Leaving Arenal

Map to PV

Our next destination was Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast. It is a 5 or 6 hour run down there so we were booked for a 6 am departure. However, when we got to the front desk of the Volcano Lodge after our day at the hot springs the staff said I was to call the transportation company for late breaking news. We, of course were hoping they were planning on a more reasonable hour, but as it turned out they said they would only be a half hour late. The clerk overheard this conversation, though, and when I hung up he said the kitchen would not be open that early, but they would be willing to pack lunches for us to eat along the way at no cost. Needless to say, we took them up on the offer and sure enough, two sack lunches were waiting for us when we hauled our carcasses up there a little after six.

So, I would be remiss if I didn’t make you aware of the excellent Volcano Lodge. This is the best place we stayed in Costa Rica and one of the best we have experienced anywhere. First, it is a large property. We were driven from the lodge to our room, otherwise it would be about a twenty minute walk. Here is what our place looked like:

 

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There are two units per building and each room is quite spacious and even includes a TV with some English channels, the only place we stayed that did.

I should also point out that the rooms, grounds, restaurant, hot springs, everything is immaculate.

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And there is a nice patio out back

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Here is the view from the patio:

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The volcano is right out back, so if she ever blows while you’re staying here you can count on being squished like a grape.

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There is also a banana tree

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But, they have a way to go before harvest time. Our room was toward the end of the property, but very close to the restaurant/pool/hot springs area:

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The walkways are landscaped beyond belief

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This is the entrance to the restaurant, the hot springs are terraced above. You just go up there and plop yourself in. In the mornings, the staff divert the stream, drain the pool, and sanitize the whole thing.

If you come after dark, these lights, which hang from a nearby tree,  guide you to the path in.

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The staff is so friendly that by the time we finished our short stay there we knew all of the waiters on a first-name basis.

And, there are flowers of every description:

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Also, this is the staff who created the creatures we posted on Facebook:

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It was just a joy to stay here. Of course, if the volcano blows, the joy would be substantially diminished. Pricey? You would pay much more per night for a room in Port Clinton in the summer. And WAY more to stay on South Bass Island.

So, anyway, the van arrived promptly at 6:30. Armed with our sack lunches and luggage we began the journey south.

Here is the first thing that did not escape our attention. Paved roads!

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But here is also the blessing and the curse. Although the roads are paved, almost all the bridges are single lane. And this is a country with a lot of rivers. But everyone manages and no one who has been on the roads of Monteverde is likely to complain. I should add, by the way, that I would have been perfectly fine with renting a car for this leg of the journey. The roads are good and the signs are adequate enough to keep you out of trouble if you have a decent map.

This trip, even though on a main highway, was a chance to see Costa Rica off the beaten path. For example, rarely would we see a house like this:

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(Sorry for the bad picture. The driver was not in a stopping mood). Typically you see houses like this:

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This is a typical village:

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Again, a child being walked to school. Always good to see:

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All the way down Route 32 we had the mountains to our right:

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As we got closer the Limon the scenery started to change. These were the first of many banana plantations we would see. Bunches of bananas are covered in blue plastic to help them ripen sooner and to protect from insects:

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Limon is the second largest city in Costa Rica, population around 55,000. More importantly it is the only deep water port on the Caribbean side. It is a busy place:

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There was also a much more noticeable change in housing:

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Bars on windows and doors become commonplace. Generally not a good sign. Also, property upkeep appeared to fall below the standard seen in the villages.

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Limon seems to have its share of problems. In a few days we will return and take a closer look. For now, we are off to Puerto Vijeo.

 

 

 

 

Some Like It Hot!

As you might imagine, after a hard morning of smashing cocoa beans, the old muscles get mighty tight. Fortunately Anywhere Costa Rica booked us into the Tabacon Hot Springs in the afternoon. Problem solved!

Tabacon is a resort in its own right, with a luxurious hotel on one side of the road and the hot springs on the other. The one advantage to being near a volcano is there is no shortage of hot springs in the area. Our hotel actually had one as well, but nothing like this. Here is how the Tabacon web site describes it:

Tabacon Resort’s thermal natural springs are 97% rain-based and 3% magma-based. Rainwater enters the earth through fissures on the surface and is then heated by magma found in the earth’s core. Once heated, the waters rise to surface, taking with them minerals found in the earth’s rocky stratus.

