Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Adventures in Driving to Cloud Over The Volcano
After a few stomach flip flops, we were comfortable with the road. From the airport car rental, we drove immediately up the mountain side to Poas Volcano. The volcano is just how I remember it 14 years ago but the surroundings have changed. Costa Rica has certainly continued to develop an advanced infrastructure for tourism. Along with the improved roads and clean flush toilets come those pesky entrance fees, however. I could feel the altitude as I was huffing and puffing my way up the hiking trail. Poas volcanic lake is a green colour now, spewing steam to release pressure. We hiked a 1800 metre trail around an former volcano crater now filled with rainwater to form an acid lake and then hiked back to our cars.
We decided to take some smaller roads towards La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano. We figured this would cut back on a few hours of driving (the alternative is a 4 1-2 drive back via San Jose). I just can´t get used to this little 4 cylinder engine. The 4 adults plus luggage does not help. 2nd gear, 3rd gear, 2nd gear, 2nd gear, 1st gear....all the way through these windy skinny little mountain roads, we bypass coffee plantations, and other farming for export.
After a lunch of typical Costa Rican food (rice, beans, salad, meat or chicken) we were back on the windy road. Lots of construction, we noted. The winding paved roads turned into dirt roads with more pot holes, then were reduced to only partial roads. Just passed La Paz Waterfall, a common tourist spot, we are winding down the mountain road on a serious incline when a Spanish sign indicates, "Danger: Road Closed". It was all I could do to back that little sewing machine engine of a ´4 x 4 car up on that road. The car was almost smoking. Adventures in driving! Road closed. Time for Plan B.
The locals I spoke with discouraged us from taking our chance on the road but Steven spoke to locals who were not so cautious. That Steven was going to take the road. Good thing his mother and wife were there to talk him out of it! Next thing, we would be crushed by falling bounders. How do you explain that to the insurance company?
With some great navigating by Michael we, made it to Arenal. It was a long drive but the road was waaaaayyy better than the pot holed alley I recall from my last trip 14 years ago. Too many tourists use this road now so the Costa Rican´s keep it in a good state of repair. We made it to Arenal Green just in time for dark. We have 3 cabins that are situated for Arenal Volcano viewing.
Too bad the weather won´t cooperate. We have been here for two days and have yet to see Arenal Volcano, my friends. No valcano views this year, folks. The clouds are not being kind to us.
We had a wonderful hike to La Fortuna Falls. The climb back up the steep 600 metre steps was a great cardio workout. We relaxed, had a few beers and walked through La Fortuna (town) for a few hours. I had a lovely Rosta Rican meal - cerviche appetizer (marinated marlin, a white fish), BBQ chicken wrapped in banana leaves and a glass of white Chilean wine. Steven gushed about his grilled mahimahi.
Early to rise today, we ate breakfast on the run for a 7:15 am departure to some wildlife viewing at Cano Negro Wildlife Reserve. We spent about 3 hours on a river boat watching various birds and waterfowl, howling monkeys in the trees (the males bark very, very loudly to warn us off), iguana and cormorants, kingfishers, storks, etc.
We are relaxing now in the intermittent rain showers, having a beer/wine/nap before our evening dinner and spa at Tabacon Resort, a 5 star hot spring spa and resort. I am expecting it to rain this evening but the hot springs will keep us warm. We are hoping for a break in the the clouds so we can catch an evening gaze of the great Arenal Volcano from the hot springs. Keep your fingers crossed for us, folks.