Good-Bye and Hello
Trip Start Apr 06, 2008
31Trip End May 10, 2008
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I returned from work to begin the sad business of saying good-bye to my fellow volunteers including my laid-back roommate Melissa, Chris my early morning companion (we were the earliest risers and would always chit-chat in the morning) and who would have us in stitches the rest of the day, 8 year-old Hanna whose energy would be difficult to replicate, and her easy-going, good-natured mother Donna
Caitlyn had already gone to Arenal, and had suggested that we stay at the hostel, which was supposed to be pretty nice. Indeed, on the website, it was a self-proclaimed "5-star hostel resort." In the spirit of pura vida and letting go, I decided to go ahead and try out the hostel. Weirdly, despite claiming to have wireless and flat screen tvs, you could not reserve a private room online. Instead, we had to trek to a hostel in San Jose and pay in advance. Since we were going to San Jose for dinner on Thursday, we decided to give it a try.
On Thursday, we arrived at the hostel, which was located in a decidedly shady neighborhood. The hostel itself had a 7-foot barbed wire fence surrounding it, and when we pressed the buzzer, an eye-level window reminiscent of the Prohibition-era speak-easies slid open, with suspicious looking eyes staring out at us. We explained that we were there to make a reservation, and the door slid open, depositing us in a dark foyer decorated in a jungle motif. Off to the side, I could see a pool table and a very large Bob Marley poster (which turned out to be a puzzle)-all of which were indicia that I was too old to be staying in a hostel. Even worse, it turned out that they only had dorm beds left on Friday, but a private room on Saturday. Again, in keeping with my philosophy, I decided to let it go and acquiesced.
And so, after an 8-hour trek across Costa Rica that involved two buses (and the discovery that teen-agers are annoying in every country, no matter what language they are speaking and regardless of whether you understand what they are saying), we arrived in La Fortuna
Our room consisted of 4 sets of bunk beds, and 5 of the beds were occupied, leaving us with three top bunks, none of which had guard rails or ladders. Thus, getting on the beds required a scramble that would have done Spider-Man proud, and then required us to hug the wall in fear of falling off and breaking an arm. After claiming our beds, we began to investigate the belongings of our roommates, at which point I made a significant discovery: we had boy room-mates!!!! I had very wrongly assumed that the hostel segregated its rooms by sex, but that did not appear to be the case. Again, in the spirit of letting go-and since it was only for one night-I let it pass and we went to enjoy a dinner at Burger King (after three weeks of Costa Rican food, we were ready for something a little different) and a few drinks before heading back to our room
The next morning, I made an interesting cultural discovery. European men do not wear boxers. No, they wear briefs. My favorite pair belonged to one of the Swedes-it was bright blue with "Sweden" spelled in big yellow letters across the rear. In any event, Kalpa and I rose early-about 6, and then headed off to a morning of rappelling (me) and zip-lining (Kalpa). Lauren had decided she wanted a relaxed day by the pool and volunteered to check us into our new room.
Rappelling pretty much consisted of what it sounds like-we rappelled down four waterfalls and a dry wall ranging in height from 45 feet to 165 feet, and it was very fun. I was terrified, but it was quite an experience, although we ended up soaked through. On the way back down to town, we road in the back of a pick-up truck, and the tour guides would periodically stop the truck and jump off to pilfer fruit from the orchards lining the road
After rappelling, I headed back to the hostel where I met up with Lauren and Kalpa. That afternoon, we headed out for a hike around the volcano, and then went to see the lava flow. Although it was dark and overcast, we could still see the red-hot lava tumbling down the side of the volcano, which was really cool. We then headed over to check out another one of the area's big tourist attractions-the hot springs.
The hot springs weren't quite what I expected. I suppose that I had imagined a facility built around natural springs. Instead, I got a huge place filled with pools and Jacuzzis of different sizes and temperatures, and several swim-up bars. Apparently they pump the water in from the springs. Lauren aptly described it as a water park for grown-ups. And some of the pools were really hot-I told Lauren I would give her $20 bucks if she went in the one that was 152 degrees Fahrenheit, and she was game-at least until she dipped a toe in and decided that she didn't need the $20 that badly. While the springs were interesting to check out, I doubt that I would go back. And, of course, there was the obligatory cheesy 80s music blasting throughout the facility-we heard Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper, just to name a few.
Sunday was pretty low-key