Needless to say none of our clothes dried on our make shift clothes line. Monteverde gets cold at night. I mean we had no fan or air con in our room yet we were still cold. There’s a first for everything I suppose! We woke up at 7am on Sunday, packed all our stuff, attached our wet washing to our backpacks with carrier bags and waited for the minibus to pick us up.
At about 745am, we were on our way. Fellow travellers got picked up and we waited until we were going to swap vehicles into a jeep. This was a long wait that never actually happened. Slightly misleading when it is advertised as jeep-boat-jeep. Nevertheless the journey was relatively comfortable despite the fact we were on dirt stone tracks pretty much the whole way to the lake. We stopped once, which seems to be the norm round here, for people to buy snacks and visit the bathrooms. We bumped into Trish and her brother here, whom we met on the bus out to Monteverde! There were about six busses heading to the lake in total. We could see the towering top of Volcan Arenal in the distance with a ring of cloud separating the base.
We dropped the American Canadian trio off at the horse riding ranch as they were going to ride round the lake on horseback, whereas the rest of us were going to take the boat. The towering Volcan Arenal now almost fully submerged by the clouds
The boat journey probably only took about an hour and the scenery was again, beautiful. As we pulled into dock there were people on like the jet hover ski things which look like they take a lot of balance and core strength!! Next step was trying to figure out where we go next. There were more minibuses waiting for us and the guides asked which place we were staying and got us to board the bus accordingly. We were staying at Hostel Backpakers so we’d be the last drop.
It was one road down into the town and al the hostels were quite closely situated in the town of La Fortuna. It only took about half an hour or so for us to get dropped off. It was too early to check in but we received our cool bright orange wrists and that would allow us use of all three of their hostels, put our backpacks in the storage room and headed out to find some food. There was a place across the street which served chicken and ribs so we went there. Pollo Fortuñeno it was called. The menu was quite confusing as it was full of combos. In the end I had a chalupa and Nathan had half a chicken.Chalupa – chicken, lettuce, mashed beans and cheese on a fried tortilla
It was good food. Okish price wise too. La Fortuna is basically a town full of souvenir shops, hostels and tour operators. It was a nice place though. Our hostel wasn’t bad either. We had an ensure dorm room and only had one other roomie, who we never actually saw. Once we’d eaten we wandered round the town, in and out of shops.We had booked ourselves on to the 2pm Observatory Tour. Waiting outside our hostel, we were told by Wilmer, one of the guides, that we’d been booked under a sister hostel so had to walk about twenty paces down the road and we’d get picked up there. Nearly 230pm arrived and we were boarded onto the minibus by our guide, Jason.
There were three other lots of people we picked up before we were on our way to the lodge. The drive was about 45 minutes until we arrived at the Observatory Lodge. This is a hotel with the most stunning views of Volcan and Lake Arenal. As we were driving, we could see the volcano in the distance as well as its ‘father’ Volcano.Cerro Chato looks like a man lying down
Arenal is 5358ft high, it’s crater has a diameter of 460ft and it is less than 7000 years old. It was dormant for hundreds of years until one fateful and unexpected explosion in 1968 which killed 87 people.
Today, you can still see craters from the impact of rocks thrown from the volcano back then. The eruption also destroyed three towns, but El Borio, wasn’t one of them. The town of El Borio was renamed La Fortuna, meaning, the fortunate. Quite apt I’d say. Arenal went on to erupt a few more times in 1975, 1984, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998 and it has been dormant since 2010.
We parked up at the lodge and walked to the observatory. The views were spectacular.Volcan Arenal before the cloud cleared. Lake Arenal is also pictured
We were gathered on the Observatory deck to wait for the other groups to join us. Whilst we were waiting, one of the guides spotted a spider. The Golden Web Spider named for its golden web
We didn’t see anything in Monteverde so despite the fact it’s a horrible creepy crawlie, it was nice to see it. It was a venomous spider too! Not long after that, a snake was then spotted!The Green Vine Snake named for its appearance
The snake looked just like a vine until you looked a bit more closely. Wilmer then picked it up and paraded it round the deck before putting it back to sleep. They also had beautiful trees. Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree with the most beautiful trunk
The trunk of the Rainbow Eucalyptus tree was beautiful. Multicoloured on a sort of dusky grey background. It looked painted. There were so many of them. They’re not native to Costa Rica and we’re introduced in the 1970s. Something pretty for us to look at! Once everyone had arrived on the observation deck, Wilmer introduced the guides and then split the group. One tour would be in Spanish and the other in English. Our group was quite big but we had Jason and another guide with us, who we thought was new.