There are three thermal springs that naturally surface and flow in the property at 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). Total volume generated by the three springs is 80 liters per second (approximately 20 gallons / second). In total, there are five different springs that exist throughout the property, with temperatures ranging from 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). There are two main branches to the thermal river that flow through the gardens, and one cold river spring that flows down from the rainforest.

Magma from the Earth’s core? Don’t think so. Well, OK! So, when you get there you go to a lodge-like place where they have a restaurant on the upper level and a changing area with lockers and showers at ground level. So you change into your swim suit and they give you a big, fluffy towel and off you go! The general advice was, the closer to the mountain you get the hotter the water is.

Of course, the whole place is landscaped to the nines. Here is where you start out:

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This leads to your first hot pool:

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Of course, everywhere is the sound of rushing water. And, while this pool looks most inviting, it doesn’t take long to find out it is h-o-t! It took a while before the missus and I could get all the way in, and not long before we got all the way out. The beginning was not auspicious.

Then we came upon this waterfall:

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Here the temperature was a much more comfortable. Past this railing there are stone steps that take you behind the waterfall and you can sit in there and contemplate whatever.

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That blur you see close up is yours truly. This was my favorite part of the whole place.

So, as you work you way up the trail, you have your choice of a number of pools you can go into some are hotter than others and some the water moves much faster than others:

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This place is beyond gorgeous. AND, after you have boiled yourself to a fare-thee-well, they have a pool where you can cool down:

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At one end is a stairs you can climb up to the balcony and then slide into the pool. At the other end is a swim-up bar. Personally, I found that end to be a little more refreshing.

THEN, just when you think your mind has already been blown, it starts to get dark. The whole place takes on a brand new magic.

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Well, as beautiful as this place is, there is only so much hot water you can take. Time to change back into street clothes and hit the restaurant:

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A perfect end to another Costa Rican day!

So, what does a day in this place cost? You can spend the entire day here (which, if you do, believe me they will have to pour you into a cab since you will no longer have function in any extremity) for $85 pp. AND that includes dinner at the above snazzy restaurant. And by a day, they mean 24 hours, so, had we regained the ability to walk, we could have come back the next day! As it was, we had a bus to catch for Puerto Viejo.

 

 

 

If chocolate is the answer….the question is irrelevant.

On our last day in Arenal we were scheduled for the Rain Forest Chocolate Tour. On the grounds of this place they have, of course, many cocoa trees. They also have a variety of other plants as well. For example:
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This is a vanilla plant, which is really an orchid. The only edible orchid there is. But, we wanted to get to the main topic, which didn’t take long:

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This is a cocoa tree. And, as you can see, a German couple joined us on the tour. Here is a close-up of the green cocoa pods:

DSCF5161 - CopyThe pods are ready to harvest when they turn yellow. Except these:

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These pods are part of an experimental hybrid designed to create special dark chocolate. Yummy! So, here are some typical ripe pods:

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When you open them up this is what you see:

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This picture is actually from our previous chocolate tour, but it illustrates the point. Cocoa beans are arranged in layers inside the pods and are surrounded by a gooey coating. Here is one bean fresh from the pod:

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We were each given one and invited to put them in our mouths to savor the coating, but NOT bite down on the bean. Well, the coating is kind of sweet, kind of sour. It’s not disagreeable, but no one stood in line for more.

So, the way cocoa is processed is, the pods and goo are emptied into a container and the goo is allowed to ferment over a period of a few weeks. I should also add that this process attracts a great many bugs, just so you know.

DSCF5182 - CopyIn this box you see the fermentation beginning in the lower right and progressing up the scale. By the time the process ends the goo is gone and you end up with a dry bean ready for processing.

The processing begins by finding a tourist dumb enough to do the heavy lifting:

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After the tourist passes out from exhaustion, you end with with a combination of cocoa and chaff. Chaff is removed in the same age-old method of our wheat-growing ancestors, wind:

DSCF5192Here is the finished product:

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Good job, tourist!!! But, as you can see, in spite of his Herculean strength, he could only smash this stuff to a coarse grind. Now it is time for a finer grind, assuming you can find another tourist gullible enough to roll a heavy stone:

DSCF5201Fortunately, one was in attendance. Here was her finished product:

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You will notice a cream-colored substance layered on top of the chocolate. That, my friends, is raw sugar. If you’ve ever bitten into a square of baker’s chocolate you have some idea of how bitter pure cocoa can be. YECCCH! The sugar works wonders!

