nice shots.

After we shopped, Yen mentioned (in Spanish!) to the owner that we’d been there eight years before. He was excited by that and asked if I wanted to hold one of the hummingbird feeders. Heck yes I did! Linus didn’t like it, though.







Well, while we were photographing hummingbirds, my phone disappeared. Maybe I dropped it getting in or out of the car. Or maybe the car was unlocked and someone picked it up. Anyway, it’s gone now and I have a new one. Linus lightened the mood by taking more photos from the backseat.


The next day, it was time to head back down out of the mountains.




We were surprised and happy to find that on this side, most of the roads were paved. In fact, the few unpaved sections were lined with dump trucks full of asphalt because they were actively finishing the paving.

So onward to San Jose – a lot faster now.