BOB CORBETT'S TRAVEL JOURNAL -- 2005

Costa Rica 22 -- October 21, 2005
Best day so far of the whole trip

By Bob Corbett

Folks,

Right now, 3:30, it is simply teeming, the sort of rain that bounces high off the ground it hits so hard. The hill we are on is a mass of icky running yellow mud, not the color of bright yellow, but sort of the color of Grey Poupon mustard. Ruts in the street.

Last night about 5 PM we lost power in a similar rain, so I might get bumped any second. I JOYOUSLY added a small pen flashlight to my baggage the day before I left St. Louis and it has come in handy so many times.

Juan explained to me today that while it does rain almost every day of the year, in the rainy season it is like this, mucho jublia, much much rain, but in the ďdryĒ season (what a joke term), it doesnít rain as much!!!

But this morning was awesome, among the most exciting travel days of my whole life. It was raining lightly when I left here at 8:15 AM. I walked down the 3/4 block to the bus station and purchased my ticket, 2000 colones, $4.00 for a round trip ticket to the St. Elena reserve. There are two parts to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, the most famous, Monteverde reserve and the much lesser known St. Elena reserve. Same forest. It is massive and one is the western end (St. Elena) and the other the eastern end.

I chose it since it is supposedly less crowded. Only three of us were on the bus. There had been a 6:30 AM bus, but it was cancelled, no one came for it. This boded well for me, who likes to be alone in parks. We three were me, of course, a very heavy set fellow who never spoke and I never saw again, and a young woman, who I later ran into in the forest and who asked me to take her picture under a gigantic tree. She was from Columbia, South America, but spoke beautiful English.

At the reserve there are 4 trails. I walked two of them today, a total of five miles. Normally I walk over 3 miles an hour. But here I walked 2:45 for those 5 miles.

Without question, never in my entire life did I experience such natural beauty as today. I didnít see much wildlife. One monkey and 6 black hummingbirds about as large as sparrows in the U.S., but the forest was overwhelming. Deep deep darkness, AND SUNSHINE. READ SUNSHINE. The trees are massive and everyone dripped, literally dripping water constantly, and covered in thick moss of many colors green. Costa Rica has ruined one of my favorite songs. 40 Shades of Green, one of my favorite Irish ballads. I can never hear that song again without thinking FIRST of Costa Rica and then Ireland second. Here there are REAL multiple greens, and greens that cover 70% of the nation.

But the eerie part were the zillions of liana vines. Huge vines, everywhere, like spaghetti hanging down from hundred foot tall trees.

Now clearly, you got the notes, I was (and remain) a wild fan of the rain forest at Manuel Antonio. But thank goodness I experienced them first and loved them so, BEFORE I saw REAL RAINFOREST here in Monteverde. Poor Manuel Antonio is just dwarfed in every category save visible wildlife, which it wins hands down.

In Manuel Antonio, recall, I walked in shorts and tee-shirt, able to wring out the tee shift afterwards. Here I walked in long pants, tennis shoes and wool socks, a tee-shirt, my heaviest sweater and my rain coat despite the fact of no rain and I was cold.

I was worried when after 10 minutes, I passed a group of 8 German tourists with a German speaking Costa Rican guide. I greeted everyone in German and they were astonished to find an American speaking German. We chatted a bit and I fled ahead of them. But, I never saw another person for nearly 2 hours when the Colombian woman passed me and asked me to take her picture. I did and she went on and I walked slower for a while to give her time to get away.

I just wanted to be along. Completely alone with the forest. Then it began to rain. I had opened my rain coat for more of the cool air, and had the hood down, and the rain began to make a terrible racket in the forest, so I was about to zip up and hood up, when I realized my rain coat was totally dry. The rain was so loud, but not a drop was getting to me!!!!

Then I descended a deep hill. They have altitude signs all through out the forest and till now, again over two hours, I was walking at altitudes over one mile, more that 5,000 feet. But I descended and descended and descended (only to mount again later on). First off came my rain coat, the off came my sweater and then I began to sweat like at Manuel Antonio, and I hit bottom.

The really hard ascent began and along the way the sweater came back on and then the coat and then I hit an altitude sign of 5400 feet.

I was really dragging.

The park has four trails. I walked two of them today. But the one circular trail is much longer that the sum of the two I walked today. I plan to walk that one next week.

Finally I semi-stumbled back to the gate house, and plopped down for a cafe con leche before my bus arrived. They only come every three hours and I got back just 10 minutes before my bus came. Believe me I was simply dragging. Five miles is no serious walk for me NORMALLY. but this forest was not normal and I was and am now, just utterly exhausted.

Happily the bus came down my ďstreetĒ if this mud slide can be called a street and the driver let me out at the door. I only had about 15 steps in the driving rain to get into Pension Sinai.

I ditched the wet pants, but my sweater is dry and I still have it on. Itís cold in here. Yesterday I mentioned I brought home most of my fish pasta, and I heated that up for lunch, and had some good bread and wine with it. Iím just stuffed.

This is a day I think I will never forget. Iíve never experience natural beauty of the power and extent of what I walked though today. I canít wait to go back there, probably early next week and do the LONG trail. Thatís going to leave me utterly limp, but I donít care. I canít get enough of that forest.

Tomorrow I do something very different. I had Juan, my host, reserve me a spot tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM in a ďrope bridgeĒ trip in the other reserve, the larger and more famous Monteverde Park. This is being led by Adventura Tours and if you got on line and tried Costa Rica, Monteverde and Adventura tours, I think youíd get awesome photos of what Iíll be doing.

There have this large network of rope bridges high in the trees of the forest. One walks from tree to tree on these rope bridges that look like what all of us have seen in WWII and Tarzan movies, usually with the bad guys about to cut the ropes of the bridges as the good guys scramble to safety to the other side.

I asked Juan, how do I ditch the other people and the guide. I donít want the people or the guide. He roared with laughter and gave me the strategy. People generally like and want the guide. Iím the odd man out. He told me to hang to the rear, others will crowd forward to hear the guide. Many of the bridges are at right angles to one another. If I hang back, at some bridge Iíll be able to just linger and they will go on ahead. I canít get lost, thereís no way out of the trees and bridges until one comes to the end. I think there are 15 such bridges.

I do look forward to this since we will be up in the clouds in the high trees. That will be fun. But I am so much enjoying being ALONE in those forests and taking my time, listening to nothingness and the rain that doesnít reach me and the birds and forest sounds....

I just want the world to go way and leave me in this paradise.

Bob

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