Now it is time to mill the two together. Let’s see if we can find someone to do the work of ten lesser men:

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Here is the finished product:

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Now the magic begins!

DSCF5212Hot water is added:

DSCF5214Then it is whisked to a frothy delight! Then samples are distributed:

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DSCF5219If you look past the right hand of this satisfied customer you will see a line of jars. They were filled with everything from mint to orange extract to cinnamon and many other delights. We had many a refill and each time could choose the combination of additives we desired. Want to know what the best, and most popular one was? It should not come as a surprise: salt. Whatever flavor you choose, salt makes it better. Guess that explains a few things, sadly.

Cocoa had long been a principle export of Costa Rica. But, in the 1970’s 80% of the crop was destroyed by a fungus called monilia. The entire industry was devastated. But, with research and planning and the introduction of fungus-resistant strains, cocoa is making a huge comeback. Costa Rica is now one of only 9 countries in the world that produce the quality of cocoa needed to make dark chocolate. We were more than happy to be there for the revival.

Volcano Climbing!

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The other couple who were with us did not sign up for the Volcano hike, so we dropped them off at their hotel. Now it was just Dianne, William, Edgar and me. We drove back through La Fortuna and around the volcano to the entrance of a national park. William and Edgar took us past the tourist drop-offs and out to a trail head where there were no other people. William pointed out the tour buses we could see below and said we would get a jump on them. The three of us got out and Edgar drove off to park the van and wait.

William pointed out that we had come around to the charred side of the volcano. From La Fortuna it looks green much of the way up. But this side was blacker with considerable erosion from the rains.

Well, Dianne and I had already climbed 1,000 very steep steps, so we were a little leary about this hike. It started out easy enough:

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We started walking an easy path across a very bucolic pasture. Not to go too far off topic, but here is something we saw all over Costa Rica.

DSCF5104Whenever farmers want to fence in a field, they just go along and stick these roots into the ground every 10 feet or so. Then, in about three months they grow into trees and, ouila! Instant fence posts! Sure beats the post hole digging from the days of my youth!

Well, anyway, it didn’t take long till the path became much steeper and rockier:

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Fortunately, someone had made a trail through all the rocks, which, of course, are all lava, thankfully well cooled.

DSCF5070Now the path had become quite steep. Fortunately, William knew the kind of couch potatoes he was dealing with, so he stopped often to tell us about the medicinal properties of even more of the plants along the way.

Finally, we reached our destination, a clearing with a great view of Lake Arenal.

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And the hotel where the movie stars stay. Will Smith (or somebody) paid over $1K per night for a month while filming:

DSCF5100In the 47 years since the great eruption here is how much vegetation has come back:

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One of the most interesting sights from up there was this lake, created after the initial explosion of the volcano launched a bus sized boulder into the air. This, of course is where it landed.

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William was kind enough to take a picture of a couple of Sherpa’s he found along the trail.

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Then we began our descent.

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Along the way, William pointed to a distant speck, which he explained, is the white roof of the park’s visitor center. We had the option of hiking down there, or, he could call Edgar and have him pick us up at the trail head We were not crazy about  a hike of that distance, but we told him the only thing we hadn’t seen that was high on our list was toucans. I asked if we could just walk the road up here and find some and then Edgar could pick us up on the road. No problemo! So off we went.

And what a pleasant walk it was, just the three of us. We had a chance to just talk and enjoy our time. Once again, he started describing the plants, the birds and the trees we were seeing. Then he stopped in front of a tree, pulled out a knife, and stabbed it about six times. Immediately, from each wound, a white liquid began to flow. It was a rubber tree! How great it is to see something you’ve heard of all your life but never experienced!.

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Except for the light bark it looks (to me) like any other tree in the forest. But, no!

DSCF5130Now, you may ask, why is it on fire? William was illustrating a point that even in a rain forest, IN the rain, you can still light latex and start a fire. Good to know!

DSCF5119William stretching some latex. He said that, growing up in the forest, if a kid broke a leg or an arm, their mothers would make a cast by coating the limb with multiple layers of latex. That’s what he said. I’m no doctor.

We walked a little farther, and, finally!

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Toucans! They don’t have much of a song. More of a chirping sound. But, they sure are beautiful!

