On our 4th day in Costa Rica we set out early (really, it was around 5:00 AM) to make the 4 hour drive up to the town of Monteverde to spend a couple of days in the rain and cloud forests there. Our kids were so tired and I expected them both to sleep for a good portion of the drive. George met those expectations. His sister, however, decided she'd rather read science books and enjoy the views the entire time. She finally fell asleep for about the last hour of the ride. Just in time to ruin her afternoon nap :).
But with the incredible sights to see I guess I can't really blame her for not wanting to miss it. We couldn't get over how beautiful it all was. We drove on a highway for a little bit at first, but then the rest was little winding roads up mountainsides through rainforest. The roads started out paved (but still very narrow) like this (that is my parents' rental car in front of us):
After about an hour on that road we graduated to a dirt road with many, MANY potholes. It was an adventure. We had been warned not to attempt this route without a 4-wheel drive vehicle, and we were glad we had heeded the warnings and gone with bigger SUVs.
This was such a lovely way to see more of this remarkably beautiful country, and the 4 hours went by quickly because the drive was so pleasant (and bumpy-- it was like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland :)). I kept snapping photos out of the window as we drove because I wanted to remember those sights. Here are a few:
See all those lovely houses down there in that little valley? Can you even imagine living somewhere like that? So beautiful.
The rows of plants off in the distance we decided were coffee plants, I believe.
Here's a closer look at those pretty rows of coffee.
We drove through a few really lovely, tiny towns like this one. It was fun to see the schoolchildren out playing soccer during their recess.
I have a strange affinity for laundry that is hung out to dry and we passed dozens of lines like this one. I look at this and wonder about the people who wear those clothes-- what their lives are like, what they do for work, if they have children. John and I kept commenting about what it would be like to relocate to a home like the ones we drove past. I am certain we'd be in for some culture shock, and I'm certain we'd miss many of the conveniences that we're used to (like dryers), but in so many ways it is a lifestyle to be envious of. Hard work, hard play, not a lot of distractions. I understand that I am totally generalizing (and perhaps romanticizing) here, but the point is just that I found a lot of beauty in the simplicity of the homes and the lack of excess, and actually felt some yearning to find a way for my children to experience their youth in a place that allows for those things (hard work, hard play, few distractions). It seems so hard to come by where we are at right now.
After we arrived in Monteverde and checked into our little hotel, we headed out for some adventures in the rain/cloud forests. We started off with some ziplining (since George and Pearl were too little for this John stayed with them and didn't come on this part).
Here is my mom getting ready to take off while my little sisters watch from the stairs.
Ben looks slightly miserable, but I'm pretty sure that's just because it would be far too much work to actually look like he was enjoying something for a camera, and not because it wasn't actually fun.
See? Here we all are happily smiling for the camera as we walked through the rainforest to the next set of ziplines and there is Ben back there looking like a serial killer. He's not. Pretty sure. (I'm making this sound like he is always angry which is pretty much the opposite of the truth. He is always laughing and teasing. He just refuses to be a normal person in a picture.)
Another walk to the next set of zips.
The one and only picture of me ziplining from the day.
There were a couple of ziplines that were super long and you could choose to ride with someone. This was so great because you were zipping along forever and you could have someone up there to enjoy it with. Here are my dad and Rachel coming down.
Here are Adam and Madeline. We were chuckling as they came zipping in about Mady's long giraffe (draf) legs hanging straight down for miles. It's just because we're all jealous, Mad.
You weren't supposed to take photos while actually ziplining, but this one was so long and I was with Hannah (I always feel more rebellious when someone is around to witness it), so I snapped this shot. You can really get a feel for what it was like to float along above the canopy of trees in the rainforest. It was so much fun.
After ziplining (which spellcheck keeps telling me isn't a word), we went back to rescue John from our rowdy and tired children. Pearl pretty much fell asleep instantly when I put her in the baby carrier and nursed her. See her little legs dangling down there? We donned our rain gear and got ready to go walk along the bridges through the rain/cloud forest.
One of the many bridges we walked across. It was pretty dreamy.
I love this picture. My dad was pointing out in the distance to where you could see one of the ziplines that we had just been on way above the trees, and I just think the clouds above us and the rainforest below us look so beautiful.
George thought this was pretty exciting. He was a trooper, too. When we set out on this little adventure we had NO idea how long it was going to take. Let's just say that by about the 10th bridge (with good hiking distance between them) we were all ready to call it a day :).
Our little family. Pearl is in there asleep under my poncho.
We walked for so long that eventually Pearl woke up...
...and George really needed to go potty. Pretty sure this will be the coolest place he's ever peed for his entire life. This picture makes me laugh so hard. I added a modesty patch to keep things PG-13. That's a pretty impressive little stream, if I do say so myself :).
That night we stayed at a very quaint hotel in the rainforest that was first built by Quaker families who had settled in Costa Rica to avoid persecution. We had cozy rooms with windows that looked out into the rainforest for miles. There weren't any portable cribs to rent from the front desk like at most hotels, so we got a little creative in making Pearl somewhere to sleep. Happily our hotel room had three big beds in it (it was almost like a cabin or something), so we had plenty of space to get her all set up. We re-arranged some of the furniture, pushed the bed against the wall, and added our suitcases around as a border to keep her from falling, and voila, who needs a crib? See her slumbering over there in the corner?
The next morning we set out for a bit more of an adrenaline rush. My mom wasn't interested in huge freefalls, so she stayed at the hotel with my kids while the rest of us went to a different place for some higher adventure ziplining and freefalling. I decided not to bring my camera along this time, so these pictures were from Hannah's (much smaller and therefore more zipline-friendly) camera. There was one zipline that you could clip in so that you flew down like Superman. It was super fun and only a little bit alarming to come flying down headfirst at lightning speed towards trees and trust that they would stop you before you crashed into the large tree at the end. From top left to right, the pictures are of me, Mady, Dad, Adam, Ben, and Hannah. John did this too, but he went first with the camera to take these pictures. And Rachel was too small to fly like Superman so she just zipped down normally.
After doing about a thousand speedy ziplines, the finale was a gigantic Tarzan swing that boasted a 150 ft. free fall. It was seriously intense. So much fun. Here is my dad walking the plank. You got to the end of that platform, some guys quickly hooked you up to a couple of ropes, and then they push you off. It was crazy.
Here are the rest of us swinging back down to earth after we had jumped. (John did this too, but for some reason he ended up going at the beginning to take photos again. Why didn't that occur to me at the time?)
We loved the two days we spend in Monteverde. It was such a perfect way to break up our days at the beach and do something different. John was loving all of the insects of course, and only wished he had some vials and alcohol to bring them home in :). Here are a few pictures he took of the bugs. (There are dozens more, but I figured most people who read my blog aren't here to see pictures of insects.)
I hate spiders, but these were kinda cool guys. Like a Daddy Longlegs on steroids.
We headed home (i.e.: back to our hotel on the beach) in a ferocious downpour which caused caused some of us a little concern about the safety of the dirt roads we'd be driving down, but we were fine.
And this time the kids slept almost the whole way :).
Back to the beach next!