Though we only slept a few hours we awoke well-rested and anxious to get back to our car and, more so, to the Arenal Volcano. We both showered and packed our bags, then went down to the hotel restaurant for some breakfast. It was around 9:45 or so when we sat down at a table so we knew we’d probably be late for our boat (by this time we had started to figure out that we generally work on tico time and do everything about 30 minutes late). Para desayuno we had fresh fruit, like pineapple and watermelon, eggs, black beans and rice, huevos or blugh eggs, dry bread, coffee, and fresh guava juice. It was still early but the heat was already beating down on the little village. We could feel it being blown in byocean breezes as we scarfed down our food (well at least I did, Lauren eats like she’s savoring each morsel of a last meal on deathrow – very slowly). Eddie, our canal guide from the day before, arrived as our food did so he just chuckled a little and said “I’s ok, take your time, enjoy breakfast.” He said he’d meet us by the river where he had dropped us off the previous day then left just as quickly as he’d come in. I guess he thought it was funny that we were always eating breakfast late when he was trying to transport us. No worries, he didn’t seem to mind. I finished up before Lauren and, as we were already running late, headed to the river to meet eddie and grab a humongous bottle of water from one of the village mercado’s.
There was another passenger on the boat taxi that day, a woman from South Africa I think, but a snob nonetheless. She chastised me for running late and demanded that we leave even though I told her there was another person coming. She also belittled me about my luggage, asking in a demeaning tone after eyeing my pack up and down “And how long are YOU here for?” I told her three weeks instead of two so she’d tone down her super traveler status and back off or else it was going to be a long canal ride. Lauren arrived and it was time to hit the water so we loaded our packs onto the boat (a covered one for this trip so as not to burn the pale white folk too much), settled into our seats and left the shore, headed back towards Moin. The boat ride was enjoyable, however somewhat uneventful with a crocodile sighting here and a photo opp of some local kids in a fishing boat there.
The South African kept her mouth shut for the most part and I was admittedly grateful for that. We traveled the canal, taking familiar curves at excitingly high speeds, the warm air rushed past our faces until the boat started to slow at the dock of the Hotel Mar Azul. Eddie steered the boat alongside the wooden dock and lifted our bags up onto it with the help of a local friend. Lauren and I climbed off quickly, hoisted our overpacked luggage onto our backs, then tipped Eddie graciously and took two business cards from him that he said Francesca wanted us to have.
The plan was to load everything into the rental car and make our way to La Fortuna but that was abruptly put asunder when I was unable to locate the keys to the car. I started fervently unpacking, becoming more anxious with every empty compartment of my pack that didn’t render the keys all the while thinking how expensive it would be to replace them (nearly $400). Lauren helped me search and began unpacking her bag as well while two Ticas approached us telling us in Spanish that the sol was much too hot for us and advising us to move into the shade of the roof covering the reception office to search for the llaves. As fate would have it, however, I found the keys hidden away in an unused pocket of my pack. Both Lauren and I were washed with a wave of relief and all four of us, the two women included, let out a garbled but triumphant cry of “Ayeeee!”
The plan to travel to La Fortuna was thereby back in effect and after a short study of the guide book and map in the hotel restaurant we placed our packs and ourselves into the car and left. The trip took somewhere around 3 1/2 to 4 hours and was indicative of the diversity that characterizes Costa Rica. After spending four days on the Carribean coast it was a bit of a surprise to find that there ARE many paved roads and highways throughout the country, but mostly in the central and northern plains, and establishments such as Burger King and Church’s Chicken (the latter being where we ate lunch during this trip) in existence here, not just curb side soda’s. An added note: Costa Rican’s don’t load their poultry up with hormones and super-fattening foods so don’t expect to get mounds of chicken in any of your poultry dishes if you visit (I personally appreciate the lack of chemical enhancement when it comes to the foods that I ingest).
Upon arriving in La Fortuna at around 6 pm Lauren and I took notice of the obvious influence of tourism upon the town sitting right underneath the loom of the Arenal Volcano, the streets were paved, there were various supermarkets and gas stations in town, and even the population of stray dogs roaming the streets was significantly less. We couldn’t help but feel that some of the Costa Rican culture and lure was lost here. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last time we felt that way. Our determination to explore the area and our lust for adventure was undeterred, however, and our first expedition was that of finding a suitable place to stay for the night. We consulted the guide book, by this point a much appreciated investment, and decided on the Hotel La Pradera. For $50 a night we enjoyed air conditioning, clean beds and bedding, a spacious room and bathroom, wi-fi, and filling breakfasts for each of the two days that we stayed there. After checking in we showered, changed clothes, and went out in search of dinner. We stopped at the first decent place we found that was open for business at 10 pm (it took us a while to check-in, unpack, shower, etc. if you’re wondering how we wasted four hours).
We ate at an open-air seafood restaurant where the food was good (I had a perfectly sized portion of chicken fajitas and Lauren had a rich plate of Fettucini Carbonara) but overpriced, the service was very attentive, and the drinks were fairly cheap. The staff at both the hotel and restaurant spoke very clear English which was helpful to Lauren and I but also somewhat of a hindrance given that we weren’t forced to practice speaking spanish (perhaps that comes with the heavy tourist influence as well). Sleep came swiftly after dinner (no we didn’t pass out behind the wheel) as we had an early morning of work to attend to.