Day Three: Riding the Zip Lines above the Monteverde/Santa Elena Cloud Forest and taking a Tour of a local, co-op, Coffee Farm.

 

After a rather treacherous journey to the town of Santa Elena at the base of the Monteverde Cloud Forest in our Toyota Yaris sedan, in the dark, on giant pot holed dirt roads... We arrived thankfully at the De Lucia Inn. Thank you to the person who invented the GPS, otherwise we would likely still be wandering aimlessly around the Costa Rican rain forest (especially since very few roads in Costa Rica have names)! And thanks of course, to Chris, our fearless leader!

Our room, in this oddly Swiss chalet style hotel, just happened to be located next door to a room with a gentlemen who snored so loudly we could hear him perfectly clearly through the walls!

For our first morning in Monteverde, Chris and Nina went for a Sky Trek, cloud forest canopy, zip line tour, while Kathy chose to take a guided walk on solid ground.

Chris waits in line for the first zip line, but he's not scared, we're old pros. There was a little 9-year-old girl from Georgia who was terrified. We felt sorry for her, until she finished her first zip line, then suddenly, she was smiling non stop and telling her older brothers what to do!

Breath-taking, exhilarating, and soooooo much fun!!

Chris comes in for a landing...

Nina pauses for a photo while hiking to the next zip line...

Nina gets ready to launch... 3, 2, 1.... With the help of our guide Almin, “you know, like Almond”, he kept telling Nina.

Chris trudges up the path to the next adventure...

Nina sails through the air...

We stopped for a photo with our new Italian friends Layla and Eriko. They are from Torino, “you know, where they had the winter Olympics,” they told everyone.

Chris and Nina pose within this cool grotto.

Our guides, Almin and Anthony, pose with the super cool Italian couple.

Chris and Nina went on 11 zip lines, the longest of which was 2000 feet. We liked the fastest one and the one called, “George of the Jungle,” which went through narrow “tubes” of foliage, the best.

The starting and ending platform tower is in sight.

One last photo before the fun is over....

Kathy saw this black and orange tarantula on her guided hike.

We stopped for sandwiches at a lovely bakery and deli across the road from the Monteverde Coffee Shop, where we later took a tour. We took a stroll down the road to the Monteverde Cheese Factory (started by Quakers) and had some coffee and macadamia nut ice cream.

Here's a shot of the beautiful Costa Rican valley around Monteverde taken during our coffee farm tour.

We drove to the coffee farm in an overgrown van full of tourists from Denmark, Austria and America. At one point, our van couldn't make it up a steep hill due to the weight, so Nina and several other people had to get out and walk! An older Danish woman who was in the very back of the van freaked out and refused to get back inside the van for fear it would roll down the hill or the brakes would go out! Nina became friends with Heidi and Victoria from Austria.

Ahhhhh.... Costa Rica..... just gorgeous!

 

The first stop on the coffee tour was Victor's farm.

Apparently, one can grow absolutely anything in the rich Costa Rican soil and Victor certainly does, even though he is only a small scale, co-op farmer.

In addition to coffee, Victor grows pineapples, mangoes, papayas, sugar cane, oranges, bananas, lemons, limes, yucca and citronella for the mosquitoes.

Here's an up close photo of one of the many kinds of coffee grown at “Finca Victor.”

A mangrove tree....? with some really cool roots!

Victor crawled up this tree and passed out delicious, freshly picked oranges.

Victor stands beneath one of his mango trees.

Some pineapples just beginning to bloom...

Yet another type of coffee beans grown on Victor's farm.

Victor likes to experiment... some of his coffee his organically roasted by the sun and some of his coffee is dried in honey, while some of his coffee is machine roasted. Victor also works part-time at the coffee manufacturing co-op plant.

Victor puts fresh coffee beans into this machine which separates the skins from the seeds.

Water pushes the coffee beans into a trough.

Until recently, Victor was forced to sell his coffee through a “coffee pimp” who randomly set the prices. Now, he sells his coffee via a co-operative, fair trade program.

This coffee is organically roasting in the Costa Rican sunshine. The shells from the coffee beans are composted by worms (imported from California because they're greedier).

At the end of the tour, Victor poured us cups of fresh coffee, brewed in the traditional way (basically through a sock) and served us cookies his wife made. The coffee was insanely strong!

A woman from New York brought along “Flat Stanley” for her niece's elementary school assignment. Neither Victor nor our guide, Rebecca (on the left), had never heard of this American game for teaching kids geography!

Next, we went to the fair trade, co-op, coffee manufacturing and roasting facility.

Already shelled coffee beans waiting for the next step in the sun.

 

This machine separates the different grades of coffee. The higher grade coffee beans float to the top and the lower grade coffee beans sink and are pulled away by water.

Another view of this bizarre coffee bean sorting machine.

The lowest grade coffee, which is unacceptable by the co-op, gets spit out into this pile and the co-op farmers use the coffee for their own consumption.

This is the coffee roasting machine. The heat and smell in the tiny room is unbearable!

A view of the complete coffee processing operation.

On the van ride back to Santa Elena, we saw beautiful double rainbows, which extended all the way to the ground on both sides.

I wonder if Costa Ricans believe in leprechauns and pots of gold or if maybe they have their own rainbow stories and traditions...

That evening and the following morning, we explored the bustling town of Santa Elena and did some shopping of course! Nina bought a great book on local Costa Rican traditions and legends, written in very cryptic, bizarre and un-edited English, which makes it all the more authentic and interesting! Nina and Kathy also had to buy the extremely cheesy but still wonderful traditional Costa Rican souvenir of a wooden frog with a stick in its mouth. When you stroke the frog's bumpy back it makes a wonderful croaking sound.

Nina sits on a butterfly chair outside a wonderful clothing and jewelry store (Flor de Vida), where she finally found an opal ring, which she's always wanted since it's her birthstone. We saw a cleverly named store called “Luna Tica,” which literally means Moon=Luna, Costa Rican Girl=Tica, but when said in English, it's more like “Lunatic.” Catchy....

While staying in Santa Elena, Kathy and Chris gorged themselves on seafood and Nina had incredible sweet potato and plantain soup and yucca crouquettes stuffed with local cheese at Sofia's Nueva Latina Restaurant. “Yo soy vegitariana, solo frijoles y queso para yo!”

That night, we went to the Moon Shiva Bar and Restaurant. We lucked out and got to hear a great band. In actuality, it was two local Ticos (Andres and Bernardo) playing guitar and singing. They sang some wonderful original songs as well as Nina's favorite song by the Buena Vista Social Club, “Chan Chan” and some music by Manu Chao. Unfortunately, they don't have a CD, but Nina later bought a CD of international salsa music. Apparently, Moon Shiva was a famous Spanish flamenco dancer. The bar had a movie poster of James Bond on the men's room and a movie poster of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's on the ladies room. Clever...

Home Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10 Day 11 Day 12 Day 13 Day 14