Mist shrouded our 4×4 Jeep as we crawled up Route 606 to Monteverde, Costa Rica. The rocks on the unpaved road had been jostling us back and forth inside of our car for close to three hours. Very slowly, we had been climbing away from Arenal and into the clouds.
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My dad, in the driver’s seat, was fully concentrated on handling the vehicle. My mom sat next to him in the passenger’s seat, pouring over the details of the trip criteria. Slumped and asleep behind her was my brother, Jack; his head lulling from side to side with each passing bump. Covered with greenery, the valleys below us displayed groupings of quaint, colorful houses with patches of farmland. As long as I sat with my iPod and headphones in, I could’ve watched the land slowly move by for hours. However, Dad had to go to the bathroom, so if we saw anything, we would stop for a break.
It looked like any old gift shop. Actually, it might have even looked worse than any old gift shop. There was no name anywhere out front. It was a wooden shack with a lone sign that read: “Restrooms” and pointed inside. The shop itself was tiny, with a single unisex bathroom, a café counter selling coffee and some snacks, and shelves of other knick-knacks like stuffed animals and Monteverde souvenirs. I took my turn in the bathroom and told my dad that I wanted a brownie. As my Dad relayed our order in Spanish to the short old man at the register, I wondered around. Towards the back of the shop was an open door, leading onto the deck outside.
As I stepped out onto the deck, I stepped into another world. From the peeling wood overhang hung about seven old soda bottles, upside-down, spaced evenly around the deck, filled with a clear liquid. They were hummingbird feeders. Just then, I noticed the flashes of color flitting back and forth between the feeders. I could hear the frantic fluttering of tiny wings all around me. As my eyes began to focus on a feeder, I saw a beautiful, tiny hummingbird stop for a second, inserting its long, needle-like beak into the plastic flower. Its delicate body seemingly vibrated with effort as its heart beat and it quickly gulped the sugar water. The next split second, in a flash of brilliant purples and greens, the bird disappeared.
My heart soared. I had hoped to see just one hummingbird in Monteverde, but, on some feeders, there were three or more hummingbirds gathered around the perches. I was just an eleven-year-old who lived in the suburbs. This was otherworldly to me. As I stepped closer, the hummingbirds took no notice. None of them waivered in their efforts to sip their lunch. I quietly sat down without taking my eyes off of the rainbow of colors flying around me. I was awestruck. Just this experience alone made the entire trip.
I couldn’t help but become overwhelmed with a sudden feeling of gratitude. There was so much of the world that I haven’t seen. Experiencing this, a tiny café on a dirt road, was truly a privilege. As my family stepped onto the deck, each carrying a snack, they gasped. The view had the power to take your breath away. At least twenty-five hummingbirds or more, flying about, backed by a view of the mysterious but beautiful cloud forest. Without a word, we all sat, ate, and observed. Hours must have passed, but who could keep track of such a magical moment in time? We didn’t.
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