Daily October (23)

A PAGE FROM MY JOURNAL

Day 5

Arenal Volcano

We arose from a restful sleep in our spacious hotel room and ran outside in our backyard where we caught a glimpse of the fickle peak of the volcano. The view was clear one minute and the next it was cloud-covered.

Our free breakfast buffet was lovely with meat dish, rice and beans, fried yucca and with an omelet station. The table carrying fresh fruits, watermelon, strawberries, papaya, pineapple and melon was always full. I could definitely get used to this.

On our first breakfast, the next table to us was occupied by a couple from Oklahoma whom we exchanged pleasantries and information with while we ate. They have nothing in mind to do this day so we told them why not go to the waterfalls. There is one in La Fortuna. They hiked on the volcano perimeter the day before already.

The servers at the restaurant were friendly. Kaylor was our server and he was very chatty. When I told him I’d take his photo for Facebook he willingly posed.

We met our tour mates, the couple from Baltimore, at the reception area where we asked the desk guy to ring us a cab. Our plan of action was to go to the town center of La Fortuna and look around. Every next door is a tour agent so we could easily shop around for whatever activity fancied us that day.

We were dropped off the side of the plaza facing the church. We stopped by the church first and took a few photos then walked around the town center. Boy was it hot. We pretended to shop for souvenirs while our hubs inquired at the cost of various activities. There was butterfly garden, kayaking, ziplining, and other activities aside from the tour of the volcano. Upon research prior to trip we found out that going to the volcano was doable, no need for a guided tour. Besides guided tour would cost nearly $100 pax. We weren’t keen on paying that.

Taxis are assigned a spot, so it’s easy to find them. They are in line too so you go get the first one. Lucky for us we got a good one. William is his name and he was our driver for the day. We asked him to take us to the volcano. Wasn’t far, but the road was not paved, it was like riding in a bumper car. Upon inquiry he said they have to change tires every 2 months because of bad roads, but the gov’t subsidizes this – he reasoned must be cheaper for govt to do this than to pave all the roads. He ended that with a sheepish grin. We were here for an authentic Costa Rican adventure and that is what we’re getting, including the bumpy gravel and dirt roads.

We paid our entrance fee and he drove up until the parking area. Then we asked him if he could pick us up after 2 hours and take us to the waterfalls. He agreed. And not only did he agree he didn’t want to get paid until the end of the day. We jotted down the mileage. I cannot remember if we were paying by miles, but we were tracking the mileage. What an honest guy, isn’t he? We are foreigners and he trusted us. He doesn’t even know where we stay. We could have easily turned around and called for another cab you know.

Anyway, with maps of the park in our hand we look at the best trails/path to take while here. We tried to take one in between tall grasses that are similar to sugarcane. But we abandoned the trail since it wasn’t going to lead us to the volcano overlook. I’m not sure this is the way to go closer to the volcano. Because by the looks of it and by the brochure I was holding I could tell that the volcano was farther than the 2 km that the longest path on the brochure indicated. There are, however, tours that would take you hiking up the side of the volcano, although I think that’s quite risky. We weren’t really looking for that much adventure you know.

We found where the path leading to the overlook. While it wasn’t long and difficult, it was on a slope uphill. Shame on me, I was breathless!

We arrived at the overlook with plenty of time. It’s a covered spot ontop of a small hill with benches. Another family was already there. They look locals to us.

It’s wasn’t long before we realized that we gave ourselves too much time to spend here. Two hours was definitely way too long to admire the volcano from this spot, no matter how beautiful it is. There wasn’t anything else to do other than go back down and take any one of the trails, which we weren’t keen on doing since it was very hot and the sky was turning dark, impending rain was visible.

The Baltimore guy took a nap in one of the benches, my hubs went around photographing flora especially the variety of ferns that grow here and us girls we snacked on some Indian munchies that Baltimore gal brought.

We took photos then decided we’d walk back to the entrance to ask the guy manning the booth to call William as we’re ready to go. Along the way, we passed by guava fruit scattered all over the ground. We looked up and lining the trail are guava trees. We helped ourselves with the juicy fruit. We picked from the tree and ate some for our lunch. So delicious.

