Santa Elena, aside the touristic center

Santa Elena has its parts without tourism. You can be lucky and have few clouds, under those conditions you can witness the sunset over the pacific from some elevated parts…

It’s early afternoon and I just had a power nap. Was necessary after those seven hours of hiking. Beeing back to Innsbruck’s alps will be challenging, I can feel that. I am happy, dreamed of the light of the rainforest, its smell and sounds.

I start hiking up the street, on which we left Santa Elena in the morning. I ask some guys and they tell me, you might have a great overview over the country close to the hospital.

The city part where mostly locals live is a little bit uphill. I pass a school and make a left at the soccer field to get to the clinic and directly beside that you find the local firefighters. The station looks cool, the guys have their own gym directly besides the big firefighter truck.

The view up into the mountains is stunning and from a spot you have the perfect overview over the touristic part of town. The grave-yard is special with all those tiled boxes and in general everything is colorful.

I want to see the sunset, but the incoming clouds steal my show. From the upper part of the city you have a tremendous view over the whole valley. It’s a great atmosphere with those clouds as well and I appreciate it, although I miss on the sunset over the Pacific…

Mysterious mountain cloud rainforest

Hiking the unique and mysterious mountain cloud rainforest of Costa Rica’s Monteverde is stunning. It’s a peaceful and calm forest and hiking there is a beautiful experience. I recommend to start alone and ennjoy the plants and animals you will see there, without the necessity to talk, it’s worth it!

I have booked the early shuttle to the cloud forest reserve. Getting up early in Latin America is easy, compared to our western world. I have not figured out why but I wake up every morning around sunrise with no problems. It’s 5:50 am and my shuttle to the Santa Elena reserve will pick me up at 6:30 am. I plan to spend lots of time wandering the rainforest and have no other plans for the day. Sven, Jochen, Maxim and his girlfriend are on the shuttle as well and we arrive there at 7:00 am, at the gates of the Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena.

It is quite cold compared to all the other places I visited so far, maybe 22°C and I have to wear my jacket – it rains from time to time and the clouds crawl through the trees. The guys take the tour but I decide to go for myself since I want to enjoy the calm of the forest. I receive my map at the gate and start immediately and directly into the long tour and I am alone for the next four hours, without meeting a single person, which is great and somehow meditative.

I discover the observation deck of the reserve and climb up there. It’s quite high and the wind goes strong. Sitting there, listening to the surrounding is great. I enjoy some left over souvenir I still carry from San José and the mood of the rainforest which surrounds me even more… The clouds open up and close again, allowing deep insights into the forest every couple of minutes. It’s a unique and mysterious mood over the treetops and I hear lots of different voices of different animals, mostly from birds.

From time to time humming birds come along the way. They are cool, fly in front of you, standing in the air for some seconds, watching you and depart back into the forest. There are plenty of blossoms everywhere and different types of insects feed from them, as well as the humming birds. After a good hour I continue to hike. I just let the pictures talk for what I see…

And then there are some animals I can observe and actually take photos of. It’s not so easy after all since it is quite dark under the trees and clouds and most of the birds are fast – especially the cute humming birds. I see a big bird spider, several centipedes, butterflies and the highlight is a nest with fledglings, which I discover while I observe an adult bird, which doesn’t fly away when I approach it…

After seven hours of hiking I decide to take the shuttle back to the village. It was long enough but very relaxed and a mysterious but most beautiful experience. I am happy and plan to discover the village later. I hope to get a view down into the lower land and to the ocean…

Costa Rica Pura Vida! Ziplining in Santa Elena

Monteverde and Santa Elena in the highlands of Costa Rica offer diverse activity. I came there to go hiking in the rainforest and for the Canopy Extreme ziplining, which is one of the best you can probably find on planet earth. It was an outstanding experience with lots of adrenaline and stunning views over the countryside of this most beautiful country.

After the tour I regret to not have taken my camera… but more about this tour: It’s zip lining and you go on some of the tracks 100+m high over the ground and quite fast. Sometimes together with another person, on some lines up to one Kilometer in distance. Pure adrenaline awaits you on the Tarzan swing where you have free fall first and then swing up into the trees. The last activity is superman. You go head forward from the highest point with a tremendous view over Costa Rica. You see the volcanos, the mountains, the Pacific and the sun going through the clouds and painting the country in tones from white, grey, over Amber to gold.

Breathtaking to go towards that view with about 70 kph and head forward. One of the most intense experience I made for some time…

This is the view you will experience head forward while doing SUPERMAN!

And we have a colorful and most beautiful visitor, when we return from the tour, a red ara who seems to be free but quite tame.

