I awoke this morning to the sound of our door creaking open. It was quite unsettling. I did not sleep particularly well. Ryan spotted several giant ants, a couple of well-fed cockroaches, and a very fuzzy centipede of some kind before we hung the mosquito netting and settled into bed. Our room was attached to the family house, but had it´s own entrance from outside…great in theory, except the lock from the inside of the room had been broken and there was no way to keep the door shut tight against whatever creatures loomed outside (which was mostly deadly chickens). When the door creaked open at the break of daylight, that was it. I could swear that I could hear the sound of rattle snakes just outside the door, and couldn´t help but imagine one slithering it´s way under my bed only to leap out at my heels whenever we decided to get up.
That was the worst of Miraflor. And it wasn´t actually that bad – I mean, for sure I didn´t sleep well that first night, but it was all in my head and I know it. Turns out when a bunch of crickets make noise at the same time, it sounds remarkably like a rattle snake. The mosquito netting did it´s job, we got through the night without a single cockroach or tarantula cuddling up next to us. In the end, the bed was comfy, and it actually dropped to a cold enough temperature that we enjoyed the extra blaket they provided.
We woke up early, as planned out the night before, to go on a bird watching tour. We met just outside the main room of the house, settling ourselves at the small table on the patio for coffee. We learned the coffee is made from their own beans, which they dry and roast and grind themselves. It was tasty, and a neccessary way to start the day after the lack of sleep. Luis took the four of us through the fields of local farmers, pointing out birds as we passed them, as well as picking random plants and telling us about their healing qualities. The coolest plant was one Amy actually ended up identifying, called Mimosa – it responds to your touch, so when to touch it, the plant withdraws. We enjoyed this endlessly, and would stop occasionally throughout the excursion to poke at the plant as we came across it.
We saw several birds on our trip, many hiding far up in the trees. Our companion, Lawrence, seemed to be the most into the birding. I became more and more preoccupied with the landscape. It is beautiful here. I´m sure the rainy season contributes to the beauty of the land right now, but everything is so intensely green. At one point we came to a lookout, a view for miles, and it was all so incredibly green. My camera actually has a hard time capturing it, it seems to have difficulty really showing the distance, because it all seems to meld together into one big green hillside.
After a couple of hours of walking and sighting birds, we headed back for the house for breakfast. It was delicious. Honestly, the food part of this experience is what I had been most concerned about, and in reality, everything we ate was amazing. Probably the best food we have had, and likely will have, on the entire trip. Marta knows her way around a kitchen – I suppose she should considering she seems to spend the extraordinary majority of her time there, cooking or sitting on her little red stool. It is amazing to me, she is amazing to me.
After breakfast, we relaxed for a while. I walked the family garden, it is gorgeous. After a couple of hours we decided to head out on our hike of the cloud forest. Now I remember Ryan telling me that we would be going to a cloud forest, but at no point did I ever ask what that meant. I remember when I first heard this, imagining a forest of clouds…but then I thought this can´t be what it is. So I then decided that it was a forest with trees so tall the tops are in the clouds. In reality, it was sort of a combination of the two. Miraflor consists of three distinct sections that change as they get higher in elevation. Las Palmeras is situated in the intermediate zone, bordering on the highest zone. Our hike would take us into the highest zone. The climate as you rise is cooler, thus each zone contains a distinct ecosystem. Our hike involved making our way through wet, muddy terrain through the forest which was high enough to be in the clouds. At one point we emerged to a lookout point, only to find, as I had first imagined, a forest of clouds hanging over the area. It was an incredible view, one I hope my camera captured as I am sure my memory will not remember it as truly stunning as it actually was. Aside from the view, we also had a few fun sights along the way including a toucan and a wicked tree that was hollwed out and you could climb inside.
The hike was long, but good. It was fun to have Luis´dog running in and out of the trees, scaring us all as he crashed around. We returned to Las Palmeras, content with all we had accomplished before 2pm and hungry for lunch. As per usual, the food was great. After lunch Ryan and I decided to wash our very muddy hiking pants, anticipating needing them in the next day or two. We went to Marta´s wash table and scribbued and scrubbed, I felt so domesticated. Ryan took pictures to prove I can be wifely. Then we decided to shower, feeling caked in dust, mud, and likely more animal feces than either of us would care to admit. Showering in an interesting concept in a land without indoor plumbing. The shower room is out the side of the house and down a path, next to the laundry area. They have a room set up with tarp and curtains, and above this structure is a barrel out of which is a spicket. I looked at it and said, ¨what do I do?¨ Ryan said, ¨turn the spicket, get wet, turn it off, soap everything, turn it on and rinse, then get the heck out.¨ So I did. It was not relaxing. I guess that process would wake you up in the morning, though. I did feel clean, and that was nice. Afterward, we changed into cleaner clothes, and I had a quick nap before dinner while Ryan took photos.
I awoke to bustling. I wandered out of my room and could hear something happening in the house, when I went in the main door there was no one. I wandered my way into the kitchen, and it was a fiesta! Everyone was crowded in there, including Luis and the girls. Turns out, all the excitement was about grinding coffee. It was pretty fun. Basically, a meat grinder that one of the girls would slowly funnel coffee beans into while one of us would turn the crank. The girls laughed a lot, I´m not sure we were doing it right…or as efficiently as they would. My arm hurt.
After the coffee escapade, we sat down to dinner. It was nice, a family dinner with the two girls. They seemed to crack up at things we did, we weren´t always sure what was so funny. Then, after dinner, the real fun began. We could over hear the girls singing, and found out that they are in their church choir. Then Luis picked up a guitar out of a case that was hanging on the wall and starting picking a tune. We invited them to sing a song for us, and in exchange, we would sing a song for them. Hilarious. Freaking hilarious. Their song was great, the girls did really well. The it was our turn. We couldn´t think of a song we all knew the words to. All we could come up with was ¨In the Jungle¨- kind of ironic, as we were sitting in the jungle. When we got to the part that goes ¨oooooo-eeeeeee, ooo-weee um bum ooo-way¨the girls coudn´t contain themselves any longer, and we all laughed for a long time. When they found out the name of the song, we all enjoyed another good laugh. But that was just the start. The girls then decided we needed to dance. So the table was moved, and the dining room/living room became the dance floor. They entertained us with a dance they had clearly rehearsed, likely the way I once made my sisters rehearse my choreography, and then we were invited to show off our moves. We did. Ryan and I taught them how to octopus, so funny. We dazzled them.
The night was filled with laughter. But it had to end. When it did, we made our way to our room and slept soundly. This time, we had been given a block of wood to prop against the door to keep out the ¨rattle snakes¨ and we were so tired that a tiger could have been in bed with us and I still would have slept. It was a great day. And I think the best surprise of the trip – I liked it.