After visiting Arenal volcano, our holiday continued in high-gear as we headed to Monteverde. For those unfamiliar with Costa Rica, Monteverde is perhaps best known for its “cloud forest” (complete with zip lines) and its coffee plantations. It is an actual “cloud forest” that sits more than 4,600 feet above sea level. If you’ve never heard of one, that’s probably because cloud forests are rare indeed; covering roughly one-percent of the globe. As such, don’t visit Costa Rica and miss this unique and magical experience. The high altitude creates an almost constant supply of clouds and moisture.
It also feels cold, for one because you’re ascending from significantly warmer parts of Costa Rica. But also because—as anyone who’s familiar with San Francisco could tell you—combined damp and cool bites deeper than cold. For this part of your trip, I recommend layers. I spent my two days wrapped in a long sleeve fleece and north face jacket to fight bone chills.
Sky Walk – Suspension Bridges
Monteverde’s most popular attraction is its hanging/suspension bridges. There are six bridges covering a mile and half of trails above the forest floor. You can take the tour with a local guide, or as in our case, use your own guide. Climbing them is not strenuous but, be forewarned it’s not for anyone who has a difficulty with heights. Some of these suspension bridges are up, well, in the clouds.
The highest bridge is almost a thousand feet up in the air. Add to this the fact that any well-made bridge is designed to move and give. But even for people comfortable with heights, the swaying is most unnerving if one’s not used to it. Once you get the courage to step three feet out, that point where you can’t jump back on to land, the bridge moves and requires a more conscious control of balance and shifting weight. It’s gentle, but my mind clearly communicated to my body with a shot of adrenaline that this was not normal.
Once mastering how to cross the bridges, I quickly learned suspension bridges are also very sensitive to other people, and how they move. The moment I got used to the swaying motion, someone else stepped out, disrupting my balance, timing and method of gently walking across the bridge. It felt like a combination of someone interrupting a private conversation, with an element of someone almost shoving you into oncoming traffic. The feeling really did a number on me, but without knowing it I would later realize that this was excellent preparation for hiking in Nepal. These are baby bridges compared to what they’ve got going on in the Everest Region.
Also known as “canopy tours,” these are another popular attraction in Monteverde. The Yooner and I had agreed to do this together, talked about it throughout our travels, and signed-up to go at the same time. What happens next varies, depending upon whose version you believe. If you ask me, what started as a bad headache for me morphed into an epic migraine after wandering across the suspension bridges—I submit it was worsened by the surge of adrenaline. After throwing up in the bathroom, I decided to forego tandem zipping, leaving her to zip solo. Or, as she argues “with some strangers legs wrapped around her hips.”
I knew she was disappointed but like any good travel partner (and friend), outwardly she kept a stiff upper lip and took it like a champ. Interestingly, it wasn’t until the summer of 2014 when she confessed how deeply annoyed she was (and remains so to this day). I think of it as a good way to “make up” for running scared from a few butterflies. (Yes, you should be reading that with sarcasm.)
I’m sure there is a life lesson here but how do you make amends for an unplanned migraine? Or more to the point, the life lesson is someone else’s blog fodder. Despite –or maybe in spite of– our different memories of zip lining we remain close friends. Thank goodness because Costa Rica would have been boring without the Yooner along for the rest of the trip.