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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day 302 Thursday February 20, 2014

Since leaving Isle de Ometepe the Adventure has entered Costa Rica. The first night in Costa Rica was spent in the Pacific beach town of Puntarenas. I had a room about a block from the beach. Puntarenas has an almost carnival is very commercialized. It has many restaurants, bars, and much LOUD music. The next morning I headed for higher 4,000 ft. above sea level.

It was about three hour ride to Santa Elena in the central part of the country. Keep in mind that Costa Rica is about the size of South Carolina in the USA. I came here to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve which was established by Quakers that founded the town of Monteverde in 1951.

What is now considered Monteverde was founded by Quakers from the United States whose pacifist values led them to defy the American draft during the Korean War. The majority of the group hailed from Fairhope, Alabama, and it included people who were not Quakers but pacifists and conscientious objectors. The spokesman of the group was Hubert Mendenhall, a dairyman who had visited Costa Rica in 1949 after joining a farmer's tour. These Quakers and pacifists chose Monteverde for its cool climate, which would facilitate dairy farming, and due to Costa Rica's non-violent, army-free constitution. Mendenhall noted that the soil was fertile and the people were friendly as well. The Quakers stewarded and farmed a large tract of land, which they eventually set aside for conservation. This reserve, which was named the Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde (Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve), has become a major tourist attraction.

In 1953 the group started a cheese factory that I toured yesterday. Some of my Fairhope friends may recognize some of the founders of the cheese factory. I believe all of the founders were from Fairhope.

This morning I went to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The tour was guided by a local man named Juan Carlos. There were five in our group, two Americans, two Germans and one Canadian. The tour was for two and one half hours. Juan Carlos was very informative and I believe everyone enjoyed the tour very much. The reserve allows only 150 people into it each day. The majority come to see rare beautiful birds.

 There are many varieties of hummingbirds including the ruby throated hummingbird that is common in the southern US.

This is the best picture I was able to get of a Quetzal...many of the people here today came just to see one of them.

On the left is Juan Carlos explaining another of the bird species that we had just seen.

This tree is one of the most interesting things I saw this morning. The original tree is no longer is long since gone. The center where the original tree was is hollow. Birds, perched in the original tree, dropped seeds of what was explained as the "stranglers"....I assume it is a type of vine. Over time the stranglers kill the original tree. We saw several examples of this at different stages.

The trees here are all soft balsa wood. The trees have no rings in them to mark the seasons....because there are no real seasons here.

Another example of stranglers taking over a tree.

Tourism is a growing sector in Monteverde's economy. Having grown from less than a hundred yearly visitors in 1975 to around 50,000 in the mid-1990s to 250,000 in recent years, much of the economy is becoming increasingly dependent on tourism. An increase in hotels, taxis, guides, and other tourist-geared services have appeared since the early 1990s. Two bilingual schools have been founded to provide the English essential for catering to Monteverde's many visitors.

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