Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Adventures" To and In La Fortuna

(Most modern church I'd see in all of Central America)
My first stop in Costa Rica was Libería and it was really nothing more than that - a stop. My only full day there was spent contemplating whether a trip to the peninsula for some beach time was worth it (decision: nope) and whether I should have another cold beer (decision: of course). The only picture I took the entire time is featured above. Most of the churches and cathedrals I've seen in Central America up until this point had been very Spanish colonial in style, so this one really stood out.

The first adventure with La Fortuna came with getting there. It seemed like it should be fairly straightforward...and it would have been...had I been aware that there are other places in the area also called La Fortuna. Oops, went to the wrong one. Although it was definitely out of the way, it wasn't such a big deal. I had to take three buses to get back on track...only to find out that the last bus I needed had left a few hours earlier. Oops again. So I was stuck in Tilaran, but the first bus the next morning left at 7am so no sense in crying over spilled milk, right? Besides, I never would've gotten this awesome picture of a very blue bathroom, complete with shampoo in little to-go cups if I hadn't stayed the night in Tilaran:
(Shampoo matches the paint. And the water cup. And the toilet.)
On Saturday, the trip to La Fortuna was actually pretty easy (as easy as it should have been if I'd done it right the first time around, ha!) and I was here by just after 9am. I quickly got a lay of the land, got checked in and showered, had breakfast, and got signed up for a tour from 2-8pm.

The tour consisted of transportation to and from Arenal Volcano, time at the volcano's observatory lodge, a short nature hike to learn about the area's plants and animals, a longer hike to a waterfall including a couple of long, hanging bridges, a small museum of the volcano's history, and - what I think everyone was really looking forward to - a trip to natural hot springs in the area.

The volcano's most recent eruption was in 1968 and it spewed lava every day for more than 40 years after that. I guess I should've come to Costa Rica a couple of years ago! I didn't see any lava, but it was still pretty cool seeing the two faces of the volcano - the green face where everything is growing and pretty, and the black face that's been covered in ash and lava for the last few decades.

At the beginning of the day, things were looking like this:
(View from my accommodations. That's a fire station in the foreground.)
 But a few hours later, at about the time we were fully entrenched in our hike, it looked like this:
(Rain starting to come in)
Yep, right around the time we got to the waterfall portion of the tour, the rain started coming down. It was a regular downpour and there wasn't a whole lot we could do about it, so in pretty short order we were soaked to the bone. It hadn't been too hot when we started and it didn't take long for us to be cold and fairly miserable. Most of us were keeping our spirits up, though, because there's not really much you can do when it comes to the weather (and weather in rainforest jungles in the rainy season, specifically). 

And, of course, as soon as we were back to the observatory and the hike was over, the rain stopped. But the timing was perfect because it was about the time when a family of sloths decided to make their move. Oh my god, all I really wanted during that tour was to see a sloth and I saw not one, but three! Including a baby! It was awesome. I don't have pictures - didn't even try because I knew with the lighting and the angle of the shot it wouldn't come out right, and I was more interested in actually seeing the sloths. I also didn't get pictures of toucans, howler monkeys, and a red-eyed tree frog for the same reasons. The tree frog was right up close, actually, and was so freaking cute and awesome.

Finally, it was time for the hot springs that we'd all been waiting for, especially now that we were cold and wet from the rain. We stripped down to our bathing suits and walked down a rocky path, reaching a large, flat rock that had water gushing over it to form a small waterfall. We were instructed to sit down and kind of slide jump into the pool below. We'd been told that these waters used to be cold and then they were boiling (enough to cook a chicken!) after the 1968 eruption, but now they are a comfortable 100 degrees. If you sat or kneeled in the pool, the water was up to your neck. Once we were all situated, the guides started handing out beverages - the national liquor guaro, made from sugar cane, mixed with Fresca. Then they came around with this lava mud that they spread on our faces to make masks. Even the guys were lining up for their spa treatments! It really was like a spa, too, because then I positioned myself under the waterfall and the water beating onto my neck, shoulders, and back was a really great massage. Adult beverage, mud mask, and thermal waters massage - quite the spa day, one that I hadn't even anticipated! There was also a cool little cavern similar to the one I saw at Semuc Champey. When our guide and two British girls broke out into song in that enclosed, echo-y space, I had to laugh.

It was a long day, one that got a little rough in the middle, but it ended on a really great note.


  1. That is the oddest looking church I've seen. Well, not really, there are storefront churches in the 'hood that are pretty odd looking too but a lot more effort went into building your odd looking church. Your church, if it didn't have the steeple could easily be converted into a fried chicken joint on the eastern shore.

    C Ya soon,

    1. You think so? That never occurred to me, really. Liberia is called La Cuidad Blanca (the white city) because a lot of the buildings are whitewashed like that church. Maybe it's just been too long since I was in the 'hood and I've forgotten? ;-)