Saturday, 29 March 2008

Monteverde, paradise lost for sure

Tuesday morning we dragged ourselves away from the beach in Samara to drive to Monteverde, in the middle of Costa Rica. We were looking forward to visiting this fabled place which is reknowned for its cloud forest and for its dreadful roads.

It's true, the roads are absolutely appalling. Luckily we had a 4WD car or there is no way on earth we would ever have got there. Admittedly we did take the absolute worse of all the roads that it is possible to take, although we didn't know it at the time. So, we (meaning hubby, who did all of the driving) slogged our way up there through jaw-shattering potholes and over what may have been boulders at approx 15km/hr. The reason the roads are so bad is because the people who live in Monteverde (and Santa Elena, the other town up there) want to keep this little piece of paradise as Eden-like as possible by discouraging visitors. Imagine our surprise when we got to Santa Elena itself to find that the townsfolk are living it up with fully tarmacked roads. No potholes and boulders for them, oh no. And, even worse, the town is probably the most touristy place we've been to since Las Vegas. It was awful. Full of tour parties (mostly consisting of American school kids on spring break - great), hotels and expensive restaurants.

The reason most people visit Monteverde is for the cloud forest, where you can take canopy tours which involve zip-lining through the trees or walking across suspension bridges. Hubby and I did this, along with a gazillion other people - so much for keeping the area pristine and discouraging visitors. If that's what you want to do, then why supply all these activities, hotels and restaurants? Very odd and somewhat hypocritical methinks. As you can probably tell, I didn't think much of Monteverde.

Thursday morning we gladly left Monteverde and its crappy roads and headed to Lake Arenal and its volcano. Lake Arenal is very pretty and we drove all the way round the shore, after having our 2 punctured tyres repaired in a Costa Rican fashion (involving blu-tack and spit). We came across a German bakery where hubby was pleased to find a bag of Haribo jellies and I was even more pleased to find a bar of Ritter chocolate. Yum in my tum.

We spent the night in a hotel with views of the volcano which regularly rumbles and throws out lava streams - quite impressive, but not as violent as we'd hoped. I was more impressed by my first ever sighting of fireflies!

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