This afternoon I was ready for some more adventure. Many people had been telling me about an impressive Ficus tree here in Monteverde, where you could climb into and reach the top. I thought it was the tree I climbed through during my canopy tour in Monteverde, but it appeared to be a different one. Of course I had to find out which one it was!
Reaching the top of the cloud forest
I got curious and wanted to see this other tree where they said people could climb into for free and reach the top of the cloud forest. I asked for some directions in my hostel, since it was an activity you can do on your own and put on my hiking shoes for a new discovery. From the centre of town I walked towards the big supermarket and continued up hill. It was quite a steep hill to walk on and the walk upwards seemed to never end. Until I saw two local ladies walking. I asked them if I was heading towards the right direction for the Ficus tree at which they replied that I had already past it. Damn it, that means I have to walk all the way back! The two ladies told me they were heading the same direction and we started walking together for a couple of minutes until somewhere they told me to take the forest path where I’d find the tree.
What is a Ficus tree?
A Ficus tree is a strangler tree and its common name is the Strangler fig. A strangler fig or ficus tree actually does strangle as its name already insinuates.
Its roots grow downwards beside a host tree and at the same time it grows upward to reach into the sunlight zone above the cover of the forest.
The original host tree might eventually die, but the Ficus tree can still survive. What happens then is that the Ficus tree becomes a hollow tree and has no central part anymore.
That’s exactly what has happened to this Ficus tree in Monteverde.
The climb up and down
Once I had finally discovered the Ficus tree I wanted to find I noticed that it was truly a natural staircase on the inside and that no human being made this. I just had to try and climb it!
I climbed up to about three or four meters once I realized that there might be snakes or such and that I’m just here by myself. What would happen if something bites me? I decided to abort my climb up.
Once I got back on the ground again I walked up to another tree to see where the noise was coming from that I was hearing since a minute or two. It appeared to be a group of Germans. Yes, those loudly Germans 😉 They we’re all here for an exchange project and were really nice people. We decided to climb the tree together this time.
After a while we we’re all up there. Up in the top of the cloud forest, on top of a tree. ON TOP OF A TREE. Isn’t that amazing? I think it’s spectacular that I could enter a tree and climb it from the inside. You have absolutely no idea of how high you are during the climb up until you finally reach the top and look around. Wow! I guess it was about 20 meters or so.
It was a bit more difficult to climb back down again, since you could not really see where you were going to place your foot. However, feeling like a monkey at the time, you could just notice the places you feet and hands could rest on and make a smooth descend.
So for those that enjoy not heaving to wear a harness hugging your hips, this is something you want to do! If you have a monkey friend but you’d rather stay downstairs then it’s still a fantastic place to take some cool photos.
Trying to find something that doesn’t want to be found
A Dutch couple showed up at the tree just as we got back “downstairs”. They told us about another amazing Ficus tree they had seen earlier that day and showed us some photos. It was the same kind of tree, but this time it was not hollow. It was like a natural bridge.
We tried to find it through their directions, but it seemed impossible to find this natural tree bridge. We decided to ask a local tourist office we encountered along the way how to find this mysterious bridge.
The people at the local office didn’t like what we were doing. They explained us that this tree bridge stand on private property and that it is not nice of the hotels to send us here to find it. We told the people at the office that we did not got send by a hotel, but that we had just met other people who where here in the morning and advised us to come here too. I asked if they’d mind showing us where the tree is, just to take a picture, but they did not want us going there. So, since they were not willing to help us we continued our journey to hopefully find something else that’s amazing nearby.
We started walking towards the Sanctuary Ecologico where a local guy asked us if he could help us. His name was Felix and he lived in the area. I explained what has just happened and that we wanted to find the tree, but that we didn’t know it stands on private property. Felix laughed and said that also he was an owner of this property. It seemed to be a lost case to find the tree, until Felix offered us to show it anyway! Yay!
He went to put on his shoes while we browsed through his collection of live bugs and took some photos with this wonderful Praying Mantis.
We went back into the forest again and hiked our way back to were we came from. I tell Felix that it seemed as if we had just missed one exit during our hike, other wise we probably would have found it ourselves. Felix replies:
You’re trying to find something that doesn’t want to be found
And I totally agree. I believe the phrase he said can be used for many different things in life as well.
The tree was indeed difficult to find. We had to cross a river, some slippery stones, walk again through the river until it started to get muddy and it even started raining. However, we did find the natural bridge tree this time and it was truly amazing. Again, a natural miracle to my eyes. Felix climbed up into the roots of the tree and sat on top of the bridge. “You can climb up here too if you’d like” he says. We’d sure like that. Bunch of monkeys we all are!
— UPDATE 03/04/2016 —
*Thanks to Jason Allen’s comment here are the directions to the fig tree by car!
From downtown Santa Elena, head up the steep paved road that leads to Monteverde. When you see a sign for “Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge,” make a left turn onto another steep paved road. This new road will soon become a bumpy dirt road and will continue uphill. Stay on this road until you reach the Cloud Forest Lodge. Drive past the lodge and park on the street just down the hill from the Lodge’s front arching sign. Once parked, look to the left (across from the lodge) and you will see some dirt trails. Follow these trails into the forest until you find the ficus tree.
If you have a GPS, set it for “Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge” and it will take you right to the street where you will park your car. If you don’t have a GPS, the tree can be found on the South side of the road at the location labeled “Cloud Forest Lodge” on this map (look in Santa Elena).
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