Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Weekend at Volcan Arenal

One thing hasn't changed since moving to Costa Rica......if there is a long holiday weekend, a trip must be taken! We decided to go to Volcan Arenal (La Fortuna) which is 3 hours NE of San Jose. We had a slow start Friday morning and didnt get on the road until 1pm. (Diana and I were dragging from out night out at Van Gogh) We stopped for a leisurely lunch and reached La Fortuna around dinner time. We ate dinner at a bad restaurant called La Vaca Muca....not much to say about that....just dont go there! We stayed up playing the card game Uchre in our room. Amazingly, Kate who is from Alaska, had played once before. (This is a midwest card game) She wanted to try playing again, and Diana picked it up right away.
We stayed at Villas Vilma . Kate had stayed there a couple times before, and it was so cute, Im glad she recommended it. Its very reasonably priced ($70 for 4 people!) and it was beautifully landscaped...the view from our porch was spectacular...The clouds cleared for about 30 minutes and we got a clear shot of the top of the volcano.As an added bonus, upon arrival, we were greeted by amazing towel art on the beds! HA
Everything seems to be made out of wood here, and wood carvings are very popular. This store had life size carvings of .......everything....some cool......and some.....just funny as hell.....this was ernestos favorite.
After a delicious breakfast tipico (eggs, gallo pinto, plantains.....we started the 3k trek to La Fortuna Cascadas....about half way there we passed a little house selling cold coconut water....and we were sweating....yes, have some
Ahhhhhhh...so refreshingNeto got excited when he saw the lady with the machete and decided after we drank the coco he would open it so we could eat it. This was at a lookout on the way....the view was awesome.The path to the waterfall was all downhill.....stairs, stairs and more stairs....
The catarata is 70 meters tall and a very clear blue. Muy linda! The pressure of the falling water makes it too hard to get close. The water was FRIA anyway, I only got in up to my waist. This was as close as I went....you know I had to get a pose in in the mist.....Climbing back up was all stairs too! And Im such a bad friend, I forgot that Diana has asthma… I was worried cuz she was climbing in flip-flops?? not if she was out of breath. I was climbing and I look back and she is bent over… it still didn’t register, I thought she was just tired. I felt so bad, and a guy behind us (coincidently a doctor) came up and helped her with breathing and pushed some pressure points to help her calm down. Im sorry amiga, I wont forget again!
We were pretty tired, and wanted to relax…….luckily another great thing to do by the volcano is enjoy the natural thermal hot springs. Now there are a lot of different places you can go….the most popular (and expensive) is Tabacon…..we opted for a slightly less expensive resort, but it seemed really popular (ie: too many people) Baldi Resort and Spa cost us $20 per person (locals rate)and although it was crowded and they were playing CHEESY music, the water felt awesome. There were waterfalls you could stand under to get a hot back massage.There 10 “springs” that were different temperatures….of hot….with cooler springs to hop in after. I would never stay at this place, but it was fun for a night. I was expecting something more rustic. There are cheaper springs...even FREE springs in the area....Ill have to search those out next time. We found the 2 waterslides at the top of the hill and had to give them a try. My head is still sore today, but the swelling did go down. Kate has a huge bruise on her arm. This slide really threw you around. My bathing suit top flew off when I hit the water. I gave a show (not that exciting) to the bunch of people who were gathered at the end of the slides just to see how people wipe out ....and then laugh at/with them. I laughed too….
Again with a disappointing dinner at an OVERPRICED steakhouse El Mirador….it did have a great view of the volcano, and we did get about 5 minutes of orange flowing lava……but none of us were satisfied with the meal or the $90 cuenta. Touristy SUCKERS we were!
Neto and I planned to get up early Sunday morning for the 4 hour (round trip) hike to Cerro Chato. At the top, a lagoon filled volcanic crater! The 5am plan didn’t work out….it was more like 7am, and Kate decided at the last minute to go….Diana slept like a baby!
Im really loving all this hiking! And this was the coolest yet! It was total jungle, the plants were so beautiful, moss hanging from the trees
The trail was very well maintained, well worth the $6 we paid...these cute blue and yellow signs gave directions and a countdown of the distance......I love this one near the beginning of the trail. See how under the 1250mts....someone carved BULLSHIT?? That made us laugh!
It did seem longer…think outdoor stairmaster if you will…..(ps. I have never said that before….not sure where that came from?? if you will!? ) It took us a solid hour and 45 min to reach the lagoon…..and we were sweating….we were also in the clouds and as we when down descended down some steep stairs to the lagoon, we quickly dried off, it actually got chilly…and the water was so cold none of us ended up getting in….we did watch another guy go in and he said hypothermia was about to set in. He took our picture for us
We couldnt even see past 100 meters...due to the clouds...…..and then suddenly for just a few minutes they cleared enough for us to see just how big the lagoon was. It was really a unique remote place and made it worth the climb!
With so many choices of activities to do in the area, I was game for all/any of it. Diana REALLY wanted to do a canopy tour, she is Tica (from Costa Rica) and has never been there......also none of us had ever done it, so that was #1 on the list. We chose EcoGlide and they were wonderful! All the employees were really nice and we got the "locals" rate instead of "tourist" so that saved us some $$$. Here we are all strapped in (very tightly) and ready for our instructions.
If you have never seen/heard of zip lining, it is when you are strapped in a harness and suspended from cable lines which are linked between trees high above a canopy. When you lift your feet off the platform a pulley zips you on the cable to the next one. Here is a quick video of me so you get the idea.

There were 17 platforms that we "zipped" between. As you can see in this foto of Neto, we were up pretty darn high. Kate is really afraid of heights, so the fact that she even did this was amazing. After the second zip, she said "I will never do this again" She doesn't look too scared here, right? She said she held her breath on each line and she wasn't able to look down at all. I can’t wait til my mom comes here, she is also scared of heights. If Kate can do it, so can you mom!!
Besides zipping between all the platforms, there was a Tarzan Swing. They told us this at the beginning, but we had no idea whatwe were in for...When we saw it, both Kate and Diana (who is not really scared of heights) said "Im not doing it." I was being little miss pressure-er….and they sat and debated…….Then suddenly Kate stood up and walked forward….she was going next. We couldn’t believe it! I dont think she could either, look at her face!
Im so glad I remembered to take my FLIP video camera with me, and you will be too after you see these 4 funny-ass videos of each of us on the tarzan swing. Kate’s is undeniably the funniest, her screams could be in a terror film. Watch as they have to peel her hands off the bars and then she says “No…no quiero ir” (no, no I don’t want to go) Its so funny!

I did more whimpering than screaming…..it was so scary standing on the edge. I can't even follow their instructions becuase I was so scared. I never debated going though....I love to be scared like that.....

Diana's last words "I don't want to die"

Even Neto let's out a yelp that is pretty funny....I took his video from the bottom so you can see the drop really good.

That really topped the weekend off perfectly. We got on the road by 5p and were home at 8p. An unbelievable weekend! Did I ever tell you I love it here??

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