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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Bye Bye Birdie...

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

So my Little Bird was broken.

My reliable and durable little 4WD had finally packed it in, I’m not surprised. To put it mildly, I had ridden this Bird hard and put it away wet… on more than one occasion.

The bird was no longer the word.

Poor thing.

I was devastated.

In the past three weeks, that car had endured not only my lack of experience and skill as a back roads driver, but also the roughest road conditions Costa Rica had to offer. We tackled it all. There was nowhere we wouldn’t go… aside from a few sketchy rivers. Bird and.I don't much care for crocodiles and snakes..

I don’t even know how the problems began.

Well… as I mentioned above, I’m pretty sure it was a healthy combination of both my driving and the terrain… but I shall remain innocent until proven guilty.

I had gone into the hotel lobby to check in, and when I returned to park my car, something in the engine starting making an appallingly loud, rattling noise. It sounded like a garbage garburator under the hood. I decided to let it sit for the evening, hoping a good night’s sleep might heal all ailments… but I was wrong.

The noise continued on throughout the morning, and eventually, after much investigation of the inner workings of a Sazuki Jimney, we concluded it was the heat fan. I didn’t have much contribution to that resolution, but the two men working at the hotel seemed pretty confident about their decision.

A lot of videos were taken, trying to pinpoint the root of the problem... and then sent to head office in San Jose, for review. The hotel manager was on & off the phone with my Payless Pal, Edwin… who most might recall from my earlier days of picking up the Bird in San Jose. My Spanish was useless in this situation, as my mechanical vocabulary was very weak.

Heiner, the hotel manager nicknamed me "mala suerte" (translation: bad luck)… as prior to this particular incident, I had originally booked the wrong dates in Monteverde and it was quite the ordeal trying to sort it all out through the Booking app.

I told him he was quite right… but this kind of stuff happened to me ALL the time.

He had no idea.

After much back and forth, a new vehicle hit the road and was on its way to Monteverde.

Three hours.

What to do in Santa Elena to kill three hours? Hit the town!

That’s exactly what I did.

I spent my time wandering through the quaint and mountain-top town of Santa Elena, marveling at the surrounding landscape, popping in & out of each and every tourist trap souvenir shop and even stopped at a couple hip cafes. I liked Santa Elena.

I had originally wanted to do a bit of shopping, but everything was priced well out of my financial reality, so I had to appease myself with a delicious latte indulgence instead.

While I was meandering, suddenly I heard someone frantically yelling my name from across the road. "Joanna! Joanna!"

It was Heiner. My new car had arrived and he had been out, driving up and down the streets of Santa Elena, searching for me. Now THIS was customer service.

*By the way, Heiner is my new bestie... and apparently he's coming to visit Canada next year.

With the new Suzuki sitting in the hotel parking lot, I breathed a big sigh of relief, knowing an enormous weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

But, still... I missed my bird.

It was past noon, and not the best time to explore Monteverde, but that's where I headed off to. I was determined to utilize as much left of the day as I could. Monteverde, meaning 'green mountain,' is one of the country's major ecotourism destinations. I had read this was ao nce-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse myself in nature in a way I'd never done before. Usually the morning was the best time to see wildlife and also view the picturesque landscape of rolling hills... but I'd been rather busy in the morning... so would have to put up with an afternoon of Monteverde.

I arrived around 1pm and opted to do the 3 hour hike, There were a few options, but we had to be out of the park by 4pm. The hike was more along the lines of 2 hours, and honestly, I wasn’t even moving too quickly. Would've been longer, had I not been so fabulous at maneuvering mud trails…

When people say Monteverde is like walking in a tropical rain cloud, they are right. It was the usual lush, jungle entanglement I had seen so often on my travels… but it felt good to get out of the car and walk!!! Even the light mist didn’t phase me. In fact, I appreciated it. I didn’t so much appreciate the all-too-common cloud masking theme I seem to be encountering whenever there might be a lovely vista.

I waited at the viewpoint for at least 30 minutes, watching the grey clouds accumulate and continuously roll by… ever hopeful they would miraculously disappear… and blue sky might pop through again.

