La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Our trip to Costa Rica finally left the city and into the volcanic territory of Arenal where we met a rather relieved and helpful soul in Joe. As a background, he had been our American host via email for ages, trying to sort out options for transportation, being incredible helpful so when he saw us he had a genuine, ‘oh great, you’re here’ look about him. After settling into our £38 mansion, ok, well, it wasn’t a mansion but I think it ranks 2nd on our most value for money accommodation. Although facilities were not great, it was like a mini-mini resort, with a tiny bar, tiny swimming pool and outdoor hammock area. Being based right in town with a great view from our balcony of Volcano Arenal was definitely a good choice. I don’t tend to write about our accommodation too much, but I think this time it was worth a mention. Oh, one other thing, the balcony stocked two rocking chairs with a cushion lining only a size one supermodel could of enjoyed. After realising we were not supermodels, we took a walk to a nearby river and Tarzan swing, which was in full swing (no pun intended) as it was being vigorously used by some locals Ticos. Over the course of our three days we took part in several activities, because well, you have to its Costa Rica. The first of these was a quad bike safari through private farmland adjacent to the glorious Arenal Volcano. With our private tour guides we headed out rolling down steep hills into rivers, over bumps and enjoyed the Mosquitos flying into our mouths (sense the sarcasm). Next up, a visit to the wonderful Hot Springs at Springs Resort. Our package also included a couple of activities so first we headed out onto our nature walk to hear about the rainforest. Rather than concentrate too much on the animals, who were clearly all having a lie in, we had a little education on the natural medicine and practical use of the rainforest. On our walk we were educated in plants and how to make a poisonous dart in an interesting, interactive and intriguing approach. Only 5 minutes into our walk our guide cut into the ever so present rubber tree and induced sap of which he collected and continued to spread over the palm of his hand. We then proceeded to walk for another hour while the sap dried and eventually turned into rubber. During our journey he also picked up a spike of a tree which he pointed out to us (no pun intended) that was indigenously used as an arrow. Towards the end of our journey he completed his Blue Peter piece by gently rubbing and rolling the now dried sap into a long piece of very strong rubber. He then used this to tie the spike around a dead branch to make a very rigid weapon, which was ready to be dipped into the poison of the many famous Poisonous frogs living in the Costa Rican rainforest, neat. Within the next 30 minutes we had been briefed, handed a rubber ring and chucked down a river with Rapids…yes, I’m talking about tubing. I have been trying over the years to learn Spanish, but nothing had me concentrating so much than on the safety brief (in Spanish). My passion to avoid kids outweighed my desire to understand important safety information as I levitated toward the Spanish group. Luckily after guessing the guides actions and sense of humour, we proceeded to the river before being pushed out to ride the Rapids. The experience itself was exhilarating, and anyone can do it, in parts of the journey we literally saw kids stuck in a rubber ring on top of a rock or abandoned by their laughing parents somewhere in a river bush – the kids themselves showed no emotion during the traumatic times and plenty of smiles at the end. If bumping our rear ends on rocks and scraping our limbs against the river sides wasn’t enough, we grabbed our ring and went one more time. We then took a little walk to see a few local animals that has been rescued and kept here including crocodiles (see crocodile spa video), toucans (and actually feeding them), sloths (sleeping) and many cats and other native animals that I promise I’ve remembered their names. The rest of the day was all about the hot springs. The resort had 3, but not just three pools, but 3 sets. Each set probably contained at least 8-15 pools with varying temperatures. Our first experience was the very raw springs near the river which was absolutely delightful, especially when you are all alone. The next set was also a little raw, but man made to look the part. Springs were different sizes and temperatures, but all placed within a jungle setting. They even had a slide which we had to refrain ourselves from going on due to the many kids that were using it – we think if one adult went, we all would and eventually the kids would be forced to endure our envy. The third set of pools were outside the hotel and very much man made, with pools designed with more clear water and adjacent sun beds. As night approached, lights lit up and so did our faces with the beauty that we were experiencing. A very active day was finished with a calm relaxing environment – if you ignored the mass amount of families that is. Our last day in the Arenal district led us into the lows and heights of the rainforest on a nature walk through the jungle and across 6 highly anxious hanging bridges. When I say anxious, I don’t mean the bridges were stressed, although the amount of weight they carry each day would make me a little stressed. I was of course talking about my fear of heights and wobbly bridges, although I’m sure many would agree with the second fear. As we travelled through the jungle we were on the watch for Howler and Spider monkeys, of which we saw both and forever watching around our feet for poisonous and venomous snakes, frogs and spiders. Our first site of monkeys was more of an unfortunate incident for a Chinese lady in front, as her first experience of seeing a spider monkey was unluckily via the direct contact that was the feces of the animal that had been thrown, by the cheeky git. On another part of our journey we encountered a venomous snake whose stillness was just simply a hidden desire to munch anything on its path as it laid on a branch face down, mouth open; I decided that I didn’t want a photo. The rest of our trip was all about the bridges and as we walked or rather did a shaky walk with a ‘let’s hope it doesn’t break’ look, we couldn’t help but admire where we was. Different bridges were placed on different levels of the rainforest all the way from the bottom to the very top of the canopy. Our guide also demonstrated that he could shake a tree around 50m high due to the roots, which as fascinating as it was, I couldn’t help feel a little dizzy and wonder whether it was actually the tree or the bridge moving. As i am writing this blog, it’s obvious that we had survived to tell the tale and although we’ve done it once, I would still make sure I marched over those bridges as quick as possible. I did feel a little safe though, as batman was out protecting…I say batman, it was a gardener with a batman t-shirt on, but you’ll hallucinate anything at the time to make you feel better. We finished off our cultural experience with an Italian pizza and a very unusual Brazilian basil lemonade…ok, so they are not Costa Rican but we felt like we wanted the treat.