Sunday: Monteverde and Santa Elena

Wake up today was at 3am when the rooster started crowing. When I finally left the room at 6:00, many of the kids were already out and about exploring the grounds of the hostel. The following photos were taken around the hostel. 
Meg in her small room which is part of my 2 bed suite. 

The hammocks are quite popular!





I was pleased to see that many kids decided to eat the gallo pinto (beans and rice) to breakfast. 


The sweet plantains were a delicious addition. The return of fresh papaya made my heart happy!


We left the hostel at 7am to go on a zip line adventure. Molly has been anticipating this for months and not in a good way. She is terrified of zip lines. Here she is before we did our first cable. 

The rest of the group seemed more excited than nervous, but I think we were all a little apprehensive. 



We saw many of these on the way up to the first platform. 


After the zip lines we returned to the hotel for lunch. While the hostel itself is very, very rustic, the owners have made us feel at home with some delicious meals.  Lunch today was a fresh salad with chicken and rice.  A small fresh pineapple gel dessert was a nice touch!
We left the hostel after lunch to visit the Santa Elena Ecological Reserve.  This protected site is owned by the government of Costa Rica, but managed by the Santa Elena High School.  Only $1.00 of each $14.00 admission ticket goes to the government.  The rest goes to the high school.  It is a beautiful rain forest filled with over 4000 species of plants.  We did not see many animals today, but that’s probably because we hiked in the rain during the afternoon.  We did hear a quetzal bird, but couldn’t see it.  The colorful quetzal bird is popular all over Central America.


This is typical of the roads we have been traveling here in central Costa Rica. I never appreciated I-75 until I came here.

On the way home from the Santa Elena Reserve, we stopped to plant trees.  In Costa Rica, nearly 80% of the country was covered by forests in 1900.  Now, it’s only about 40%. To help combat this drastic loss of forest, Costa Rica designated nearly 30% of its land as national park land.  In addition, there are now efforts to plant thousands of trees that will help re-forest the country.  Our tour company sets specific guidelines when planning a tree planting experience for its traveler’s.  First, the trees planted must be fast growing trees.  Second, the trees must not have any commercial value. Third, the trees must produce something for the environment.  In our case, the trees we planted will grow fruit that can be eaten by the quetzal bird.  They are being planted on a hillside of a former dairy farm to help prevent further erosion. The kids enjoyed this short eco-project as they really felt like they were doing something important.


After the tree planting, we walked back to town and grabbed a quick ice cream cone.  Then, another family joined Molly and me for Sunday mass at the Santa Elena Parish.  We were also joined by a neighborhood dog who wandered in to hear the readings!  It was neat to show the kids what mass is like in Spanish. I enjoyed hearing their thoughts on our walk home.


Finally, we returned to the hostel for a delicious dinner of breaded sea bass with mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables.  It was fantastic! Our host also brought us some freshly baked focaccia bread from his new wood fired oven.  We capped it all off with a petite cinnamon roll for dessert.  Against their better wishes, I made my girls hit the sheets early tonight since we are leaving early in the morning to head to horseback riding followed by some much needed time on the beach! I will be sad to leave the cloud forest, but I’m looking forward to sun, warmer temperatures and slightly drier air. Soggy is an understatement!

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