Well to say we were covered in mud after Day 8 is an understatement. So after breakfast, we decided to go on a search for the elusive Quetzal up through the rainforest. Our search was unproductive, but we had quite the day anyways. We went all the way up through a rainforest up a mountain to the cloud forest on top of it. Because its a high elevation rainforest turned cloud forest, it is much colder and rainier than the areas we have been previously so the ground was very wet. Also, apparently the trail builders around here aren’t big on switchbacks so the hike up this VERY STEEP mountain was straight up. Basically we were slipping and sliding all over both up and down.
My pants and shoes were coated in thick thick layers of mud and my mom managed to get her raincoat pretty coated too. But it was still good exercise and I saw a few new birdie species. The find of the hike was 2 emerald toucanettes, which are relatives of toucans and have the same sort of beak but they are a bit smaller and green instead of black. They were very cute and kept calling back and forth to eachother. There were also lots and lots of butterflies and interesting insects along the trail.
After the fairly long and up and down hike, I spend a while wandering through the gardens between the different cabanas. I could hear lots of hummingbirds, and so I followed the sounds around until I came upon a bush that had one very beautiful hummingbird guarding it. It was called a Violet Saberwing Hummingbird.
They are much bigger than the typical hummingbird you see, so that was especially neat. There were a couple of them in the area but this particular guy let me get really close to him and was very defensive of his flowering bush. This other little hummer, a Rufous Tailed Hummingbird, kept aggressively dive bombing him for the longest time. It was quite a fabulous scene.
Then I continued walking around and found a few separate agoutis, which are little rodentia, they look either like mini capybaras or supersized guinea pigs. They are quite cute and were nibbling fruit from the surrounding fruit trees.
Yesterday (Day 9) we went on a finca/farm tour. The place we were staying, Selva Negra, is a huge sustainable farm and so they offer tours to show you how they produce all the things they produce and how it is sustainable and how they run the farm and what not. It was really an impressive tour. Our guide was really knowledgeable. To process their coffee, they remove the outer skin (the red skin) and treat it with ground bone from their slaughterhouse so that it isn’t too acidified and then they turn it into compost with worms in a vermiculture area. They reuse the worms and put the compost (worm casings) on their crops as fertilizer. Then to get rid of the second mushy layer of the coffee, they put the beans in water and wash the beans and then filter the water through ground volcanic rock. They use the water to irrigate the fields and then they take methanogenic bacteria from the stomachs of cows in their slaughterhouse and put methanogenic bacteria on the mushy stuff that is filtered out of the water. They chew this layer up and release lots of methane which is used as fuel for the houses of their 250 permanent coffee pickers. There are all sorts of other things they do considering they grow all the food for their workers on site and most of the food for the hotel part of their ranch on site and they have multiple types of animals that they slaughter at the on-site slaughterhouse (very sad), and they produce around 10 types of cheese.
We also got to go look at the houses and living areas of their workers. They house 250 permanent workers, and they get very cute little houses. They also provide them with schools for their children and an onsite clinic. They also have dormitories for their 700 seasonal workers.
After the tour we drove to Leon, which is where we are staying now. Our hotel is very cute and very tasteful. Its right off the main street by the main cathedral, but its tucked away off the street so its really quiet. Its very modern and minimalist but quite relaxing. I spent all evening sitting on this massive circular hanging bed. Its so comfortable and looks out onto a very pretty pool and you can even see the main street through the front doorway but its so tranquil.
We did a little walking around in the evening, its quite an interesting scene. There is this really old (1700’s) cathedral right by our hotel and the main square right in front of it, so we sat on a bench there and did some people watching. Because its almost New Years, they had lots of these massive paper mache and fabric giant lady puppet type things that people were using to dance around with.
Tonight might be quite the scene since it will be New Years Eve… we shall see!