It did not… and finally I decided to continue my trek.

As I was leaving the park, a European gentleman was giving the attendant quite an earful. Apparently he had originally thought the park was much larger, did all the trails in under an hour, didn’t see any wildlife… thought the fee was astronomical (like the rest of us)… and was never planning on returning here again.

As far as I know, they did not refund his money… BUT in the midst of it, they didn’t pay much attention to ME leaving the National Park, and consequently called my accommodation later on that evening, to ensure I was out and safe.

Yes… I had made it back to my villa by 4:30 and had only an hour to relax before my second, and much anticipated, night walk!

Some of you might recall how enthralled I was with the night tour I had previously done in La Fortuna. I loved every second of it. The fact that a kinkajou PEED on me, is something I will not only cherish, but probably brag about for eternity. In my blog and in person, I mentioned, on more than one occasion, how I would jump at the chance to do another, should the opportunity present itself. Well... opportunity arose and I signed up for another night walk in Monteverde. In fact, there was an abundance of night walk tours, luring you in to explore these fascinating, nocturnal creatures.

La Fortuna has cost me $25US.

This one cost me $38.


A little steep... but I remained confident this would be a guaranteed observation of a whole new batch of animals and insects. I was fully prepared to head into the jungle... in the dead of dark, and under the full supervision of a professional... and tick some more critters off my list.

The entire excursion was disappointing.

The fault was probably a combination of 25% crap weather, 25% too many people ~ WAY too many people ... and 50%… douche guide.

I wish I could put more of a faulting percentage on the guide.

We were herded in like cattle, dumped in a parking lot, and then, one by one, robbed of all our money, It was sad to see the crowds there, so vulnerable and enthusiastic. Everyone just wanted to see a monkey.

Now… let’s be perfectly clear… my conversational Spanish, although fairly good, can also be circumstantial. If we are speaking about cooking, I focus on the kitchen vocabulary I know… and try my best to familiarize myself with words affiliated with that of cooking, cleaning, food, kitchen… etc.

If someone changes the subject… I’m lost.

LOST. Really lost.

It's like getting language feet grounded… and then suddenly displaced.

But… I rarely give up the opportunity to improve my Spanish, so when I was given the choice between an English night tour or a Spanish one… I jumped at the latter.

Big mistake. Huge.

I signed a consent form agreeing the company was not liable, should I get bit by a snake! This made me laugh. This guide did not think it was funny. At all. He remained stoic and before we had even left the main entrance, right in front of everyone, gave me a lecture about how they would not tolerate any English.

Rude… but fine.

Finally he conceded that he would explain something if I was confused. Too late, ass. Come hell or high water, I would not ask one single thing. I was determined to remain quiet, nod politely and be done with it.

… and that’s exactly what I did.

Whereas my previous guide had been kind, informative, helpful, charismatic and knowledgable, this jerk was there for the paycheque. I would like to say he was there for the tips, but he did absolutely nothing to rightfully warrant or deserve them.

My tropical entangling eyesight has not improved since the beginning of the trip, and I still feel the pressure to “see something” when everyone is pointing at the eighth branch up, fourth leaf over… etc…

I‘ve learnt to smile and nod enthusiastically, as I pretend to see the ”word i don’t know in Spanish?”, while I stare blankly towards an upwards location…

He made no effort to give our dusk and dreary circuit the wow factor we had all certainly paid for.

He moved too quickly through the much trampled trails, and hardly took any opportunity to speak to us about the flora or fauna.

It was no National Geographic presentation, like my last one had been… and I didn’t take a single photo.

All in all, we saw:

~ Daddy long legs.

~ Three frogs.

~ One sleeping toucan… which was up so high, it just looked like a black and red blob.

~ One sleeping monkey… again, up too high and completely unrecognizable. Would have been a devastating disappointment, had I not already seen monkeys by the dozen…

~ One cricket.

~ One scorpion.

~ One tarantula… which was kinda cool, but fleeting.


…. wait for it…

….. wait for it…

~ One f’ng Racoon.



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