This weekend I went to Volcan Arenal. It was an unique experience and I had a lot of fun. The trip started Saturday morning and we were dropped off at our houses on Sunday evening.
Our driver Saturday morning was from Monteverde...so he actually didn’t know where anyone lived in San Joaquin and was supposed to pick up everyone at their house. So we spent about an hour driving around San Joaquin getting lost and unlost trying to find people’s homes. You have to kinda feel sorry for the driver. He was trying his best, but he just didn’t know the area at all. One of the interesting things about Costa Rica is that there are really no street addresses. Some of the streets have names, but it is rare extremely rare to see a street sign. Directions and addresses are given by landmarks and approximations. I think the local governments should make it a priority to create street signs and addresses...I have a feeling they can really increase the efficiency of their economy if they had better transportation infrastructure. (You’ll have to excuse my policy-minded thinking...I’ve been researching transportation policy in general for debate next year. It seems like an incredibly important, yet overlooked area of national policy...anyway back to Costa Rica...)
We got to the hotel about three hours after leaving San Joaquin and unpacked. We had about 45 minutes to unpack and eat in the hotel restaurant. While we were technically free to eat anywhere we wanted since this was a meal we had to pay for ourselves, they unintentionally (or keenly) scheduled the tour so that the only practical place to eat was the hotel’s $10 lunch plan. :-P
The first thing we did after lunch was go on the rainforest tour. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and an excellent and entertaining guide. He actually studied Resource/Land Management in school but wound up becoming a tourguide because he loved actually hiking the jungle more than writing environmental impact statements. The rainforest tour was amazing! We saw many types of plants, butterflies, a few frogs and lizards, we smelled wild pigs (yes, we were only able to smell them) and we were lucky enough to see a Sloth, Howler monkeys, AND White-faced Capuchins. (Though, unfortunately, it was very difficult to take pictures because they were far away, and moved quickly.) We were also very lucky that it didn’t rain during our hike, we were able to go the whole afternoon without using ponchos or umbrellas. For me, this was the best part of the tour. (Pictures coming...eventually. I have to sort and upload them and that takes a bit of time.)
After the hike, we went to what others considered the best part of the trip: Baldi Hot Springs. Basically, a tourist resort with natural hot springs from the Volcano. The hot springs were pretty neat...but after about 15-20 minutes it just becomes hot water that you can’t swim in. I don’t know...maybe Benjamin’s boredom syndrome had rubbed off a little on me, but I don’t understand why people get so excited (and are willing to pay so much) to lounge in hot water for hours at a time. You can’t swim, you can’t splash, you can do laps, you can only just sit there and prune. :-/ Anyways, no me gusta mucho. For everyone else, they said it was their favorite part of the trip, apparently it’s just me. After the hot springs, we had a buffet dinner at the resort. It was good food and they had strawberries with a chocolate fountain :-) I went back for seconds. ;-)
That evening, we drove to the back side of the Volcano and hoped to see some lava. The volcano was all black and it was hard to see anything because of the clouds that surrounded it. We waited about 15 minutes hoping the clouds would clear up so we could see the volcano. Luckily, they did clear up a little and we were able to see little “dribbles” of lava flowing down. It was pretty neat :-) We waited/watched for about thirty minutes after that first showing of a little lava and were able to see a few more “dribbles.” The clouds did not let up much, though, so we eventually decided to go back to the hotel. (We were again blessed, though that it did not rain.)
The next morning, we drove to a waterfall and hiked down. The hike was very fun and the waterfall was neat, but I couldn’t help compare it to some of the waterfalls we saw last summer in Yosemite and it just didn’t compare to the good ol’ United States ;-) The waterfall hike was free time, so we were just supposed to meet up outside the entrance by a certain time. I asked the guide how long it would take to hike back up from the waterfall and he told me about 20 minutes...ha! ;-) I (moving at a safe pace, Mother) made it in 6:47. So I hung around the souvenir shop waiting for the others and made some impulse buys (shocking, I know). They were pre-calculated impulse buys, however, so don’t be too disappointed in my NPR instinct.
After the waterfall hike, we checked out of the hotel and headed to town to find a place to eat lunch. The restaurant we went to was very good, although a bit different that what we have in the US. For being in the middle of a tourist trap town it was very affordable. I ordered a “taco” which turned about to be what in the States I would call a taquito with salad on the side. I guess taquitos are just condensed tacos...but it was just a bit surprising when I got my plate :) The taquito was very greasy and very good. You HAD to eat it with a bite of the salad (cabbage) or it was literally too greasy to stomach by itself. Yummm :-)
Finally, after lunch we headed back to San Joaquin. There was a little traffic, but were were able to make the trip in about three and a half hours. I got home at about 5:30pm and was able to eat dinner with my tico family. I unpacked, packed for tomorrow, went to bed, and prepared for my second to last week in Costa Rica.