So, with the mission accomplished Edgar soon arrived to ferry us home, the perfect end to an extraordinary day. Getting to spend so much time with these exceptional people was not only a pleasure, but a real privilege, for which we are grateful. It is an experience we will never forget.

Edgar and Ileana

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We left the river and walked this trail to the farm we were to visit. There were all kinds of fruit trees, flowers and even cattle on this beautiful farm. Here is the main house:

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We received a VERY warm greeting from the ladies of the house. William and Edgar brought out a pineapple and star fruit and began carving:

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William gave us quite the tutorial on how to correctly carve a pineapple. Here is the finished result:

DSCF4917About the time he finished carving, the woman who had greeted us brought out a fresh pot of Costa Rican coffee. What a great snack!

One of the children of the farm is an excellent horse rider and has won events all over the country. Here are some samples:

DSCF4923We could not have felt more welcome than we were here (or so we thought), and when you leave you wish you could come back later just to see how everyone’s doin’!

BUT, we could not stay. Lots of things still to do. Soon Edgar had in his van and we were off the the La Fortuna Falls.

On our way William warned us that to get to the base of the falls we would go 500 steps down and 500 steps back. Well, that didn’t seem as bad as, say the Statue of Liberty or the Washington Monument. So, we didn’t give it another thought.

When you get to the falls there is a visitor center and the a path that leads to the trailhead that will take you to the bottom. Along that path there is a steel bridge that overlooks a small stream. We were about half way across that bridge when William stopped us. He pointed to a nearby tree. This is what was resting on a branch of that tree:

DSCF4938This pretty guy is called an Eyelash Viper because it has extra scales around its eyes that make it look like he has eyelashes. There is only one other snake in Costa Rica, as these things are ranked, which is deadlier than this one. We did not pet him.

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We began our descent. The top of the trail was nicely finished in concrete. About two-thirds of the way down, though, was the remains of the old trail. The waffled surface became narrower and more uneven. Challenging to say the least. But, eventually we found what we were looking for!

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The other couple with us decided to go in for a swim. We declined. The water, they said, was cold and quite invigorating. We went for the photo op:

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Then it was time for the hard part:

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We left ahead of the others since we knew it would only be a matter of time till they caught up. We made it over half way before they did. We didn’t want to hold up the other people so they went on. William was kind enough to stay with us. And, as usual, all the rest of the way up he pointed out numerous plants and their medicinal qualities. He should have gone into pharmaceuticals.

After we got to the top and caught our respective breaths, we were back on the road again. Instead of going back into La Fortuna, we passed through the village of Los Angeles. Very nice.

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Soon we were in Edgar’s neighborhood. It was time for lunch!

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As soon as we arrived, Edgar got to work opening coconuts for a refreshing drink!

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Yummy!

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Then it was time to visit the outdoor kitchen and dining room!

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There we met Edgar’s wife Ileana. We had pre-ordered lunch. We were able to choose from beef, chicken, or fish. One ordered beef, the rest of us ordered fish. Ileana got right to work. The wood stove was already hot.

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Ileana’s English was also very good. She made us feel right at home.

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Before long, things were cookin’!

Then it was time for coffee. With this coffee maker you measure the coffee in to the netting at the top, pour the hot water into it, and collect the finished product into the pot below. Costa Rican coffee deserves the high praise it gets from everyone who visits.

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Lunch was prepared under the watchful eye of a frequent guest:

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Soon lunch was served!

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What a feast in paradise!

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The fish, tilapia, was served over rice, with black beans, plantains, and a vegetable we cannot remember, but which is delicious, served in a tortilla. We all became members of the clean plate club.

After this excellent lunch, it was time for a tour of the grounds.

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William found a visitor in the coconut tree!

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A sloth had decided to rest among the coconuts!  Then there was this parakeet, who also had free run of the place:

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Want hot chocolate? Here’s a cocoa tree:

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Sweet tooth? How about some mimons?

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And if you can’t reach them, well, No problemo! Edgar was happy to bring in the crops:

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Just give them the hook! Soon there were treats for everyone!

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What a nice desert!

While we continued the tour with William, Edgar went back to the house.

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What a beautiful setting!

Then Edgar returned with a special surprise: Their first grandchild!.

