Journey through the clouds to a very shy volcano!

Trip Start Dec 10, 2011
Trip End Sep 29, 2012

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What I did
Arenal Volcano, natural hot springs

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Alajuela,
Saturday, January 14, 2012

So I am getting already behind updating my blog with what I have written in notebooks and etched in my memory forever! So here's my latest installment. I took a wonderful bus journey through the clouds to visit a volcano and it decided to hide behind the thick densed misty cloud and rain. 

I finished my first week of Spanish school in San Jose and decided to leave for the weekend for some exploring. I went to La Fortuna to visit the active volcano Arenal, I have never done that before I thought so off I went at 5.30am in the morning. This is where my adventure began. I felt like I was flying through the deserted streets of San Jose, as my taxi driver used the bendy empty roads like a racetrack. I arrived with 15 minutes to spare, cool I thought let's buy my ticket. Paid my taxi driver and walked up and down searching for my stop or the bus ticket counter, 'nada' (nothing)!

An official looking man came up to me, so I asked him in my newly acquired Spanglish where is the stop for La Fortuna please? I had practiced this sentence as well as how to buy my ticket , as well as writing it down just in case on a notebook in my pocket. He said no it's not here in Spanish back, ok right bugger I knew there's more than one stop but how was I to know I was at the wrong one. A few exchanges of it's not here, no really it is not here and the taxi driver telling me that it would be better for me to take a taxi all the way to La Fortuna, oh and for good measure he added in the bus left at 6.00am anyway. This is to all my lovely Bristol friends, I did not believe him, see I'm not that gullible! So I grabbed the taxi to the right bus station and got out and queued for my ticket finally, still there was another guy there who said your bus has left, I did not believe him either. So with about five minutes spare, I was on my bus given a set of instructions for tourists about safety, in English one side, Spanish the other. I read it carefully, it said quite a lot of what I heard or read about. Keep your bag under your legs or your lap etc. I was also so fortunate to see a man taking a shit at the side of the bus station as I stared out the window as we left San Jose, I am sure this will not be the last time either! This is probably going to the least cleaniest toilet.

Facts about bus travel here in Costa Rica, the buses leave on time however they don't arrive on time and are pretty cheap too same cost of a bus for the price of 4 beers here, I think about 2.00 or $4.00 for my American readers. My journey took five instead of the three hours, but it was full of interesting occurences on the way, the lady who sat next to me insisting on speaking Spanish to me and offering me her maize snacks, I said a few things I had learnt in class and mostly answered 'si', 'no' or the universal big smile back at her and shaking my head with I really do not still understand you. The views and scenery were a stark contrast to the city. Green hillsides, farmland, very mountaineous as Costa Rica is on a plate line near to the equator. I was very glad I did not have any breakfast as I am not sure it would have stayed down, I felt a bit sick going up and down and round and precariously on the edge of the roads as another vehicle passed the other way. The roads were not very wide for two cars and as one passed a little bigger like a truck our bus braked hard, teetering on the edge of the road, next to this edge is a small ravine, I guess the worse would have happened is we would have rolled. The bus had a few set stops but generally picked up people where they were standing in the road and the same for stopping to let people disembark. When we were leaving San Jose, the driver kept letting more and more people on, I think there were some fifteen standing, the sign at the front next to the picture of Jesus was for five only. Let's say everyone on the bus made friends. 

The highlight of this journey was when we were driving through the clouds, we were so high through the hillsides that we were in the clouds itself, magical but of course dangerous as the oncoming traffic kept coming almost as fast as before without the poor visibility.

This trip also found me going to my first hostel, Arenal Backpackers Resort, it was not a normal hostel so I'm told it was a little bit more luxurious catering for what every backpacker needs, including a lovely swimming pool.

For lunch I checked out a recommendation from Lonely Planet with two of the girls I met in San Jose who by coincidence were on my bus and at the same hostel, we discussed why do they call it Lonely Planet, why not all together planet - thoughts anyone?
At the Soda Viquez we ate the casado of the house, I ate fish it was deliciosco and a small rice desert, my first pudding offered so far.

It was raining and really poor visibility, no volcano to be seen here and in fact we did not get to see it either the next day. I did see three toe sloth, tarantula, heard a toucan ( we couldn't get close to see it for fear of the twenty poisonous snakes in Costa Rica that could be found in this jungle around the base of the volcano), crested guan (big fat bird looked a bit like a Turkey) , beautiful flowers and fauna.

We also got to see a waterfall at the volcano and indulged in some natural mud mask from there. Lovely picture isn't it?!

At the end of this walk through the volcano in the rain, we went next to the free natural hot springs in La Fortuna till pretty late, we had to strip down to our swimming costumes walk across a main road, down a path to the springs and sat there in the pitch black, it was so amazing and relaxing. There was a small underground cave under the water and we swam through with just a small amount of air at the top of the cave, I managed being clumsy, to bang my head on the cave not once, but twice no long term damage I think ;)

In the evening after scrambling to take showers with the many others wanting to at the hostel, we headed over to my friend's Ant's recommendation the Lava Lounge, bit overpriced compared to the Costa Rican prices but worth it as I treated myself to a big burger, yamuca fries and a sangria. Saluda! With this it was off to bed as I was leaving again in the morning at 8am, where's all these lies in gone? Travelling... It's all worth it in the end. 
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Emily White on

Such a refreshment to lighten up my day in the corporate world!

Keep it coming! Love to read them.

Adam F on

Sounds like an amazing start to your travels!!! I definitely wont be getting on a bus in CR anytime soon after reading this :-)

Stay safe and keep the updates coming!

charlotte on

Hey Emily, you are welcome glad it made you smile during your day. best wishes to you.

greekcypriot on

Charlotte thanks for the many pictures and the nice detailed writing. This trip you are having is really very interesting, and this is just the beginning….
I look forward for your next entry.

Debbie O on

Sounds amazing. Hope I win the lottery and can travel!

charlotte on

Thanks! I did cheat the next day and took the 'tourist shuttle' as the thought of 3 bus changes to get to my next place didn't appeal. I am staying safe, no worries so far.

Enrique on

Charlotte, hope all is good with you! The photos look amazing! Are you finally going to Ecuador? If you stop by Quito, do not miss hiking the slopes of the Pichincha volcano! Amazing views of the city from up there!

aborder on

Driving through the clouds sounds wonderful!! Sadly, you have to take all local advice with a pinch of salt, trust your instincts and enjoy those amazing experiences of seeings people take craps and people sharing their food! I didn't like San Jose, there's nothing to see. Montezuma was very cool, but there are lots of hippie types there! Great read again!!

ben s on

thanks for posting the blogs and nice to read about your adventures in costa rica with becky

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