After a few days in San Ramon, we continued heading north up into the mountains to Monteverde. The drive alone was worth the trip with fantastic views beyond almost every turn as we gradually gained elevation on our way to our final destination. Our destination in this case was a hostel located just outside “town” on one of the many narrow gravel roads that stem off of the main highway. Our stay included our own room and bathroom, a home cooked typical Costa Rican breakfast every morning (gallo pinto, eggs, fruit, plantains, and coffee), use of the kitchen to cook meals, several open-air porches, and a few hostel perros (doggos) running around.
Our first stop in Monteverde was actually at a nearby Soda on the first evening, where the same woman greeted us, took our order, cooked the food, and rang us up. No surprise that is was delicious. The next day was spent exploring the town, where Emily found what can only be assumed as the best portrait in Monteverde and of course stopped for a photo. The hills in this town are no joke whether you’re driving or walking, but they make for some incredible views. As has become tradition, we also found a great little coffee shop to sit and play cards.
On the second day we drove a few minutes outside of town to the Heladeria y Fabrica de Quesos Monteverde (Monteverde Ice Cream and Cheese Factory). While the factory portion was unfortunately closed, we still made the best of things and got some ice cream. From there, we walked to a few shops in the area and to another coffee shop. We sampled several of their coffees, all of which had different washing and roasting processes which resulted in a variety of different flavors. That night we sat down on the back porch early in the evening to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean and Nicoya Peninsula, which did not disappoint.
During the week we ventured up another dirt road to the Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena for a hike through the cloud forest. As the name suggests, the cloud forest is essentially under a low cover of clouds 24/7, and therefor wet, all the time. While writing this blog post we learned that a rain forest is a tropical forest with an annual rainfall of 100 inches of more with trees forming a canopy. A cloud forest is a type of rain forest but the altitude is usually much higher. Our hike through the reserve took a few hours and brought us through the lush terrain where we saw countless different types of plants and a few different species of birds. It’s hard to describe just how wet everything in the forest was, but it was evident that since we were basically inside a cloud, and it’s technically the dry season, things never dried out.
Our first major issue with the small rental car happened the following day when we were en route to a hike a few hours away. We drove about 30 minutes on a paved road when the GPS directed us onto a side dirt road. We have grown accustomed to dirt, gravel, and even rocky roads, so we weren’t terribly surprised by the road we found ourselves on. That said, we quickly realized it was more than our little sedan was capable of handling. It was covered with loose gravel and rocks as large as 5 or 6 inches, and included steep inclines and declines ever 100 meters or so. We made it about half way when the road finally became impassable for us. As we tried to slowly climb another steep hill, Chica Blanca (what we named our car) just couldn’t do it. After a few failed attempts, we finally turned around to head home, feeling defeated.
As we slowly retraced our path to get back to the paved road (and to cell phone service), we eventually came to a steep incline that also included a pretty tight hairpin turn. An SUV was coming down the hill at the same time, forcing us to slow down and turn off to the side so we could both pass each other. And then we were stuck. After a few anxious moments, Emily got in the drivers seat and I was able to push the car enough to get some momentum. Emily was able to drive the car up the hill to the next flat spot while I ran up the hill from behind. Not a fun experience, but now we had a clear understanding of the limits of our car. From there, we headed home and spent the rest of the evening relaxing and unwinding after a stressful attempt to pass this demon road. (Spoiler: we did eventually make it to that hike, after going the long way on our way to La Fortuna. More on that in another blog post).
We had a much better time the following day when we drove to a small family home 15 minutes outside of Monteverde for a cooking class where we would make sweet bread and empanadas. The mother of the family did not speak any English, but her 20 year old daughter was able to communicate with us well. In this type of situation, we usually explain that we know only a small amount of Spanish and try to speak in Spanish as much as possible. But it’s helpful to have someone there who knows a bit of English to fill in the gaps.
The class walked us through the process of properly making the sweet bread dough, which to no surprise included no measurements but was portioned solely on feel and consistency. We made the dough and set it aside for a bit to rise. In the mean time, we made the empanada dough and stuffed it with pre-made (homemade still) refried beans. We learned how to roll out and fold the dough, and set them on the fryer to cook as we finished the sweet bread. We formed the bread into various shapes to cook including rolls, twists, and even braids (some turned out better than others). Our host put them in the oven and after enjoying the freshly made empanadas we ate our bread with our host and her daughter, complete with some freshly brewed local coffee.
That afternoon we headed to a cafe on the other side of town, just outside of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Emily found this place in her research and could not have made a better choice as this particular cafe was also home to a garden full of hummingbirds and feeders. From the second we stepped into the small property we noticed dozens of hummingbirds flying in all directions. We sat on a small bench just in front of one of the feeders and took literally hundreds of photos.
It was a really cool experience since these birds were clearly used to humans and did not hesitate to buzz past your ear on the way to the feeders. On numerous occasions we found ourselves dodging the birds (or at least we thought, when in reality there was no way that any move we made would have been quick enough to change what the birds were doing) and could even hear their wings as they hovered at the feeder or sped off after feeding. We took a ton of videos too but the video below does a good job of showing the birds up close, and you can really see how still they keep their head despite how quickly they are moving. Also caught a glimpse of a non-hummingbird sneaking in for a taste.
That evening was our last night in Monteverde, and also the Super Bowl, so we grabbed a six pack of the local beer (Imperial) and streamed the game on the iPad in the front yard of our hostel. Definitely not a typical Super Bowl watching experience, and a rather one sided game, but it was still good to watch anyway. We packed up our things and the next morning we took off for our next location, La Fortuna.