23.01.2006 20 °C
An early morning start again. I woke up early, filled up the gas for my Peugeot, returned it with Ofri and bought some bakery for breakfast before hopping onto a van for another boat ride across the Arenal Lake.
I tried to stay awake in the boat but the movement and sound of the waves rocked me to sleep with the scenery in my dream. We landed after 45 min. and took another van up to Monteverde. You can enjoy a nice massage on your behind sitting in the back of a van on these roads. The mountain scenery from the van was absolutely breathtaking with plenty of coffee plantations on the way.
My first impression of Monteverde was very rocky and dusty. But that was about to change. I got my own room at Don Taco for $20 a night. A small price to pay for a good night sleep finally. We went to Morphos for lunch. Another restaurant with murals and metallic sculptures all over the ceiling and wall. (I could get a job as mural painter in this country if I ever decide to move.) Omar translated the sopa special 'sopa del maíz' to 'Soup of mice'. Chris and Gareth ordered a 12-inch sub which looked more like 15-inch when they came. Hmmm... Is this why men in central america have so many baby mamas?
I had an entire afternoon myself to explore with a map of Santa Elena and places of interest nearby. So I started with the Frog Pond, not realizing most frogs are only active at night. Nevertheless, our tour guide was very young but speak very good english. We went thru over 20 different species of toads and frogs, including the Blue Jean, the Green Jean, the Glass frog, the poisonous Black and Green frog and the most beautiful 'Gaudy' frog. It was well worth another visit since my ticket was good for two.
I walked aimlessly up the trail with occasional shops on the side. However, the 4x4s and dust had gotten to me after a while. I found a very trendy vegetatarian cafe, ordered a fria cafe con leche and grapped a spanish newspaper to read. A small room displaying delicate jewelery from local artists next to a bathroom with very modern design. For a brief moment I thought I was in West Village. Next, I headed to the direction of the sign that points to the 'Butterfly Garden'. There are a few garden-styled lodges and nueva fusion restaurants. I'm very impressed. The path to the Butterfly Garden went on and on. Finally I reached a Victorian styled-building but the woman in an ATV bike informed me that the garden just closed. Instead she offered me a ride back to the intersection in her ATV bike. Good compensation. I kept walking up the dirt road with some strange glare from a few locals. After another 30 minute, my instinct told me to turn back or else I'll probably be walking in the dark by myself. I took a photo next to the road and started to walk down.
Just when I was debating if I should catch a taxi, a very old Jeep stopped right next to me. A friendly middle-aged man offered me a ride back to Santa Elena. I hopped in. There were a few water containers in the back and pineapples in front of my seat. He asked me if I am a Japon or Chino and I asked him how old the Jeep was. The manual stick was almost a metre long! If my espanol was better, I would have asked him to let me drive. He dropped me off safely in the town centre.
Another hour to kill. Best thing to do instead of walking back up the hill to our lodge - go online. I found an internet cafe in no time. By 6:15, I was outside the serpentarium waiting for the rest of the group to show up. The sun was setting behind the low wall and scrubs across the road. It reminded me of the sunset moment the night before and wondered if I would ever have a chance to spend sunset this way again.
The serpentarium had an eerie feeling. Once the rest of the group arrived, our guide took us into a room full of reptiles, explained to us the difference between vipers and snakes and how to tell if they are poisonous from their colors. Very interesting info just in case we encounter them in the cloud forest tomorrow. In the next 45 min., we saw rattle snakes, pythons, lizards, even turtles and more frogs. It was definitely worth the visit.
We came out of the serpentarium into the breezy weather of the mountains and decided to go to the Treehouse restaurant for dinner - a restaurant built around a huge trunk with two stories. Right after we ordered, a saxophonist started playing. Since I had not listened to any jazz for two months, this average performance was enough to distract me from the conversations at the table. As if trying to make his fans stay longer for the next set, he took breaks after every other song. A little annoying after a while.
Time to pay - the cost of dinner was a little pricy given that we are all backpackers traveling in the developing countries. A shrimp bisque, a stuffed avocado appetizer and iced lemongrass tea costed me almost $15. The jazz made up for it. I was in a sentimental mood after dinner and decided to do some postcard-writing in my balcony.