Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Day 9: "Cloud" Forest and Arriving in Quepos

We started the day by driving to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. However, we met our first obstacle when the van got stuck trying to go up this steep and muddy hill. Despite trying to maintain speed as we rounded the corner leading to this hill and shifting more weight (students) to the back of the van, we could not get up.

Leaving the van behind, we hiked the remaining trip up to Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. Luckily, it was literally right around the corner!

We started our tour with our guide by hiking through the cloud forest…well what’s supposed to be a cloud forest. Unfortunately the weather was too warm for the clouds to form. It was still a beautiful hike either way.

Our guide tries to draw a tarantula out of its hole. The guide saw a tarantula the size of a human fist enter the hole as we approached. Unfortunately, the tarantula never came out.

The tour lasted for several hours, and we learned a lot about the wildlife, terrain, and climate of this area. It is also worth noting that the money tourists pay to enter this park benefit a local school. This helps tie the ecotourism and the local community together, which is one of the major topics we explored in this class.

Definitely my favorite picture from the day. On the tour, we came across a newly hatched bird egg.

Unfortunately, we didn’t spot too many birds on the tour, but this is one that we did come across. We were able to watch it for several minutes before it flew away. We all would have loved to see the Quetzal, but it is fairly rare to come across one of these. Despite not seeing many birds, we did hear a lot of cool birds. We heard a bird known as the Squeaky Gate, because its call literally sounds like a squeaky gate rocking back and forth. There was a second who’s call sounds like a basketball buzzer. It was surreal to be in this forest and to hear these exotic noises.

After we left the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, we stopped at a grocery store in Santa Elena to grab lunch. As we were checking out, we saw the pictures and headlines from the Oklahoma Tornadoes. We had absolutely no idea what was happening back in the US. Wifi was very limited and many of us chose to enjoy Costa Rica and stay off of our phones. It was very shocking to see this, and we knew it was bad news if it made the front page of the Costa Rican newspapers. 

The beautiful drive out of Santa Elena. None of us could get enough of this breathtaking view as we snapped picture after picture.

The coconut oil plantation outside of Quepos. This plantation covered both sides of the road and the last 30 miles heading into Quepos. Right in the middle, there was a plant bellowing black smoke from the processing of the coconut oil. It was a harsh contrast from the environment consciousness exhibited by the rest of the country, which plans to be carbon neutral by 2020.

The beautiful Oceanside city of Quepos, which is our home for the next few nights.

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