We awoke Monday to a sunny day and a bright colorful rainbow, after a heavy rain overnight. Rain is unusual – this is the dry season – but very welcome because there was little rain during the wet season. Our main goal for the morning was a tour of a coffee plantation, which Kathy won as part of a fundraising auction at the Friends school. Kathy and Benjamin had the day off school, so she joined us and the DiCarlo family for the tour.
Guillermo, one of several brothers who returned to Monteverde to take over the family farm after pursuing education and other careers, walked us through the plantation and explained its many sustainable organic practices. We learned a bit about how coffee is grown, and a lot about sustainable farming. The family grows its own vegetables and bananas, and keeps chickens, quail, pigs, and goats for eggs, meat, and milk. The coffee husks are composted (by earthworms) to fertilize the fields, and the animal manure is pumped into a biodigester that extracts the methane gas and pumps it to the kitchen for cooking. The kids had a wonderful time exploring the fields, petting the animals, and climbing in a beautiful tree. The tour ended with a lunch prepared by the staff, from their own produce (Mara skipped the main dish when it became understood that it included one of the chickens we had met earlier :-).
After shopping in town for groceries and souvenirs, we headed back to the casita for a little rest and a quick dinner before sunset. It turns out that the Hookes live right next door to Bajo del Tigre, a beautiful section of the Children’s Eternal Rain Forest. Many creatures are active only at night, so night hikes are a popular attraction in Monteverde. As the sun set, we obtained a guide and prepared to follow the trails into the darkness. He gave us stern warnings not to wander off the trail, or to touch the vegetation, and always to allow him to go first, lest you meet one of the local snakes.
Kids love hiking in the dark, of course. The guide had good eyes, and found two sleeping birds – a toucanette and a motmot. Each bright green bird was clinging to a low branch, almost within reach, gripping the branch tightly as it swayed in the persistent Monteverde wind. Astonishingly, the birds were asleep! and did not even notice us. The highlight of the tour, however, was certainly the tarantula shown above. The guide knew of a tarantula nest – a small crevice at the base of a tree – and gently coaxed the tarantula out for us to see. Wow.