There is a little hut with covered porch area across from the ticket booth and we stayed there when the guy said he has no phone for us to use. Left without recourse, we waited by the porch for the time we gave William to come.

William showed up on time and by this time the drizzle has been ongoing for about 15 minutes. We asked him to take us to La Fortuna waterfalls. I read somewhere that this was the same waterfalls they used in the opening of the movie Jurassic Park. Remember the scene?

Also we asked if he could take us for a quick stop at a local market, I have been craving for some passion fruit – maracuya. He stopped at a nondescript one story building with a small opening/door. I was expecting an airy open-air farmer’s market type of setting, but probably due to weather, extreme heat and constant rain, they decided to put a roof over their market.

This one’s very small - just for snacks and fruits and veggies. I didn’t see any seafood or meat products. We bought some rambutan and passion fruit and tamales. Our Baltimore friends have never tasted this but has seen them once or twice before.

Off we went. Again we requested him to fetch us at a certain time. This time around the entrance to the waterfalls was open for another hour. You can stay as long as you want but no more entry after another hour.

The rain continued to come down, although mildly this time. We stopped at the lookout point. From that vantage point the waterfalls was clearly seen, except that we wanted to descend and see it up close.

The descent was manageable. The humidity was bogging me down, and the rain was adding a little misery to my already petulant demeanor. Honestly people I cannot fathom why I was kvetching.

The second we reached the bottom, we immediately peeled our clothes off, we were wearing our bathing suit underneath. The water was cold. Did I mention that there was thunder? Lucky for me there wasn’t any lighting, that would have completely get me cowering under all the trees. We spent a few moments taking photos and dipping our toes and legs in the water, cold did I say?

The rain wasn’t letting up, it was alternating between mild drizzle and a moderately heavy downpour. It was also starting to get dark and misty when we were down by the river so we thought we’d wrap up our time here in this gorgeous waterfalls.

Moreover William would soon be out in the parking lot waiting for us. Now this was the most difficult part of this entire trip – the climb up. Huffing and puffing, I struggled to clamber back up. Despite all my huffing and puffing and all the constant stops, we managed to complete this task – all of 500 steps some say – in 30-40 minutes.

As expected our friend William was waiting in the parking lot. The rain got heavier as we reached the top where the souvenir store and entrance is. We let the heavy downpour pass for some minutes, but it wasn’t really letting up. So we decided to just go and get wet. We had one umbrella.

We asked William to take us back into town for one more round of window shopping and possibly eating. We haven’t had anything but some fruits in the falls and chips by the volcano. And breakfast was long time ago. It was nearing dinner time.

We asked him to take us to the soda he goes to. It was across from a supermarket. Again he only dropped us at the soda and he was going to meet us at the taxi stand by a certain time.

Still drizzling we were not sure if we wanted to eat right away. So we crossed the street and snooped at what’s in the supermarket. We found a variety chips – potato, yuca, and other root veggies in one package. We bought 2 packages. The store has an ongoing sale on ground coffee beans, Costa Rican coffee, so we filled our shopping cart with it – pasalubongs for people back home.

Well the rain was nonstop as we looked around at other souvenir and knick knack stores. Finally we decided to just take some food home since the rain wasn’t going to let us have a moonlit stroll around the plaza. The server at the soda was very friendly. She noticed that my husband and our friends are Indians (hubs is not, but well) so she boldly shared how her daughter is currently backpacking in India – Goa – and how the daughter couldn’t handle the spices in Indian cuisine. We seemed to talk forever as she, Dona Flora, got more brazen. Our little Spanish and her almost nonexistent English went a distance with sharing one anecdote after another.

We hurried to the taxi stand carrying our dinner. Initially we thought we’d all go back to the hotel and meet at the pool so we can take a little dip at the jacuzzi. However, on the ride to the hotel we all realized we were very tired and didn’t want to soak in the jacuzzi under the constant rain. So we said until next morning.

We turned on the jacuzzi in our little back porch – each room has this feature – and enjoyed a little warm soak while enjoying our Costa Rican dinner. Then it was off to bed, our last night here in Arenal.

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