Monday, June 15, 2009
When in the 51st state, you have to visit Eco Disney.
When your daily budget is only $100 CN and tours are $25 US per person, one activity can eat up have your budget before you’re eaten or slept. The big thing that people do in Monteverde is ziplining through the cloud forest. Not exactly our thing and with a $35-$40 US price tag (each) it was less appealing. Plus how much can you see when you’re traveling that fast? So after a delicious and ample breakfast (granola, fruit, egg, toast and coffee) served by Ronnie’s wife, we booked the old fart option of a sky walk for $25 each. Breakfast wasn’t the only great thing about Sleepers. The shower was absolutely the best we’ve had in three months on the road. There was plenty of really hot water with matching water pressure. Maybe they didn’t have wifi our a lively crowd but it the shower and hospitality more than made up for it.
At 10:30 sharp the minivan arrived for us. We headed up and around and down the bumpy roads to the Selvatour canopy adventure park. The ticket office looked like a version of Eco Disney World. Absolutely pristine and western and everyone spoke perfect English. Actually Eco Disney is exactly what all of Costa Rica reminded me of. I knew that it was an actual country and people lived here but it seemed like the tourist industry did everything to separate us tourists from them. Gringos didn’t take regular public buses. Tipico Tico restaurants were tucked out of sight on back streets. Attractions had lineups, information booklets, handrails and safety warnings. After 3 months of relative roughing it, it made us wrinkle our noses just a bit. I guess that stuff is great if you’re only here for a week (in fact we saw a school group from Canyon View High pull up in their tour bus). You can seamlessly travel without having to deal with culture shock. But we’d been traveling for three months, eating traveling and sightseeing locally. Costa Rica was beautiful but it was feeling a bit sterile and made us feel like we were using the country rather than experiencing it.
But I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah, the canopy walk. The canopy walk was a series of 8 suspension bridges and a 4 km paved trail through the cloud forest. It was pretty but we saw very little wildlife. That wasn’t surprising since every five minutes someone came ziplining overhead screaming and yelling and generally scaring anything within a 1km radius. Still it was a lovely walk that took us through clouds, the rain, the cold, some sunshine, and finally the heat during the hour and a half circuit. But it also wasn’t something I’d pay $25 US for ($15 tops). It made us reconsider what other sights we were going to see.
On the way back, we got off in town to find a bank machine. The first one we found wouldn’t let us take money out. So we had a tipico lunch of fried chicken (no really, it’s the national dish here) but the portions were so big we had to split one order. We walked back to the hostel through town which was mostly a collection of tour offices and souvenir shops. We tried to find a second bank, following a sign that pointed down a road but after a 20 minute hike uphill along a foggy deserted road, we realized the sign probably assumed we were driving and wherever the bank was it was too far away to walk. On the way back so, I spotted a different bank on the horizon but that could wait. Our feet were tired and it had begun to rain.
We made it back to the hostel just before it began to pour. I found an intermittent wifi signal and began the search for our next place to stay. We were headed to La Fortuna to see the Arenal volcano. Or not. I couldn’t find a place for less than $50/night. Yikes and Ouch. Hoping that the quotes were incorrect I sent out some email inquiries just before losing the wifi signal. Adrian wanted to do the night tour so we signed up for that and then chatted to some new guests a gay couple from Australia and an English girl. We swapped stories and travel tips until the van pulled up for Adrian and I’s night tour. She invited us all out for drinks when we got back. Sounds like fun but we’ll have to see how our legs hold up after the night hike.
The minivan pulled up and drove to the outskirts of the town to a big fancy hotel. At first I thought we were picking up more people but the driver opened the door and told us this was it. From the lobby of the hotel we could see all the way across to the Gulf of Nicoya. We have enough time to snap some pictures before the guide appears and takes us into the forest on the grounds of the hotel as the sun begins to set.
I don’t know how he did it but the guide is amazing at spotting minute bugs, birds and frogs in the pitch black night. Supposedly we even see a sloth with a baby but even through the binoculars it looks just like a dirty beige blob in a tree. I began to suspect that the guide or hotel has just placed stuffed animals up in the trees before we headed out. Until of course the animals move and run away. We also saw a bunch of agoutis, and a tarantula but we all missed the fox that ran through our puny flashlight beams and then remained hidden. The walk was much more interesting than the canopy walk and at $17 it was cheaper too. But I was also glad when it was over. The 5:30 start time meant we hadn’t eaten dinner and were absolutely starving by the time we got back to the hostel just before 8. Costa Rica may feel like Eco Disney but it was still lacking the Disney concessions. So as soon as we got back we gobbled down dinner and decided to pass on the drinks with Marie from London. There was always tomorrow.