What could be better than seeing one of those creatures as a finish of a perfect day. The evening is calm. I am still exhausted from the long ride the day before and while I relax in the hammock in front of the hostel, I get to know two Francocanadians, Maxim and his girlfriend. They travel since one year and made all their way down from California through Baja California of Mexico down to Costa Rica.

They invite me for dinner, it’s a very nice evening and we enjoy some tasty Fleur de Cana, the seven year old rum, dark and mild, from Nicaragua. Tired I go to sleep, the next day will start early again…

Panama to Costa Rica

The way from Panama City to San Jose takes us a full night and passing the boarder with the Expresso bus is no joy. It takes long, nearly 3h, until we have done everything. I observe the locals, they get out of the bus at the border and make it on their feet. As I realize later, it’s way faster. I decide to stay in San Jose at night and continue to Monteverde the next day… A good decision since catching a bus would have been difficult, the border took us too long.

Stefan joins me to Costa Rica, we want to go to Monteverde – we get a cab and go to the bus station of Panama City (ciudád de Panama). There is a huge shopping mall and we stroll around. The ticket is 40$ for the over night bus to San José from there we have to catch the bus to Monteverde, but the time is very limited to actually do that – we better get over the border in short time.

Panama City and the Casco Viejo, view into the favelas.
The main terminal of Panama City, Alemendro. You find a huge shopping mall there as well.

We attend the fish market a last time for a last Ceviche (for me, Stefan will be back) and another great plate with fish, patatas frijas (a special kind of fried banana) and great salad, spiced with estragon and salsa picante.

Camarones con patanos frijas , yummy!
Ceviche con camarones

Panama really has it all. We continue to the Panama channel but the museum is already closed that sucks so we find another cab driver who brings us to one of the watergates.

Back to the hostel I start boozing and we meet yet another German, Basti from Munich – I start to wonder wether there are just Bavarians? We find out that there will be no chance to catch the connecting bus to Monteverde anymore… Stefan seems a little pissed about that, but agrees that it is a good oportunity to wash cloth and relax for one day. Around 10 pm we are back at the bus terminal. We meet 2 girls from San Blas who go to San José as well. The ride seems to take forever and it’s freezing cold. I barely can sleep, at least there are not too many people so you can stretch out a little bit. In the morning we have to wait 3 hours at the border. We meet Dani, a cute latina from Costa Rica, who we met initially on our first day on San Blas. This time the friend of her is not with her, she tells Stefan, that he is Costa Rican as well but works in Panama City. She goes to San José as we do, that’s where she lives. I am happy to see her, and she gives me her number and I have to promise that I contact her. She is very cute… It’s hard to do conversation, she doesn’t speak any English, I don’t speak any Spanish, but somehow we understand each other, say goodbye and promise to stay in touch via WhatsApp.

Costa Rica from the bus Windows looks less polluted than Panama. And there seems to be much more forest. I think of those last days in paradise, of my salsa night in Santa Catalina, of the cloud rainforest which is up to come, of the underwater world, and I finally fall asleep. After another stop I talk to a nice girl, Kelly, from Florida. She lives here since eight month, mainly in Panama but visits some friends in Costa Rica. She recommends me to stay at Jáco at the beach and continue to Monteverde the next day. Later I decide to go to San José for one night with Stefan and Dennis, to get the cloth washed and relax one night. We met Dennis on the bus and he is from Munich… – hmmm. He invites us to come with him to his hostel, the Love Hostel 2, which is a bit outside in San Antonio of San José, in a safe area. So we follow him there and it’s a really nice hostel, hidden quite well and the owner is a hobby DJ with talent, as we find out during the evening.

The atmosphere there is great and I chill with some other guys from Germany since one of them has his birthday. It’s time to say good bye to Stefan, was fun traveling with you lad! Totally destroyed I fall into bed and hope that my laundry will be done the next day and that I make it to the bus to Monteverde on time. Still wasted I get up, 5:30h – wahhh – like all the last days. We just start at 5:48h by car to the station… I’m a bit in worry I won’t catch my bus which leaves at 6 am. Manuel speeds through the city with probably 80 kph and at 5:59h we are there and the bus is already going to leave but for my luck a cab blocks the way and I catch it last second. It makes its way into the highlands of Costa Rica, it’s beautiful!

Around lunchtime I’m there, get a comfortable room in the hostel El Tucan and book the Canopy Extreme Tour for the afternoon. I meet two Canadians, Kylie and Simon who travel together. There are two German guys as well who look really tired and obviously suffer from their jetlag. Sven and Jochen, and they join for the ziplining tour in the afternoon.