We woke up around 7:30 am, had breakfast (I had cereal, toast, coffee, juice, yogurt and Lauren had LOTS of fresh fruit, toast, and coffee; after breakfast we worked seperately – Lauren on her classwork/test, I on illstreet stuff; packed up our stuff and checked out of the hotel around 2:30pm; went into town, bank (money-currency exchange via atm pretty cool – all over cr). We needed gas but it was our first time and we couldn’t understand anything the guy was saying in spanish. We scooped some lunch at a cool mexican place called las brasitas – good reasonable portions of mexican food – I had a fruity sangria drink and She had beer – waiter thought it was funny. We stopped at a supermarkado on the way out of la fortuna for beer (which you can buy individual cans of for so many colones a piece. Also you can buy liquour at the grocery store. We got local rum, bought more cookies and other essentials. The drive was interesting and VERY bumpy; went from paved streets back to unpaved dirt and gravel/rock roads except unlike the carribean roads these were uphill and I mean UPHILL! lauren practiced manual for a little while on these roads; made it to monteverde and checked out a really nice hotel, didn’t stay there b/c ol’ Lauren couldn’t afford it so we stayed at Hotel Bosque instead and made arrangements for an early morning zip line canopy tour and rainforest hike (little cabin like room w/ high school kids all around us); drank rum and coke, made some collect calls, had a fiesta with a “toxic” tarantula, ate pizza for dinner at a restaurant within walking distance – good wine, great pizza; came back and went to sleep to be ready for next day.
So, I’m back in charleston and things have been crazy with my business. I actually have set work hours and they just don’t seem to be enough. Between getting the RX-7 ready for the shows, training a new employee, handing the shipments and trying to setup carbon manufacturing it’s been pretty crazy. Hopefully, I’ll score some free time pretty soon and be able to write the rest. … if I remember it 🙂
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.
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.
After a few hours of resting and relaxing (i.e. drinking on the black sand beach) it was dinner time. In order to save some moolah Lauren and I opted to rustle up a fresh dish of M.R.E. style spaghetti and sauce. I set up the stove err fuel can and tiny portable burner on the porch outside of the room. Lauren brought her ipod outside and put on Rogdrigo y Gabriela as loud as was tolerable and in the outskirts of Costa Rica that means as loud as mechanically possible. No matter, the downstairs tico neighbors were grilling out and greatly appreciated the acoustic tunes. While we ate, we greeted a couple passing by on the porch with a warm “hola!” They made a nervous gesture which might have meant hello and kept walking.
We piled on servings of spaghetti to each of our mess kit plates and then ate contentedly with chopsticks, screw forks. The couple who had passed by earlier returned and we again greeted them, but this time with a “hey, what’s up?” The two, named Ronnie and Ashley, took much better to this and we struck up a conversation. It turns out they were from Colorado and commencing a two week journey through Costa Rica. We offered up our high opinions of both the Carribean coast and Cuba Libre and then discussed the prospect of hunting for sea turtles, with Lauren and I planning on taking a guided tour at 9:40 pm (that’s 11:40 pm for you South Carolinians back at home) and Ronnie and Ashley toying with the idea of a solo mission for tortugas on the playa. We got along well and were thankful to have found some friends in the remote region of CR. Ashley announced that the two of them were going for a night swim and asked if we’d like to join so Lauren and I said we’d tag along. We only had about 20 or so minutes before we were supposed to meet up with our guide, Alfonso, but we figured we’d just ditch the tour (since we hadn’t paid for it yet) and go to the beach on our own instead.
Yeah, skipping out on a tour in Torteguero isn’t as easy as you’d think. As we were changing into our bathing suits in our room we heard a knock on the door. Lauren answered it readily expecting Ronnie and Ashley to be on the other side and was stunned to find the guide in their place. “Time to go. Are you ready?” he said in a deep thick carribean accent. Lauren kind of stammered and tried to close the door in his face, then looked to me for reassurance and to make the final decision on whether we were to ditch the tour or commit to it. We both came to the conclusion that since Alfonso was already there to scoop us up, and since he explained that he’d had to pay for a permit to go on the beach late at night, we’d go. However, I did work out a deal with him that if we could convince our two new pals to come along last minute then they’d only have to pay a discounted fee of $20 or so. They caved and came with the group which was fortunate for Lauren and I because they brought a flask of rum with them too.
We met up with our group on the stairs leading to our room. There were four dudes and four chicks, two of each were cool (that being Ronnie and I, Ashley and Lauren) the other people were too serious and generally sucked (but one of the girls busted her ass on a shadowy and treacherous log of driftwood so it was all good). The search started up as we all tumbled out onto the beach and circled up around big papa alfonso for instructions, like no smoking, drinking, loud noises, cameras, flashlights, the normal stuff when hanging out with bitchy breeding sea turtles. We started walking down the left side of the pitch black shore and continued on for about 15 or so minutes then caught our first, and only, glimpse of a mama tortuga trying to make her way out of the breakers. She must have known a bunch of tourists were out to snap a pic of her because she flapped up her flippy-flaps, said “F that noise!” in her mind and bounced out back into the sea.
Given we hadn’t been walking all that long we trudged on for about 2 miles, stopping every once in a while for Alfonso to either talk to other guides leading groups around or scan the beach with his little red light (which is the only type of light allowed on beaches where turtles nest). Lauren and I took shots from Ronnie and Ashley’s flask during some of these stops until we emptied that ish : ( but even though the rum was gone the tour kept on. Eventually we came to a stopping point and Alfonso reluctantly gave up the ghost whilst some of the group members began to bitch and moan about how long it was taking. I tried to use my camera and was reprimanded for emitting entirely too much light. It started to rain so Lauren and I took our shirts off (remember, we had on bathing suits pervs) and began shoving important crap like cameras and wallets into a dry bag I had. I offered it to other group members and Ronnie threw his camera in, too.
