Costa Rica, part 1: Mountains.

imageFirst order of business: meet up with these guys. Michael and Mario came down to visit and vacation before school starts up again. Thanks for the new coffee mug and other supplies!

imageWe met up at Monteverde, one of Costa Rica’s premier cloud forests. Note: cloud forest implies the place is in the clouds. High up. On top of the mountains. This is all true. It’s an important thing to keep in mind when you tell the non-cyclists to choose a place to meet. Good Andes training though.

imageCloud forest, home to ever present moisture and fog, creating an extremely fertile habitat for all kinds of species. A welcome break from the heat.

image Spotted in the forest: the Quetzal bird of Central American lore. These birds are talked about everywhere (Guatemala’s names its currency after them), but Costa Rica is one of their few homes. Above is the male…

image And the female.

image Also these guys. The tentacles are a parasitic fungus that killed the beetle and are now using the nutrients from the body to grow. Life is crazy.

image Hanging out in the nest.

image These ain’t your stunted little Alaskan trees from the far north anymore.

image Outside the forest itself, back to blue skies.

image And then time to move on. Our next destination was Lake Arenal, less than a day’s ride away. Eager to ride out of the mountains, Michael and Mario took some of my gear with them by bus, and I met them later that day.

image Formed by the Arenal volcano, the trip from Monteverde to Arenal requires a bus to the edge of the lake, a boat ride across it, then another bus to La Fortuna or one of the other towns at the base of the volcano. By bike, there’s a great dirt road ringing the lake.

image Rideable, with a few streams to ford. These are very effective at keeping down traffic.

image Together again, we trekked to the La Fortuna waterfall.

image Whose small collecting pool provided quite the workout to swim in.

image Afterwards, we set out on the hike up to Cerro Chato, a crater lake in there inactive volcano next to Arenal. Inactive volcano, good for hiking. Active, less so.

image Though billed as only a 7km hike, it’s a brutal test of your legs and knees as you heave yourself up rough hewn steps, slowly clambering up the side of the volcano. For hours.

image Peaking with a view of Arenal.

image And then a 100m climb/slide down to the lake, by which point you’re probably just as soaked with sweat as if you had already gone swimming.

image Green is a pretty reoccuring theme here.

image The next day a good day for body recovery and some bike maintenance. Time for an oil change.

image Oil, clean on the left, dirty on right.

image And finally saying goodbye to an old cycling cap. Anne and Kamil brought down this guy’s replacement back in Guatemala, and I’ve been carrying this one just as a spare since. Its sees its final use as an oil and chain cleaning rag.

Next up, to the beach!