By Neima Omar
MONTEVERDE, Costa Rica — We’ve been in Costa Rica for about six days now and have met several tour guides as we trekked through the Guanacaste region. While all of our guides have been very knowledgeable about the areas they’ve guided us through, none has stuck out to me like Esteban Mendez Vargas.
Mendez led us though the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. During the two-and-a-half-hour tour he regaled our group with fascinating stories about the different animals and plants that call the famed Monteverde Cloud Forest home. He explained how capuchin monkeys use bromeliad leaves to snack on critters that have laid eggs in the water trapped by the plant. Then the monkeys drink the water.
He whistled distinct, complicated calls to birds, and they responded in kind from deep in the forest. He drew his hands to his mouth to make the sound of fighting capuchin monkeys. He smiled as he recalled his life story as a naturalist and his experiences with unusual tourists. He described the time he tried to impress his friends by teasing an orange-kneed tarantula but instead suffered the spider’s painful bite.