Alfonso had asked at the beginning of the walk that all the miembres de grupo walk in line but, seeing as how Lauren and I can’t do much we’re told, the two of us walked happily zig zagging in and out of the ocean as the raindrops splashed on our bare skin, very freaking tropical yo. As we neared our hotel Ronnie and Ashley made a break for it but Alfonso was too quick for them and chased after them for his well-deserved payment (he searched longer than any of the other guides seemed to). Lauren and I, along with the rest of the group, kept on looking for about another quarter mile on the right side of the beach but no turtles, those elusive bastards.
Our spirits were down because of our failed search so we thought that we’d lift them with some drinks at a local disco we found chilling on the river. We went back to the hotel to change into our evening wear (clean shorts and shirts with some sandals yeauhhh) and scooped up our American amigos then headed “downtown” via muddy pathways or streets if you like. The disco was bumping with loud latin music and inebriated gyrating ticos and ticas. Lauren commanded her way up to the bar and ordered a couple of beers for me and her to sip on and after our buddies got some beverages all four of us made our way to a table facing the river and sat down to enjoy the atmosphere. At the proposition of dancing I chugged my beer and headed to the bar for another. I got distracted from the bailar con Laura by a local guy and some of his visiting friends from Spain.
The local guy had a lot to offer about the area and the best places to go. He told me how much he loved his new work since he emigrated from Nicaragua to Tortuguero and how rewarding being a guide was. His friend, the Spaniard had been traveling for months and was preparing to finish his trip in San Jose. He gave me some tips on my spanish and I tips on his english. I even threw in a little duetsch for part of the convo, just for s & g. We traded travel stories while the salsa music and sea of voices crashed in the background. While I was meeting new and awesome people Lauren and Ashley were getting hit on by some sloppy drunk tico… no bueno. They got a free drink out of it, though, then it was time to head back.
I stopped at a Soda and picked up some Pollo Rey for drunk munchies. Basically it was two pieces of the most tasty fried chicken I’ve had in my life tossed in a bag with spicy onions and two tortillas (for the equivalent of $1). Lauren and I shared a bag, as did Ashley and Ronnie, while lounging in hammocks slung under palm trees on the lawn of the hotel facing the beach. We also passed around a llager bottle filled with rum that Ronnie had gotten to-go from the disco (try that in the states). At about 4 am Lauren and I, in good faith, struck out once more for the beach and the turtles to be seen there. The weather was stormy so the sea churned and was pocked with white caps as we bumbled along next to it. At one point Lauren couldn’t restrain herself any longer and lunged into the ocean fully clothed to enjoy the milky warm water. She reemerged and we continued our trek.
The “tropical wetness” started up again and we got caught in a downpour with only palm trees to huddle under for shelter. Two videos and no turtles later we turned back and headed to bed. We did see a couple empty nests though, and Lauren spotted one that was still covered up with sand. Sleep came at around 7 am with the boat taxi on the canal back to Moin coming only three hours later.
I’ve spent hours on this blog and we’ve only gotten two comments since we’ve been gone. Post your questions, comments, concerns, etc. It’s hard to write for such a quiet audience. The blog had over 100 unique visitors come to it yesterday and NOBODY posted! Let me know what to write about!
STEP IT UP!
Also, if you read everyday go back and check out the new youtube videos I posted.
We woke up around 7:30am, got dressed, packed our stuff, then went to breakfast. I was a bit nervous about the food given the previous night’s experience in the bathroom but it was cooked and ready before I could ask for anything else (and it turned out just fine).
We had cafe and platos con huevos, pan, y jamon (well bacon, but i’m trying damn). During desayuno (breakfast) our guide showed up named Eddie. He was also from Nicaragua but spoke almost perfect english and had an amicable attitude. We boarded the Francesca, an open-air boat we chartered, after slathering on bug spray and the advised sunscreen then headed the four hours towards Tortugeuro. Along the way Eddie stopped to point out howler monkeys, spider monkeys, two-toed sloths, and crocodiles.
Pretty badass if you ask me, and you are because you’re reading this duh! We stopped along the way for a relatively uneventful 15 minute break at a little store and restaurant. Not much happened there but trash talking and the eating of sunflower seeds. We continued on our canal trip and finally made it to Tortugeuro where Eddie led us to our cabina, La Princesa del Mar. We got a room for the night and had lunch in the restaurant attached to the hotel which consisted of chicken sandwiches and Imperial beers. Eddie left us after making arrangements to return to Puerto Moin the next day at 10 am and after we paid him fully for our round-trip excursion.
Eddie did hook us up with a turtle tracker/guide named Alonzo who I jewed down for a guided tour to see some female turtles laying eggs on the beach here tonight (should be 30 to 40,000 turtles before you scoff at me). Lauren and I then proceeded to laze around the grounds of the hotel. I slept off an overdose of antihistamines in my hammock while Lauren, propped up against a log drinking Imperial, read a book for class. I woke up, she bummed a cigarette from some spaniards, we drank a beer and watched the waves break and now here we are, in our cabina drinking cuba libre and waiting to see some mo fuggin tortugas!!!!
Lauren is putting our ipod music out the window and sharing oreos with me while we hunker down in our cabina with the fan on oscilate.