The Monteverde Cloud Forest

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Once upon a time in a mystical land, far, far away.. existed an enchanted forest that swirled in a dazzling  mist at the spine of two tectonic regions. Thick clouds continually swept in, swallowing everything in their path and leaving explorers blindly suspended about the forest canopy, before disappearing as quickly as they arrived.

Only this isn’t a fairytale–it’s real life–and it exists in the Monteverde Cloud Forest of Costa Rica.

During my Costa Rica tour with Contiki, we spent a couple of days in the Monteverde area and got a taste of what the area had to offer. Physically getting to Monteverde is a mission on it’s own. Coming from Arenal that morning, the ride in involved three buses and a boat, and the roads resembled a cheese grater with bullet holes that had been attacked with sandpaper.

But, it was well worth the journey.

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One of the better roads

We started things off with a bang.

Or a few screams, rather. It was time for zip-lining.

I’ve lost track of how many times I have been zip-lining now, but for some reason the absolute ideal location for flying through the trees in my mind has always been Costa Rica. Zip-lining is a huge thrill to me no matter where I am, but to finally be doing it in Costa Rica–and in the cloud forest, no less–was the ultimate experience.

I happily volunteered to go first and off I went into the trees.

Just as we prepared ourselves for the final zip, they called us over and announced that there was one last surprise–a Tarzan swing. On an elevated platform high above the ground was a cord that attached my harness to an even higher pole.

It provided the feeling of bungee jumping, but the second pole pulls you forward at the last second before you would have bounced back up on a bungee, and instead rockets you forward like a giant swing. It was probably one of my favourite moments of the entire trip and I definitely could have done it over and over again. After the thrill of the Tarzan swing, we still had one big zip to go–a 1km (3280 ft) line over the forest valley and literally through the rolling clouds.

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Chmura Lasu / Cloud Forest : My Mother’s Maiden name is Chmura, which is Polish for cloud. I kept thinking of it as the Chmura Forest.

That wasn’t the end of our Monteverde adventure. We ventured back into the forest and explored another set of suspension bridges (somehow, even more impressive than the last ones), that felt like the set of a Jurassic Park movie. I expected a monstrous pterodactyl to appear through the mist at any moment and the clouds to open up to reveal a giant bird cage. Dino-free, the Monteverde suspension bridges turned out to provide a stunning view of the ominously beautiful landscape.

Geology Lesson

Cloud forests occur within tropical mountainous environments where the atmospheric conditions allow for a consistent cover of clouds. In the case of Monteverde, this takes place along the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range of Costa Rica. It is at this spot where the Caribbean and Pacific tectonic plates collide. Or, in more technical terms the Caribbean plate is actually being pushed up by the smaller oceanic plate of Cocos, which lays in front of the Pacific plate.

The development of the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range not only physically separated the Pacific from the Caribbean, but it also changed the pattern of warm surface currents by redirecting the trade winds, which aided in moulding the cloud forest of today.

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We spent the next morning hiking up to the exact point where the plates meet and the two sets of air currents are divided by each side of the mountain. It was a noticeably different temperature, separated by only a few feet of trees.

Leaving behind the reserve, we had some free time for lunch in the small laid back town of Santa Elena and ended up in what turned out to be an incredibly unique little restaurant; the Tree House Cafe. We gorged on Guac and ceviche, surrounded by twisted roots and hanging vines, before saying goodbye to Monteverde.

Here are some of my favourite photos from the area;

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Tree house Restaurant & Cafe

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This trip was made possible by Contiki
All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Visit Monteverde on your own Costa Rica Unplugged trip.

Have you ever walked in the clouds?

 

 

 

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