Monte Alto Reserve

Wow, sometimes it is so easy to get sidetracked by the vagaries of life. I had meant to get in a few more posts of Chris and Ama’s Costa Rican adventure but we got slowed down with insurance incidentals since I just turned sixty-five and had to transition over to Medicare and we had to figure all of this stuff out. But by the last minute of the last day of our last month of employee coverage, we managed to get us both some kind of coverage. The Cadillac healthcare we’ve enjoyed for so long just left the driveway.

Anyway enough of my banal ravings, let’s get back to some sightseeing we did last week. Chris is a big orchid guy. He has worked in green houses cultivating them and has travelled through the tropics in search of finer specimens. I had done some research and found a national park further down the Nicoya peninsula that had a hike through a section of forest populated with a broad collection of dry forest orchids. The Monte Alto Reserve was about an hour and a half south of Negra, so we headed out early one sunny morning.

Just a few kilometers past the orange growing mecca of Hojancha, we bumped our way down a rutted track that led us to the ranger shack at Monte Alto. Miguel was manning the office and collected a few colones from each of us to enter the reserve. We started asking about orchids and it turns out that he has written a book on the orchid species of Costa Rica. Chris’ excitement about the tropical flora was infectious and Miguel agreed to guide us for a ways through the orchid loop trail at the reserve. He said he had ten minutes to spare but ended up hiking with us for well over a half an hour. Chris was in his element geeking out over the array of orchids and between he and Miguel we soon knew all we needed to about the fascinating plants.

After we re-emerged at the trailhead, we decided on a longer hike up to the mirador or overlook up the side of the mountain. We grabbed our water and started busting a sweat as the trail began to gain in altitude and wind its way uphill. We spotted some cool birds and a pair of pisotes that quickly climbed down from their tree and ran off up into the jungle. The path hugged the hillside sometimes becoming a narrow ledge before dropping into small valleys with rickety wooden bridges.

About halfway in, things got steep and the loose dirt was slippery underfoot. Luckily there was a little relief from the canopy of trees overhead but it was slow going in patches. PJ powered ahead and we all did our best to trail along behind. The last stretch before popping out of the jungle onto the dirt road up to the lookout platform was brutal. We lost the others somewhere along the way.

After waiting a while at the fork up to the mirador, PJ and I carried on. It was great to take a breather and catch a bit of breeze up at the hilltop. We could see miles in all directions, the orange groves of Hojancha on one side and in the distance to the west, the Pacific Ocean. We rested a few minutes then began the hike back down.

Playa Samara off in the Distance

I got a brainstorm and convinced PJ we could have an easier way walking back down on the graded road instead of tripping through the roots and stumps of the trail we had just ascended. Although skeptical, she reluctantly agreed. We trudged along the road, reaching over a fence to pilfer a few oranges as we walked along the dusty track. It turned out she was right to be skeptical. We ended up lost and emerged on the far side of Hojancha. We were feeling pretty beat by now and we’re worried about Chris and Ama waiting back at the park office.

Tuto. Looking to sell me some orange groves

We asked some locals in a farm truck how to get back. Long way, they said. One Tico told us to check out his brother Tuto at a nearby house. He has a “taxi” and might take us. Turns out Tuto has a thoroughly beaten up old diesel Nissan pick up, but he’s willing to drive us over if we can wait until he finishes his lunch. We grab a seat on a bench out on his porch and tear into a couple of oranges he had left with us to get as much juice as we can out of them to slake our thirst. Not much later, he came out and slowly bounced down all the secret short cuts to get us back to Monte Alto. We were glad we waited for him instead of continuing the walk because it turned out to be much farther then we thought.

We reconnected with Chris and Ama and fired up the Santa Fe for the ride home. A quick stop in Hojancha to load up on liquids then an easy commute through Nicoya and Santa Cruz back to the beach. Everyone was up for some lounge time except Oso who demanded a walk, so off we went down to Playa Lagartillo. A hawk was waiting for us on the dead tree in the bay just off the beach entry at Rancho. Another beautiful blue sky day.

Bye, for now