Day 4: A long drive and life in the clouds

Today we had a very, very long, windy (and at times, incredibly scary!) drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde. La Fortuna is lower in elevation than Monteverde (I believe that Monteverde is at 9,000 feet), so it's warmer and has much different wildlife and vegetation. Monteverde is in the area of what's called the cloud forest, which is named so because it permanently sits among the clouds. It's not uncommon to be walking in a mist throughout the town of Santa Elena (where our hotel is located), and the temperature is much cooler. We've been in jackets and pants today, where yesterday we were in tank tops and got sunburned. :) Unfortunately the picture quality from today isn't that great because we were in the bus half of the day and many of the pictures came from the bus window. :)

After a 4 hour bus drive, we arrived at the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, where we examined the different types of biodiversity found in the rainforest at 9,000 feet. There were mostly birds and insects, but a lot of different leaves, mosses and lichens that all feed off of eachother. It was a great re-learning of the way the different ecosystems and biomes live and feed off eachother. After we visited the nature reserve, we went to a local conservatory and planted trees as part of a reforestation project. Apparently in this particular areas, the cypress trees are blocking the flow of wildlife and preventing them from migrating from forest to forest, so the reforestation project is an attempt to build a bridge to preserve and protect the migrating wildlife.

We passed through many different villages and towns between La Fortuna and Monteverde, and they all looked very similar: small houses, farms, a few shops, a town square, and a church. Apparently Costa Rica is 85% Catholic, so most towns center around the local Catholic church. The people here take very much pride in their land and lifestyle. There is literally no garbage anywhere, no homeless, and all Ticos compost and recycle. The cows graze in large pastures, and farmers work on their land. While the houses seem small, our guide told us that the people are content with what they have because their life's work and family are the most important things to them. No one thinks about what they don't have or are ashamed by what type of the house they live in. In fact, we learned that most Ticos houses are small and the very large houses found in Costa Rica belong to Americans and Europeans. Costa Rican water is perfectly safe to drink, and their food is all farm fresh and local... I feel like I am back home eating from farmer's markets. :)

Tomorrow we are visiting a local elementary school and bringing them school supplies from home, then we're going ziplining and horseback riding in Monteverde! We actually get to sleep in tomorrow... 7am! :)

                                               Typical houses in Costa Rica

                 Happy cows come from Costa Rica, not California

 An absolutely tiny bridge that we feared for our lives crossing in our enormous bus

 A local Costa Rican school

 Planting our trees

After enjoying ice cream in Santa Elena

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