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Thursday 12 Dec 2013
La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Volcanoes and waterfalls

Courtney, Katie and Deetsha were a trio of 20-year old sorority sisters from Dartford, a private university near Boston.  They were friendly enough, but we didn’t really have a lot in common.  I would have liked to get a guide for the walk in the National Park, to learn more about the forest and the volcano, but the girls were more interested in a brisk walk than paying attention to their surroundings.  We followed the trail through the trees, barely stopping to glance at the scenery.  At one point, we came across a couple looking up into the trees with binoculars, so I stopped to see what they had found. I couldn’t see the bird they were looking at, but I did meet some of Costa Rica’s other wildlife: ants.  I felt a sharp prick on my ankle, followed by another and another.  I’d been standing in the middle of ant territory and they had covered my shoes and ankles and were biting everything they could reach! Ouch! After a few minutes of leaping around slapping at my socks and shoes, I finally got rid of the little (insert expletive here)s and set off again, warily checking the path for the next attack.

We came out of the trees and climbed up a lava trail, piles of boulders strewn in a deep path through the vegetation, for a beautiful view across the enormous Lake Arenal.  Looking the other way, we should have been looking up the slopes of the Arenal cinder cone, but yesterday’s clouds were still hanging around.  Only the bottom third of the volcano was visible again.  The clouds and the black lava contrasted with the rich greens of the forest, making it very atmospheric.  There was another couple of walkers at the viewpoint.  They had hired a guide so I got as close as I could to listen to the guide’s explanations, but before long the girls were ready to move on again.  We walked for an hour and a half, then met our taxi back to the hostel and were back by lunchtime. 

The girls decided to go horse riding to a waterfall in the afternoon, a convenient excuse for me to go my own way.  I have no intention of horse riding on this trip, regardless of what might be at the end of the ride.  Instead, I met up with Blain and Mark, the Canadian brothers I was talking to last night.  They were walking up to another waterfall and swimming hole on the far side of town.  We were joined by two more Americans, Stephanie and Andrea.  These two were nearer my age and I hit it off with them straight away.  By the time we reached the waterfall 20 minute later, I’d already discovered more in common with them that I’d had with the girls this morning in three hours. 

The river dropped over a line of 4-5m falls into a deep pool, before becoming shallower and bubbling over a rocky boulder garden on its way down stream.  We climbed down from the main road and got changed on the rocks by the waterfalls.  Someone had tied a rope swing up in the trees, ready to swing out over the pool, but I opted for just jumping in from the side.  It was still a good drop and I screamed like a girl – as always – as I dropped into the cold water.  It was beautifully refreshing after the humid afternoon and it didn’t take long to adjust to the water temperature.  The current from the water coming over the falls was surprisingly strong, but we weren’t in any danger of getting drawn back in.  Instead, we could swim out into the flow and be carried along to the shallower rocks near the edge of the pool.  Blain brought the six-pack down to the water’s edge and we sat in the shallow water enjoying a cheeky cold Imperial, Costa Rica’s national beer, in the sunshine.

Before long, we were joined by another Canadian couple from the hostel.  Kyle and Katelyn had just arrived from the airport that morning.  Then a group of local lads arrived and wasted no time showing us what the rope swing was for.  It didn’t look too bad from the rocks, but once the kids swung out above the water, the drop became a lot higher.  They took a run at it and let go at the highest point in the arc, dropping at least 10m into the water.  Needless to say, Blain, Mark, Kyle and even Katelyn had to have a go, but it was too high for me.  The kids even started doing somersaults off the waterfalls themselves, coming up grinning and daring each other to do better. 

Steph and Andrea were moving on to Monteverde the next day and convinced me to travel on with them, even though I’d planned to stay another night here.  It didn’t take much persuasion.  We booked the Jeep-Boat-Jeep transport through a little agency in town where Andrea had managed to negotiate a good price.  She’d even found a nice little hostel in Santa Elena for us.  We had a typico dinner at a little soda around the corner.  Sodas are traditional street cafés, generally frequented by locals more than tourists, which do great food at very reasonable prices.  The typico is the typical Costa Rican dinner of meat, rice, mixed veg, salad and potatoes.  Very filling and usually only a couple of dollars.

Back at the hostel, I found the girls from the morning fussing over Courtney, who had fallen off the horse during the ride – yet another reason why I don’t ride.  She wasn’t badly hurt, but had bumped her head in the fall so they were worried about a concussion.

I packed up my stuff and tried to negotiate a refund on the extra night’s stay, but couldn’t get anywhere without the manager, who wasn’t going to be in until after I’d left in the morning.  It would be annoying to lose the money, but at $10, it wouldn't leave too big a hole in my budget.


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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #2 Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica

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I met Christina in April. We travelled a bit of Australia together and both learned to dive. Now we're off to Mexico and Belize to see what the Caribbean and the Great Mesoamerican Reef have to offer, before I head down to Costa Rica for 10 days.

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