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Edgar and Ileana’s daughter, Yuliana, works for Anywhere Costa Rica. In fact, she had been my first contact with them. Then, she to turn me over to someone else because her doctor told her to rest. Good advice, as it turned out! What a surprise to actually meet Yuliana and her new baby! Understandably, she chose to stay in the house.

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We continued our tour and William pointed out all the other things Edgar grows out here, including avocados, numerous fruits and berries, and on, and on. Soon it was time to go, although all of us would have gladly stayed longer.

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We couldn’t leave without a photo of some of the nicest people we have met anywhere in the world. And that is our lasting and best impression of Costa Rica. We met so many people who were not just doing their jobs, but who were genuinely glad to meet us and to welcome us into their country and, sometimes, their home.

And, even though we had already been on a float trip, stopped at a farm, hiked down to and back up from a waterfall, AND had a fabulous lunch with some great people, well, there was still time to hike up the volcano!

William

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Well, we got nicely settled into The Volcano Lodge and pretty much chilled for the rest of the day. Bright and early the next morning we were picked up for our 3 in 1 tour of Arenal through a company called RainForest Explorers. The driver’s name was Edgar and the guide’s name was William. He is pictured above. Both spoke excellent English. Since we would be together all day, we had plenty of time to talk. On one of our longer drives, William told us his story.

His full name is William Bogarin-Solano, but to everyone he is William. (We didn’t learn his full name till we Googled him when we got back.) William calls himself an Indian and his family is part of the indigenous people who are still found throughout Costa Rica, mostly in the Guanacoste region in the northwest. As a child he lived in a small village at the base of Arenal. When he was growing up, few people even realized that Arenal was a volcano. It had been dormant for 500 years, so everyone thought it was just a mountain. All that changed on July 29, 1968. For a day or so before that day, the ground around his village began to shake violently. There was a stream on his family farm where the cattle would go for a cool drink. Now suddenly the water was too hot for the cattle to get anything. On the morning of the 29th the mountain exploded. A huge cloud of dust and gas darkened the sky and boulders the size of cars flew as many as seven miles away, exploding where they landed. William and his family ran for their lives. Because their village was on a hill top, they escaped the hot gases volcanoes produce. His friends in a nearby valley were not so lucky and more the 80 people were killed that morning by the hot gas. That village is now at the bottom of Lake Arenal.

For years he would not go near the volcano, but in time he began to overcome his fear. Eventually he climbed the volcano and has now been to the top (strictly illegal in this day and age) eight times. Following the big eruption the volcano remained active, with regular lava flows, then it became quiet for a time. But in 2000, it erupted again, without warning. While this was a much smaller eruption, William’s best friend was hiking with a couple of tourists near the mountain. They were all killed by the hot gas. A few days later someone chartered a plane to fly up and see what it looked like up there. The plane crashed and 10 people were killed. William was part of the team who hiked up to recover the bodies. A few years later he climbed to the top and spread a blanket as a memorial to those who lost their lives.

William now keeps a laminated photo album of these events, which he shared with us on our drive. This is the eruption of 2000:

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This is the site of the plane crash:

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This is the memorial blanket he left at the top:

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On a lighter note, the actor/rapper Will Smith filmed part of the movie After Earth in Costa Rica, where they spent six weeks in a $1,000+ per night hotel nearby. William guided Will’s family through the forest. Here is Will, Jada Pinkett-Smith and their son.

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More about William later.

The 3 in 1 tour starts with a float trip down the Penas Blanca river, then a hike down to the La Fortuna waterfall, and, finally, a hike part way up the volcano. Now that’s a lot of hiking for us geezers, but William was unfazed. Along the way we stopped to pick up another couple, and that was it, just the six of us. We drove through the village of La Fortuna (more about that later) and then we were out in the countryside. Here is some of what we saw:

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Those skinny little trees are tapioca, which is grown commercially in the area. The tapioca you eat comes from the root. Then there were these:

DSCF4744The is a field of pineapples, which are grown in many places in Costa Rica. It is, by far, the tenderest and sweetest we have ever had. And, every place we stayed served it fresh every morning for breakfast.

In time, we pulled into a staging area and William and Edgar filled the boats with air.

DSCF4751We were pleased to learn that the guy in the blue shirt, part of the other couple with us, had just retired from the Coast Guard. Always nice to have backup!

Soon William had us ready to go:

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Before long we were cruising down the Penas Blancas! Dianne and I were with William and the other couple was in a boat with Edgar.

