After a few days of scorching hot weather that left me with a bit of heat stroke and inability to eat (and don’t forget the swollen fingers and toes), we boarded a van-bus and headed to Arenal. The problem with the transport system in Costa Rica is that there isn’t much of one. The French boys we met had decided to rent a jeep for the two weeks they were there to mitigate this. All our travels to anywhere in the country would have to go through San José again. It would take forever! So in that spirit, we booked our transport from Gecko Adventures. They would pick us up at Casa Verde and drop us off at Arenal Backpackers for $59.00 and take six hours.
Luckily, on that day, it rained. In the confines of our van with a number of other people, this was fine. We listened to Carribean music, stopped for snacks, (empanadas of course) and enjoyed the views from the van. There was some dicey moments. This driver also went to the driving school of our bus driver to Puerto Viejo. Playing chicken was not restricted to buses and trucks. We switched vans at one point. I think we switched drivers. But also we made it to La Fortuna. And the first people we saw walking in? Our French friends from San José.
Settling in next to the pool, we met a bunch of people from Canada. Two girls from Montreal who told me how much they loved Nicaragua. A couple from Windsor who used their proximity to the Detroit Airport to get cheap flights to Central America. A lovely girl from Wales who was studying in Florida. Two girls from Los Angeles that we would end up meeting at the airport. It was a good mix of people.
The next day, we made plans to climb Cerro Chato, a sister volcano of Arenal. At the top of the volcano was apparently a lagoon where we could swim that use to be the crater of the volcano. Next door to it were the La Fortuna waterfalls that would require us to climb down a gazillion steps.
The two girls from Los Angeles offered to take us in their car. So off we went! On our way there, guess who we bumped into? A French guy we had met in San José! He ended up being our travel buddy for a few more cities.
We met a man at the bottom of the hill who told us about his medical garden. He walked with us a few hundred metres before pointing to the path and said, “Go West Young Man.” * I am in relatively good shape and that hike was killer! But the views from the clearing of the top, of the forest and Volcan Arenal were just so incredible. Then the fun part. The Indiana Jones part.
We scurried down the hill to the lagoon.
In some spots, it was so steep that someone had wisely attached a rope and we had to swing down. Once we got to the lagoon, we changed into bathing suits and touched the water. IT WAS SO COLD! But then we thought, when are we ever going to get the chance to swim in the crater of a volcano again. So YOHO (you’re only here once) and we jumped in.
After a refreshing swim, we climbed out, dried off and hiked out of the lagoon and climbed down the mountain. Stopped for some pictures and water and made it to the other side of the lot to the waterfall. We paid $5 for access to the park and went down the steps to see the waterfall. We also swam there and it was freezing.
A couple were having an anniversary photo shoot in the water with champagne. It was really sweet to see.
After leaving the volcano area, we headed back to the hostel. The girls from Montreal told us about this tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant that was supposably delicious and cheap. And it was. $5 for a plate that included rice, beans, salad, chicken, drinks, dessert and vegetables. Still unable to eat much, I only had a tiny bit. It was really good.
After that, we decided to go to some hot springs. Access to the hot springs littered the streets we were on. But their price was astronimical. Luckily, someone told us about the hot spring under the bridge.
Now we were a bit hesitant but we went anyways. Parked the car alongside the highway and headed down a dark path, through a closed fence and made our way under the bridge. We left our clothes near the entrance and waded in, completely blind. Once we past the tunnel, we could see the French guys and they were sitting on some rocks in the stream. It was so beautiful. We sat under the moon, water gushing around us and talked. Still sketchy as hell. I felt a bit like a troll. But beautiful nonetheless. I think we fell asleep so quickly when we got back.
Finally, it was time to leave La Fortuna and head to Monteverde! My absolute favorite place in Costa Rica. And this would require: a bus, a ferry, a van and a walk through the city. We stayed at my absolutely favorite hostel I’ve ever stayed at, Casa Tranquilo and had the best banana bread. Honestly, I can’t say enough about Monteverde. I fell in love with and in the three street town.
Off to romance!
* Didn’t actually say that – it’s a famous phrase. 20 points if you guess it correctly. Here’s the answer.