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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Signs of Recovery in the Cloud Forest

Santa Elena and its surrounding forested hills

Some good news. We have spent a day in Santa Elena recuperating from the runs and our financial blowouts, and this morning successfully organizing our debilitating 4.30 am departure tomorrow to connect to the Pan American where we have two reserved seats on the through bus from San Jose to Managua Nicaragua. This area, besides being an eco-tourist hotspot, has one amazing trump card - it is at an almost perfect temperature - just a fraction too cool if you lie real still - magnificent for Christine.

Camino Verde looks unassuming from the front, but runs deep and has nice quiet rooms at the back.

Camino Verde Hostel looks both unassuming from the front and at night more like an illuminated bar than a hostel, but is a family run establishment that runs deep back from the road and has some good quiet rooms. The proprietor speaks excellent English and made a flurry of the fact that he and his family also cook in the communal kitchen, sometimes having shared banquets with the guests.

From the back of Camino you wouldn't know the town was there!

He then went into a detailed explanation why it is always raining late afternoon this time of the year, but at other times always rains in the morning and is fine in the afternoon. We are just on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide, which we crossed coming from la Fortuna. As the year goes by, there is endless competition between the tropical winds of the Pacific and Atlantic with their differing moistures and some times of the year one or other dominates, leading at the end of the day to the effects of the sun-driven sea breezes becoming concentrated.

The main street

He told us that in between these seasons there are times the winds are so strong they blow pieces off the rooves and tourists want to leave in panic thinking a hurricane is about to strike, but the school children and residents just know to keep walking even when it can be difficult because of the buffering gale, but to keep an eye out to duck out of the way of flying debris.

More kitch tourist architecture over the road!

Christine was still nauseous and wasted last night but doggedly made a meal of broccoli, carrots potatoes and tuna despite near retching by the time she was 3/4 through it just to make sure she was feeding some nutrients in the front end to try to undo the effects of the alkaloids we have used to stop everything coming out the other end mid journey.

Santa Elena from across the valley

We spent yesterday and this morning feeding ourselves bacteria we brought from the farmacia and other pro-biotic yoghurts from the supermecado calculated to flood our poisoned intestines with good bacteria that can hold down the yeasts or other pernicious organisms causing our distress, either from bad restaurant food in el Valle or the bacteriostatic effects of our doxycycline antimalarial. By this morning it was obvious I was recovering and Christine is now slowly following suit. A quiet accolade for live bacteria!

Looking back from Monteverde towards Santa Elena

Another whoop for joy! We had done a complex financial manoeuvre, firstly moving $10,000 NZ from the HSBC to the BNZ and then using it to pay off the VISA debt of hospital bills and the $1100 NZ COPA had charged us for a useless onward ticket out of Panama.

The cloud rolling into the lowlands mid-afternoon

But lo and behold, when we went to pay, COPA had already held to their promise and refunded this hideous charge (less $50 US service fee) so we have covered our debts and have no outstanding financial issues except waiting for the insurance claim to eventually refund the medical expenses.

The Quaker Meeting House and school (sign inset right)

This morning I wandered round the TICA (Costa Rican) town of Santa Elena and after struggling to make sure we were feeding ourselves towards full recovery, we set off in a local bus for Monteverde and the Cloud Forest Reserve, both of which sit a little higher up on the other side of the same valley.

The Cheese Factory

While Santa Elena has a town centre a supermercado and lots of budget accommodation, Monteverde is a strung out mix of expensive hotels, adventure tours, butterfly and frog farms and a couple of founding features, a quaker school and meeting house and an accompanying cheese factory and dairy farms, penetrated by a shingle road fully as rough as the four wheel drive track we came over from la Fortuna.

The terminus at the cloud forest reserve

The Quakers moved here in 1951 after protests against the Korean way led to some of them being arrested in the US and began dairy farming and then took a lead in conservation, eventually leading to the region becoming a tourist Mecca when National Geographic described it as the best place to view the fabled Quetzal.

A touch of the cloud forest

The old school bus eventually stopped at the entrance to the cloud forest park and we just had time to take a few pictures of the forest and the incredible numbers of humming birds drinking at the copious nectar feeders. On the way back, despite the bus lurching like a harpooned whale, I managed to take a few shots of the surrounding landscape.

Two varieties of humming bird at the feeder. The blue is the largest in Costa Rica

We are now settling in to cook a meal and pack for the trip to Nicaragua.

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