Guayabo, Irazú, and Monteverde

Costa Rica is very light on archaeological wonders; Jago Cooper need not detain himself for long here. So we did really have to go and see the main / only attraction of its type….  Guayabo National Monument, on the slopes of one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanoes (Volcán Turrialba) has evidence of settlement as far back as 1000BC (from bits of pottery), though the structures you can see probably only date back to 1000AD or thereabouts.

The area that’s been cleared (the site is apparently much more extensive but covered in forest) consists of round stone bases on which it is supposed cone-shaped wooden structures would have sat, an aqueduct and water tanks, a graveyard, a section of paved road, and two rectangular stone bases which would have been to do with guarding entry to the site….

Also a big carved stone with a reptile on one side (the information board switched between it being an alligator and a lizard…) and a jaguar (apparently) on the other…

There was no information at all about the culture who lived here; nothing seems to be known. It’s assumed that the buildings were conical as that’s the (more recent) traditional style in the area, and it’s assumed that the site was abandoned before the Spaniards arrived in the sixteenth century as there is no record of any encounters.

Our final volcano visit for this trip was to nearby Volcán Irazú, Costa Rica’s highest volcano. There was some swizzery afoot here…. Here’s the picture in our guide book:

Spot the difference:

Wot no green lake? It seems that the lake started to dry up in 2005 and disappeared completely in 2010…… Oh well, at least we got a good view of the crater before the clouds rolled in….

Then it was off to Monteverde for a couple of days. All of the guided tours to Costa Rica seem to go to Monteverde, so we couldn’t very well ignore it…. This required us to pass San José and Alajuela, which created the opportunity to stop off at the Walmart next to the car hire place that supplied Ronnie and Reggie. We’ve only seen two Walmarts in Costa Rica, so Mark enjoyed wandering the aisles and reminiscing about K.A.C. and our American travels.

During our time in Monteverde, we had a good look round the Monteverde cloudforest reserve and also did another night walk.

The weather in the cloudforest reserve was cool, damp, and windy. At one viewpoint over (we think) a valley below and the nearby continental divide, Mark commented that it was like being at the top of Snowdon.

We saw a squirrel, three different centipedes, and lots of birds including an emerald toucanet, some black-breasted wood quail,  and…. drum roll please…. a despondent pretzel (resplendent quetzal for those not fluent in Mark-speak).

We didn’t take many photos on the night walk as it was.. well… dark. This night walk was much better than the one in Tortuguero. We had two hours trudging through the forest and saw a tiny scorpion, fireflies, lots of spiders, bats ( both flying around at dusk and later, a family of young bats in a tree), crickets, sleeping birds (including a couple of emerald toucanets and a little bird from Canada / Northern USA down in Costa Rica for his winter hols), and some little frogs that were perfectly camouflaged against the ground (but unfortunately no colourful poison dart frogs). On the way back we all had to turn our torches off and walk in the dark for 5 minutes until we reached a clearing and got an amazing view of the stars.

Just next to the entrance to the cloudforest reserve is a gift shop / café that has put up a lot of hummingbird feeders outside. When we arrived there on the morning of our second day, we had the place to ourselves. By the time we left it was absolutely heaving, with many of the guides clearly taking all their clients in there at the end of the early morning guided walks. Well, it’s an easy way to add some highlights to the tour, whatever you may or may not have managed to see in the cloudforest reserve…

We’re now getting to the end of our Costa Rican travels. Tomorrow we travel back to Alajuela and have one night there before dropping Reggie off at the car hire place first thing on Saturday morning. Then we have two nights in San José before we fly home late Monday afternoon….