Leave the cheese behind

What a disappointment that the cheese factory and cheese shop turned out to be a bust. We really thought we were going to get some awesome washed-rind lovelies, perhaps some nutty, buttery sheep’s cheese, or a tangy blue. But no, just the usual faux Gouda and a few other mild cheeses we see everywhere, and at the same insanely high prices. We’re saving our cheese palates for our trip to Pittsburgh and will camp out at the cheese counter in Penn Mac, maybe work our way through the Pyrenees section, or the aged goat cheeses. For you stateside readers, they ship.

So now what? The mountainside village of Monteverde is the gateway to hundreds of adventure activities, rafting, zip lines, hanging bridges, hikes, all centered around the various cloud forest preserves. The main one is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, so we drove a little further on the bumpy road and parked at the entrance. Then we hemmed and hawed about whether we wanted to go in. All of the Costa Rica parks have hefty entrance fees, and a guided tour triples the cost. We learned from experience that without a guide it’s just an expensive lovely walk in the woods because we’re not so good at spotting the wildlife on our own. What we really wanted to do was a zipline or hanging bridge walk, and we chose to spend our limited touring dollars there.

With a plan in place we got back in the car but not before checking out the Hummingbird Cafe, where our guidebook said we could observe dozens of the little guys up close and personal.

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After a while we gave up trying to photograph them because they circled and buzzed so fast, swarming around the ten or twelve feeders lined up along the cafe. We were amazed at the variety of size and color and just sat enjoying the show.

As we drove back toward town we couldn’t pass up Stella’s bakery, and even though we’d had breakfast not too long ago, a couple of cinnamon buns called Jack’s name and we enjoyed our second coffee shop in as many days. It’s funny, here we are in an exotic place people spend big bucks and precious vacation time to travel to, and we pass up the cloud forest to sit in a cafe with frou-frou coffee drinks and pastry. Cafe culture is the part of our former life we miss the most and we indulge whenever we can.

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More bumpy roads brought us to Sky Adventure where we opted out of the zipline — way too high above the forest so we wouldn’t really see anything — and plunked down $23 each for the Sky Walk. This involves a hike up the mountain then a trail over five hanging bridges of increasing height and length, level with the canopy. Again we were offered a tour guide option but we declined and took off on our own.

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It turned out to be an expensive lovely walk above the woods but with the added fear of plummeting 150 feet into the dense forest below and no small amount of palm sweat.

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On our way out we saw these smaller versions of the ubiquitous Costa Rican mystery spheres.

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We had a long way to go before nightfall so we drove the switchbacked road out of the mountains toward Arenal Lake.

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Finally we saw our destination looming ahead, the majestic and perfect Arenal Volcano. Sadly, it stopped erupting just before we got to Costa Rica but we’re excited to see it anyway.

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Our lodging for the night was a darling little cabin at Rancho Cerro Azul, a beautiful capper to a magnificent drive.

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2 Comments

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2 Responses to Leave the cheese behind

  1. Carol Gegner

    I live in Wisconsin which is cheese curds, etc haven. If you’re interested would be glad to send you shipment of your favorites. Have no idea of shipping costs which I’m sure you do.

  2. Back in the early 1980s Costa Rica was considered to have the best national park system in the world. This was in terms of coverage and management. I am not sure where it might be now. Where I live, New South Wales (Australia) was considered to be number two (I worked for the NPWS till a few months ago). Now NSW would not even get in the top 20 I reckon. I hope your mast and rigging arrives soon, missing your water based posts.

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