"Up, Up and Away: to Monteverde"
Today was our first day away from our home stays. After breakfast, we trekked to the bus stop and began our journey to Monteverde. Monteverde is located in the cloud forest in the mountains, and the bus ride takes 3 hours. A cloud forest is a rainforest that receives most of its moisture from mist and clouds, which is due to the trade winds Along the way, we saw a beautiful lake located in a former volcano. Eventually the paved roads of the Pan-American highway gave way to a dirt road. As the dirt road climbed the mountain, we were treated to amazing views of the valley below. We also were slowed by a herd of cows- which we learned later are an important part of the economy of Monteverde.
Monteverde is known in Costa Rica for its tourism, especially its eco-tourism. After checking into our beautiful hotel and returning from lunch we went to the Monteverde cheese factory. It was established in 1953 by a group of Quakers fleeing the draft in America during World War II. The Cheese Factory is an example of economic diversification in Monteverde and sustainable development. The factory helps support many local dairy farmers and provides an alternative industry in Monteverde The excess whey is also sent to a pig farm instead of polluting the environment, and thus helps support other nascent industries.
After sampling several cheeses and ice cream, we returned to our hotel where we had two guest speakers address us. The first speaker was a teacher and coffee cooperative member named Guillermo Vegas. He detailed the environmental history of Monteverde from 1950 to the present day. Legislation on the local and national level is dedicated to resolving major environmental issues in the area. As development and pollution in the area increased, measures were taken to preserve existing ecosystems through education, legislation, reforestation programs, and creation of national parks.
The second speaker, Alan Pounds, works for the Centro Cientifico Tropical as a biologist studying orchids. He discussed evidence of global warming in Monteverde and the possible ramifications that has on the ecosystem. We learned about the disappearance of the Golden Toad and the Golden Eye Leaf Frog. There was a 99% decrease in Golden Toad in two years between 1987-1989. We discussed in detail changes in temperature and rainfall in Monteverde. These changes in weather can greatly affect such a delicate ecosystem. This can also significantly affect the diversity of the area.
Following our lectures, we went to a delicious Peruvian restaurant in town and then returned to our hotel, where we all fell quickly asleep after a long and fantastic day in Monteverde.