Though the alarm clock on Lauren’s watch was set for 7:30 am I woke up inexplicably early (maybe due to the excitement about the prospect of viewing a Volcano spew lava) about an hour before the alarm would start blaring. Well, not blaring, it’s just a littly itty bitty digital watch. I grabbed my computer and headed for the pool to soak up some of the free wireless internet provided by the hotel. As I caught up on work, Lauren slept in, that is if sleeping until 7:15 am qualifies as sleeping late.
She met me at the pool, an assigned Victorian english novel in hand, and we both were productive until Lauren’s need for coffee became more pronounced than her need for scholarship. Breakfast was a great pick-me-up for the both of us. Coffee, juice, and cold and hot water were laid out in ample supply on a table in the dining area of the, once more, open-air restaurant (typically restaurants and bars in Costa Rica are open-air given that the weather is awesome most of the time and doesn’t need to be altered with any man-made climate controls). We both had a steaming hot cup of cafe negro with sugar and ate a typical Costa Rican breakfast of rice and beans, eggs, a tortilla, some rubbery but appetizing local queso, and fruit.
After eating, Lauren waited anxiously for a german woman who was staying at the hotel to finish up with the public computer in the hotel’s reception office so that she could take an on-line test for her summer school class. As soon as the german finished up with the computadora Lauren was off and I headed back to the pool to continue working. About an hour or so later I came by the office to consult Lauren on our plans for the day. Would we take a tour to the volcano, drive through the rainforest on atv’s, or act like stereotypical tourists and take pictures of everything and anything while buying as many cheap souvenirs as possible? We both went for option A with an added bonus, a guided tour of the Volcano and surrounding rainforest along with a trip to the Baldi hot springs resort AND dinner all for $65 a person (badass, I know). The tour left from the hotel at 3:35 pm so of course we made arrangements to join in about an hour before.
Lauren discovered that her online test wasn’t due for another three days and I was so impressed with how much work I had gotten done that we concluded we should reserve our room for another night and enjoy our tour all the while knowing we would be working again the next morning. No problem, you’ll find that with enough Costa Rican coffee working it’s way through your system you can do just about anything. Lauren and I hurried to get ready for the tour, decking ourselves out in hiking gear galore (light weight hiking shants i.e. pants that convert to shorts, sweat wicking shirts, bug spray, camera’s, etc.) Upon discovering that we were hungry at about 3 pm we tried to make an MRE rendition of pad thai as fast as possible on our quaint little porch and then gobbled it with no extra time to spare.
We walked up to the office, where we were supposed to be waiting for the tour bus about ten minutes prior, but luckily it was just pulling in as we arrived. We both thought ourselves lucky to have “timed it just right” until one of the guides for the tour popped out of the bus and asked us to change our shoes (we both were wearing Chaco’s made for hiking but apparently not sufficient for the treacherous trails surrounding Vulcan Arenal). Dammit, we thought, of course we couldn’t be on time for any one thing. Hiking shoes and breathable socks on foot, we climbed aboard the tour bus/van filled to capacity with other curious tourists, and drove for about twenty minutes to the trailhead as Jorge the tour guide with Canoa Adventures discussed the logistics of the tour with everyone in both english and spanish translations.
The tour bus/van stopped and parked at the opening to the trail which doubled as a observation point for the volcano. All of us tourists bustled out and started snapping pictures of the scene as fast as our fascinated and eager little fingers could. We then split off into two english-speaking and one spanish-speaking groups. Lauren and I aligned ourselves in the guide Bernado’s group alongside three other members and commenced on our informative yet somewhat slow tour of the secondary rain forest. Within maybe 20 or so paces we were introduced to a plant which, upon any type of touch, closes in on itself to ward off predators.
We continued on, hiking over muddy and rocky hills, learning about indigenous flora and fauna such as The crested one (an indigenous bird related to the turkey) and Heliconia (a bright red and serpantine like flower). Although our goal was of catching a glimpse of spider and howler monkeys along with Tucans and other such novel birds was futile, we did get to swing on a hella cool tarzan vine. The rain forest tour ended a little before we would have preferred it to but cold bottles of water and the promise of viewing hot lava sliding down the side of the Arenal volcano were enough to quelch any of our desires to push the rain forest tour any further.
Once all of the groups had concluded their tour we once again piled into the tour bus and drove for about 15 minutes to the Volcano observation point or what was better known as a bridge leading to the observation point. Lauren and I situated ourselves near the bridge which provided a pass for vehicles over a river that rushed over a small and crumbling dam. I manipulated my tri-pod with camera attached to a position which was adequate for taking pictures of the volcano and, hopefully, flowing red hot lava. A communion of maybe thirty to forty people crowded around the river and bridge all harboring the same hopes as Lauren and I and making excited, half-drunk, and loud outcries at any sighting of molten rock and earth. The Volcano ralphed maybe four or five times in a period of 30 minutes to the appreciation of all of it’s viewers, the act of which might have been reminiscent of ancient villagers praising fire gods sitting atop the giant outgrowth. Lauren and I, as expected, were the last to realize that our tour group was leaving, requiring the tour guides to come and find us personally amidst the crowd. From the observation “deck” we traveled to the Baldi hot springs resort where we ate a pre-paid dinner of sufficient if not absolutely scrumptuous platos tipicos served as a buffet. The best part of the meal had to have been the almost sickly sweet fruit juice and cake soaked in sweet milk. After filling up, Lauren and I headed to the changing rooms, rented a locker to store our belongings in safely, and were off to explore the various naturally hot water pools that made up the resort. Our first stop was at a larger pool of a comfortably warm bath-water like temperature that had a wetbar built into the middle of it. We both ordered “last calls” which were the strongest of the ludicrously priced mixed drinks ($10 each regardless of how much liquor and/or junk was in them) and drank them as we chatted up two surfer girls from the states who were just embarking on their two-week journey through Costa Rica. Given that our first drinks were a little mild we buttered up the bar tender, kind of, into making us stronger drinks for the same price. He readily obliged, handed us two drinks which were markedly more clear (coca cola was in the drinks, with the first being much darker than the second), then accepted our payment and tip.
The second pool we visited was MUCH warmer than the first given that it was 150 degrees (it was scalding to be more exact). Lauren and I decided to vacate the nearly boiling water, coming to the realization that extreme temperatures and alcohol consumption don’t mix so well. We wandered to the third, and final, pool of luke warm water, waterfalls, and ,wah-bam, water slides. There were two options for slides to choose from, one enclosed slide which was “crazy but a lot of fun” according to one pool patron and another slide which resembled a jungle gym slide experiencing a roid rage (steep, fast, and confusedly switching between ups and downs). The first slide we went down was the tube which allowed for any body of matter traveling down it to reach a speed of around 45 kilometers per hour. I went down first with Lauren following me, both of us sustaining some minor injury (mine being a good knock to the groin and her’s being a good knock to the noggin – we both went airborne inside the tube). I went down the same slide a second time hoping Lauren would be able to capture a video but she sucks at working the camera.
She went down the other slide twice and I got a vid of it. Lauren made a nice little comment in the youtube video so definitely check it. We hung out under some steaming hot waterfalls and then got dressed and went back to hotel. We were both pretty worn out so we went to sleep early after showering.