September 6, 2014

What a day!  Got up at four to get ready and headed out of San Jose.  The sun rises really early here so it felt later.  Beautiful morning though.  Mary actually got up and made Carlos and I some oatmeal before we left.  I got some pictures when we stopped for gas just north of the city; the sun was just hitting the mountain range.


The black spot on the right side of the picture is the top of Turrialba, one of the eight active volcanoes in Costa Rica.  The rest is hidden behind clouds.  It’s about three hours from here to Arenal and a lot of the time is crossing over the mountains on narrow rocky rainy roads and the valleys were filled with fog coming off the river. There’s considerably less traffic outside the city but the driving is no better.  As Carlos said, “Costa Rican people, you meet them on the sidewalk and they’re so friendly, but you put them behind the wheel of a car and it’s…they’re scum.  They’re different people.”

It’s an interesting drive; all the scenery is so different than anything I’ve seen; we passed a rum distillery, tomato, coffee, and sugarcane fields spread out over vast hills.  It felt much shorter than three hours.  When we got to La Fortuna, the town at the base of Arenal, Carlos wanted to stop at the house of friends he used to work with.  They have a little farm where they raise gineaus and have banana trees and mamons, which is the craziest looking fruit I’ve ever seen.  They look like one of those spiky rubber balls I had as a kid:



A green mammon (the red ones are sweeter)

We had several hours before we had to pick up Carlos’ friends and drive them back to San Jose so Carlos stopped at Catarata Rio Fortuna, an ecologic reserve with a huge waterfall.  I hiked down to the bottom, rickety bridges and 480 rocky stone steps carved into the side of the valley (which felt like 4,800 on the way back up-I’m going to be in so much pain tomorrow).




The view of the rainforest was gorgeous and there’s a swimming area at the bottom.  There’s a little beach on one side, if you go down another set of steps, or you can climb over a bunch of rocks to get right up close to the waterfall.  The water was crystal clear and so cool:



We drove over the dam of Lake Arenal and stopped at one of the many hot springs-nice and warm, with little waterfalls flowing down the mountain.



The flowers are gorgeous too-this red one was about the size of a pineapple!



Some movie trivia: La Fortuna/Arenal is one of the filming locations for Will Smith’s After Earth.  We saw some of the leftover props and the resort they rented out for the cast and crew.  It was too cloudy to get a good look of Arenal itself but the area was just stunning.

We picked up Carlos’ friends around one at The Spring, a really upscale resort, very secluded, about a mile down a gravel road.  There’s about 27 springs at the resort alone.  And Roger and Susie are a lot of fun.  They’ve been coming to Costa Rica at least twice a year, since the eighties or so, and had all kinds of stories.  They bring tour groups for adventure travel and yoga retreats and were scouting new locations to bring guests.  It rained all the way back to San Jose but we took a different route than on the way in so the scenery was different.  We stopped at this really cute little store and I picked up some souvenirs, then we had lunch about 4pm just outside San Ramon at La Cima, one of the many sodas (little open air restaraunts/bars with typical tico food) alongside the road.  They have really good seafood; I had garlic shrimp and it was delicious.  Sodas are where the locals eat and prices are really pretty low.



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