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La Fortuna - Volcan Arenal

Written on: Thursday June 2nd, 2011

A journal entry from: Costa Rica 2011

Another early start today, as I was up to catch the 6:45 bus from Alajuela to La Fortuna -- basecamp for exploring the Arenal Volcano and surrounding sites.  I, of course, arrived at the bus stop early to make sure I was not going to miss the bus.  I ran into a couple travelling from Toronto who had also just arrived and were waiting for the same bus.  Alas, they also were not really into conversing. 

When I boarded the bus was about half full, so I took a seat next to a sleeping Tico, and threw my backback in the overhead bins across from me, so I could keep an eye on it as recommended in my guidebook.  The drive itself was lovely.  It was good to get away from the urban center and into the more scenic areas.  Locals would hop on and off the bus quite frequently at ¨stops¨ along the way.  Not too long after boarding, the bus became full, and several passengers were standing -- all the while the bus careened up and down the winding, hilly road.

After about 3 hours, we arrived in San Carlos (Ciudad Quesada), where most of the passengers disembarked, including the Tico who had been sleeping next to me the whole way.  We had a brief layover here, during which the driver had me move my bag to the now empty seat next to me, because he said it was not safe in the overhead bins due to theft.  After about 15 minutes we were on our way again, and another hour of scenic driving brought us finally to La Fortuna.

Upon exiting the bus, I was greeted by a few touts trying to push there hotels and tours, but it was not that bad.  I expect it is worse in high season, where they would expect many more tourists to be present.  Besides myself and the couple from Toronto, there were two other gringas (travelling together) on the bus.  I bypassed these ¨friendly¨ folk and started to make my way to La Choza Inn, which I had decided on the ride up sounded pretty good (at least according to Lonely Planet).

After walking a few blocks, and finally approaching the end of a dead-end street, I arrived at the Inn.  I decided to stay in the dorms here, because they were significantly cheaper, and I was hoping to meet some other travellers.  However, I am the only one staying here (at least in the dorms, I have not seen anyone else, though).

A perk of staying here is they have an on-site tour agency that is recommended.  I decided to book a hike at Arenal Volcano for today, as well as a rafting trip tomorrow.   About 90 minutes before departing for the hike (which began at 3pm) it started to pour, and has been raining more or less (usually more) since that time.  I ran out to buy a poncho before leaving (which ended up being a giant yellow garbage bag with a hood, despite the picture showing a nice one with pockets and buttons!), and threw in my umbrella hoping for the best!

I was joined on the hike by a group of 5 young twenty-somethings from Madison, Wisconsin and a young woman from San Francisco.  The entire group was friendly, as was our guide, who gave us information on the history of the Volcano and the wildlife in the area.  We got a few short glimpses of the volcano when it was not hiding in the clouds, and a nice view of Lake Arenal, a huge reservoir that was created after the Volcano erupted in 1968.  We also saw (and heard even more so!) Howler monkeys and a few kinds of birds. The army ants and ¨sleeping¨ plant very intersting, too.  Overall it was a good experience.  However, since the volcano has been sleeping for the past 10 months, there was no lava to be seen.

My dilemma now is what to do for dinner (yes, food is on always on my mind, even in Costa Rica).  I did not plan ahead well, so I do not have groceries to make a proper meal.  However, it is still raining and I do not really want to go back out in the rain, as I am attempting (however futile it may be) to dry out my gear.  So, I may resort to bananas and cookies for dinner.  Not very good, I know, but at least I had a proper lunch.

UPDATE:  It stopped raining around 8:30pm, so I ventured out into the town to get some dinner.  My hostel recommend a restaurant called Nenes.  After a little difficulty locating the place (it is in an alley), I was surprised to find the couple from Toronto sitting just inside the entrance.  We said hello and exchanged a few words about how our days went, but they did not seem too excited about making friends, so I let them be.  The restaurant was a somewhat fancy sit-down place with waiters who spoke to me in English.  It had an international menu, and basically international prices as well.  It was not exactly the authentic experience that I was looking for.  But the rice with vegetable that I ordered was delicious!

 

From mom on Jun 3rd, 2011

Sounds like an interesting trip. Keep us updated. Love and God Bless