Mountain in the Mist

Trip Start Jan 14, 2007
Trip End Mar 05, 2007

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Friday, March 2, 2007

We spent a day in La Fortuna, a tourist town dedicated to adventure sports on and around the Arenal Volcano, one of the most active in the Americas. La Fortuna is like an adventure sports Niagara Falls - pretty cheesy town, with little soul, totally dependent on tourism. We stayed in a nice little apartment with a high peaked roof and open rafters. This design lent itself to visitors. Namely a bat and two birds. Given my good luck so far with bugs, I guess I can't complain right? La Fortuna's best feature is the active Arenal Volcano, towering above the town in all its fiery glory. Unfortunately, we only caught passing glimpses of the mountain through the clouds. We started the day with a mountain bike tour along the shore of Lake Arenal and just below the mist shrouded volcano. Lake Arenal is man made but spectacular nonetheless. Our guide was a native Costa Rican who had just finished guiding a three week trip around the country. Along the trail we saw an anteater (!), many beautiful birds and a large and noisy family of howler monkeys. This was Lol's first view of the howlers after hearing them several times. They put on a noisy show, jumping from branch to branch for their gawkers. We finished the tour with a challenging and exhilarating ride back to La Fortuna, peddling up several large hills and then coasting back into town. After a lunch break, our afternoon adventure was a easy hike up the forested foothills of Arenal for evening wildlife spotting and hopefully a nighttime fireworks show from the volcano. On the hike through the jungle, we spotted a mother and baby spider monkey (several in the group were peed on by mom) and a toucan from afar. Once out of the jungle, we had a commanding view of the lower slopes of the volcano, where the recent lava flows cut wide swaths through the jungle creeping up the mountain. We could also see the ridge that was formed by the massive 1968 eruption, which signaled the volcano's return to activity. Several small villages were buried in the flow. Unfortunately, beyond that, we couldn't much more of the mountain, again covered by clouds. Once darkness fell, we caught a glimpse of a few of the lava flows that made is down beyond the cloud deck. Without the clouds, it would have been an incredible show. On the return trip home, we made a stop at the Baldi hot springs. This is one of several "spas" that utilize the naturally hot spring water coming off the volcano. We enjoyed several very expensive cervezas ($3 - its all relative) in the hot pools before realizing that if the rest of the bathers were as dirty as we were, then this bathwater was pretty nasty. We spent the evening at the Madame Tussauds and then at Ripleys Believe it or Not! Um, yeah, just kidding. But if there ever was a Costa Rican Niagara Falls, this town is it!
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