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Those of you who grew up near the Killbuck Creek will remember that it often had a certain aroma, which was, shall we say, organic in nature. Well, the Penas Blancas could have been its twin. Still, it was quite pleasant cruising down the stream.

Soon William would call out a bird here, a tree of a certain type there, or a flower over here. It was one thing after another and, for some reason, I had a hard time picking out what he was seeing. But he was gracious enough slow down or row over for a closer look. In time I started to get the hang of it. Here are a few of the many, many things we saw along the way:

Bamboo:

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Wild bananas, which William pointed out, are much sweeter and smaller than the ones we buy. But they can’t be grown commercially because they ripen too quickly.  Notice the red flower? The bananas are above it in the leaves.

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Soon William spotted this guy lounging in a tree. Sloths, by the way, have few natural predators. The reason is, they are so inactive they have very little muscle mass. So, there’s not much there to eat.

Sloth

William took a picture of a couple of tourists enjoying the cruise:

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Then all of a sudden, he starts paddling toward the left bank. He had spotted some howler monkeys!:

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And, even better, monkey babies:

Howler Babies

We watched them for a while then William went over to shore a picked a fern leaf. He laid it against my sleeve and slapped it gently. Then he took the fern away. This is called a Tattoo Fern and the powder it leaves is made of spores.

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A little farther downstream William stopped again. He left us, climbed a bank and went into some big-leafed plants a short distance away. When he came back he was carrying this guy:

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This is the famous Blue-Jeans Frog. It is poisonous, but William assured us that as long as he washed his hands soon he would survive. He did a nice job of staging the frog to make it look like we’d found him in the wild.

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In time, William announced it was time to stop for a snack. There is a farm nearby and they were expecting us. On the path to the farm we met this Iguana:

DSCF4902He was uninterested in us.

We also passed a star-fruit tree. You see these at Meijers sometimes. The fruit, not the tree.

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On The Road Again!

Well, it was finally time to say goodbye to Monteverde and head for Arenal We had been promised an even rougher road and Costa Rica did not disappoint!

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Not exactly what one hopes for in a main highway. But, at least we were in a vehicle better able to handle it:

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This time we had almost a full size bus, with lots of people heading our way, most of them youngsters.

But even a bus has its challenges:

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So, map fans, here is where we were going:

Monteverde to Arenal

At least this is where Google Maps thought we were going. In reality, we were told as soon as we got on board that we would be crossing the lake by ferry and would be met on the other side by people who would take us to our final destination, in our case the Volcano Lodge.  And, in spite of the bumps, there was some beautiful scenery along the way.

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After a couple hours of sightseeing we stopped at this restaurant for snacks:

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Bamboo was definitely the theme for this place. Some other buses pulled up as well so we had time to chat with a few Americans. We had long been in the minority. Most visitors are from Europe or Australia. We even met a couple with whom we had hiked the cloud forest. They were headed somewhere else. Small world!

Then is was back on the road. In a while we came upon a wind farm.

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Then we came to a small village. And here is a scene we saw repeated time and time again regardless of where we were in Costa Rica, a parent (usually the mother) walking a child to school. VERY nice to see.

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Here is the school.

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So anyway, we are driving for another hour or so and all of a sudden we see a big lake. In a few minutes the driver pulls his bus beside a metal shack and announces that this is as far as the bus goes. We would be boarding a ferry.  At the top of the picture is where our bus was. At the bottom is our boat. The cement slabs are the extent of capital improvements in the area. It is a dirt trail down the hill. Fortunately these young boys volunteered to help us with our bags, which we greatly appreciated. We gave them each 1,000 colonies (about $2) and they were pleased as well.

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We had no trouble finding our bags later:

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Actually it was a pretty nice boat:

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And a very fun and scenic ride it was! By the way, whenever we travel we generally try to represent the US in a positive way. Glad to see that this spirit has found its way to the younger generation as well. For example here is one of the guys who crossed with us.

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Soon Volcan Arenal  hove into view

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As we got closer the clouds almost came off:

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Before long, we started to head for our dock, which, as it turned out, was a bunch of rocks in the water leading to another dirt path. Our vehicles were above waiting for us as promised:

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 Soon we were speeding away to the Volcano Lodge on nicely paved highways. We would not ride another gravel road the rest of our time in Costa Rica.