Today we went hiking again!
We started the day with the unusual but very good free breakfast of the hostel: two black beans-cheese-potatoes-eggs tacos.
Then we took the minivan to the Santa Elena natural park. This one gets only 20 000 visitors per year, compared to the 200 000 visitors from Monteverde national park (and Curi Cancha where we were yesterday gets very few people, and limits the number of simultaneous visits to 50!). This is one of the reason why we chose to visit Santa Elena rather than the very touristy Monteverde. Another reason is that the Santa Elena reserve is managed by an association linked with the Santa Elena high school, and the benefits are re-injected into the local community (whereas Monteverde is privately owned).
The reserve is pretty high up in the mountain, about 300m over the town and the other reserves, and on the Atlantic side of the mountain, which explains the greater influence of the Caribbean weather. So the forest is old and much more humid than Monteverde or Curi Cancha (which are next to each other), and much denser than in Curi Cancha (where part of the forest was pretty young).
There are several hiking trails, and as we are big adventurers, we took the longer loop, which took us about 4 hours. On the way there was a cool observation tower enabling us to see the forest from above the canopy level. On our hike we saw loads of birds but no other animals (probably pretty hard to spot in this dense forest). But the amount of trees, vines and other vegetation gave a very Jungle Book (or Tarzan) like vibe to the trail, and it very fun 😉 . We even got some view of the Arenal volcano (still under the clouds, as it has been since we arrived at La Fortuna!).
At the end of the park we met a very nice Spanish couple who brought us back to town (so we didn’t have to wait an hour for the next shuttle). So we got a bit of training in the art of understanding Spanish people. Because people from Spain speak much faster than those we have encountered in Latin America, even though these guys where pretty nice and tried to slow down for us 😉 .
Here are (quite) a few pictures of the hike:
That’s all for today. Tonight we are NOT going to the bar, because the bus tomorrow is at 6am (and the next one is at 3pm, so we don’t want to miss it!). More news about our destination in the post 🙂