On a warm and humid Saturday afternoon, our cohort returned to La Calandria from a weekly Frisbee session at the Monteverde Friends School. With ample generosity, I helped myself to a typical lunch that was comprised of rice, beans, chicken, and salad. Marking my friend Simi who is on the Duke track team (need I say more?) and Debra Hamilton, our program director (also an experienced Frisbee player), had been a fair dose of exercise for the morning.
At some point, Katie brought up a hike she had been planning. She wanted to reach the highest point of Monteverde. The point is about 1840 m high and situated on Cerro Amigos, which translates to “Friends Hill,” and overlooks Monteverde’s beautiful cloud forests, the Pacific Ocean, and the Arenal Volcano. I was warned that the climb was nothing short of severely steep, but that the view would be worth it. Additionally, reaching the start of the trail alone involved an hour-long walk, which would be uphill for the most part. So before I could change my mind, I agreed and put on my hiking shoes.
Cerro Amigos lived up to its expectations. Confronted with alternating swathes of clayey and rocky, steep slopes, I frequently found myself out of breath. Sweat dripped down my back. My heart pounded loudly and my calves and glutes burned. I took deep breaths and closed my eyes periodically for dramatic effect. Yet, I felt driven and visualized myself at the top of the hill. My friends were incredibly supportive, and this experience emphasized the importance of having people in your life who push you to improve your personal best. This was not the first challenging slope I had scaled on this trip. Whilst staying in our first lodging, Valle Escondido, we climbed a steep slope nearly every morning for a week. Our walk up from the San Gerardo Field Station was fairly taxing, too. But this was a new level for me.
About halfway up, I was surrounded by a swarm of large, black, bee-like insects. When attempts at walking calmly and ignoring them failed, I ran till they were out of sight. I remembered a time I ran close to 50% of a forest trail in San Gerardo being chased by a horsefly, sliding down slopes and sprinting with my hoodie zipped tight. I must have been quite a sight.
With a third of the way to go, a bicyclist coming downhill encouraged us cheerfully, “Almost there, girls!” Reaching the peak was pure ecstasy. I soaked in the sight of lush forests, imposing clouds, and the scintillating water of the ocean. I felt proud to have pushed my physical limits, and grateful for my friends.
Figuratively speaking, we scaled other hills on this trip: ants and large spiders on planting sites, hilly terrain, and rocky soil that refused to yield. However, it all felt worth it when I’d see the rows of neatly planted seedlings and think of the habitat we were restoring for the three-wattled bellbird and other species.