Off we set. The first part of the trek would be through the forest to the Catarata waterfall. There were hanging bridges to cross, which could only hold five people at a time.The forest was thick and the path was narrow.The plants and shrubbery were colourful and vibrant with some home to birds and bees feeding. As we walked we passed a white nosed coati.These animals look like monkeys from a distance due to their long tails, but they’re actually more like a raccoon! We kept on walking through the dense forest and it started to rain. We had brought our swimming stuff with us as we could bathe in the waterfall but the rain was fierce. We reached the waterfall and the rain was pelting as other groups stood huddled under umbrellas or in their ponchos. Is extremely clever people, had neither.How they let people bathe in the waterfall was a bit crazy. The current was strong and it was so rocky, slips could easily happen. We were soaked. The rest of the hike was a cross between a wet t shirt competition and half naked people just strolling through the wilderness. It was still a beautiful walk. We crossed another swinging bridge before we continued on.
•There aren’t many photos from now on because the rain was so heavy our phones were in the backpack trying to stay dry.
We were on the lookout for monkeys. Jason got a tip off that there were some down a track to the right of where we were headed. Jackpot. There were howler monkeys and spider monkeys high up the trees. Lots of them! Including a mother and a baby. Things were starting to look up now. Our journey continued to the frog pond, just as the rain began to subside a little.This pond is home to multiple frogs of all different colours. The plants were also colourful. We looked on the back of the leaves to find the frogs and eventually we found one green frog just sitting there chilling.We were to begin heading back to the museum. In the trees up above there was a rainbow billed toucan and in the trees out front, some really noisy wild crested turkeys.The museum was about Arenal and it also had a seismograph monitoring the seismic activity!The plants outside were so colourful and we got a great view of the volcano as the clouds were clearing. Just as the storm was stepping up a gear.From here we headed back to the lodge for another glimpse at the mesmerising volcano, just as the clouds completely cleared and the lightning lit up the sky.The views truly were amazing. We ended up waiting at the lodge for ages because Wilmer’s group was, well who knows where. We waited and waited and in the end Jason took our group back to the bus to go on to the hot springs. By this time it was pitch black. About half an hour after bumbling along a bumpy road, we pulled over. It looked like we were in the middle of nowhere and there were no lights,
We exited the bus and stripped down to our swim wear then crossed the road. Everything was left in the bus including towels, phones, shoes etc because the current was strong so anything could get washed away. It was so cold. Standing on the path, barefoot, in nothing but a bikini, unable to see anything. Once everyone was off the bus Jason and another guide took a coolbox down and the other guides used flashlights to guide us down to the river. They flashlights weren’t the greatest as we hobbled along the path not really being able to see where we were going. Eventually we reached some steps and slowly walked down them until we found ourselves standing in the hot water of the springs.
We took a seat as the river rushed down around us. It was delightfully hot and powerful as it edged us forward every so often. Once everyone was safely down, the guides began to help us down into the pool one by one. It was quite easy with one step down, then another. Only I could mess it up and practically face plant the water and took Jason son with me. Whoops! My elegance and grace failed me once again. The springs were wonderful. We just sat bobbing around in the hot water as the guides worked their way around us putting on our volcanic mud face masks they had collected from the forest. Once everyone was covered up, they started handing out cups and filling them with Costa Rican moonshine. We had no idea but it was quite tasty. An hour was spent, under the stars, in the pitch black, sitting in the hot springs with our faces covered in volcanic mud, drinking the moonshine. It was an epic end to a fantastic day!
We were dropped back to our hostel at around 9pm and showered to try and remove the stones from our crevices we’d collected from the springs then it was time to sleep. Sunday saw us up relatively early, grabbing some lunch and making our way to the bus terminal to catch the bus back down to San José. We boarded the 1245 bus and the journey would take about five hours. As we reached San José, our plan was to get dropped off at the Tica Bus station, then get a taxi to Hostel 1110.
As we were approaching the Tica Bus terminal, we pulled the stop rope and got off. There was no pavement and we found ourselves trying to cross and three lane motorway going in both directions. Still no pavement, we casually just strolled against the traffic along the motorway before sliding down a grass bank to the terminal. We couldn’t have been any more stupid if we tried. The place where we were, was the bus terminal where they come to store the busses and repair them etc. This was not the place to buy tickets. Feeling miffed with ourselves for trying to use our initiative, we started walking along the motorway until we reached the hospital. There, we caught a taxi back to hostel 1110 where we would wait until it was time to catch our 2355 executive bus down to Panama….
Until next time…