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- LATEST TRIP LISTED FIRST
Arenal Volcano, Monteverde, Liberia
(Our first trip)
We stayed at the Arenal Lodge in the midst of a rainforest (hence the surround sound of rain)
which at times would up its decibals to torrential.
While waiting to board our bus two small Tican girls
(5-7ish) came up all giggly in Spanish and asked me for my name. Then they ran back to their Mother and shouted, “Susanna.”
I felt like someone….like a celebrity! Must have been my Bo Derrick look.
Our bus to Fortuna (near Arenal) did not have assigned seats. We
later learned why. They sell the standing room only space also. People are jammed into all of the seats and also, the aisles.
It is not the most comfortable way to travel yet it is so reasonable (as in about $5.00 for a ticket). At one point I fell
asleep yet opened my eyes wide at one point. There were two men leaning over me (seeming to be going for my bag which I held
with my legs).
I began hearing loud noises and thumps when the driver shifted gears. We
were headed down a mountainous two-laned road and sure enough the drive shaft fell out of the bus and we drifted down the
steep decline and somehow made it over to an open land area next to a restaurant. We would wait until another bus showed up
to replace it. One saving grace was we had an opportunity to use the bathroom while we waited. (There are typically no bathrooms
on the busses – so it is not recommended to drink very much water)….
a passenger from the States, a young man in his late 30’s had placed his small pack above his seat during the trip (with
his valuables inside) – not a smart move. Poor guy realized he’d been robbed during the trip (all his money, passport,
etc). Often thieves crowd the aisles and reach around for anyone who stores any valuables above the seats. It is so packed
that no one can even notice. It may have even been the shady characters leaning over me. The police were called in and we
had to all be searched in order to board the new bus (which pulled up hours later). Of course the true thieves were long gone
at this point. The police did this for show.
We finally pulled up in darkness to the town of Fortuna – to find out that we still had about 40 kilometers more to go to reach our resort! We then climbed
in a taxi which cost a lot more than the bus ride. Yet what a place – 2000 acres of rustic elegance and miles of driving
through the guard gated entrance to arrive at the lodge.
Thanksgiving Day we boarded a boat from Lake Arenal which took us to the other side of it; and then climbed into a four-wheel
drive taxi which drove us the 25 miles to Monteverde. We first lugged our bags up a steep muddy embankment to reach the taxi.
The taxi took 2.5 hours to go a stretch of 25 miles…we’re
talking ‘beyond bumpy’ – more like cavernous road drop offs. We experienced quite the adventure just traveling
to our next destination. Yet what a view along the way….Irish green lush mountains and pastures; dense jungle terrain;
the Pacific Ocean; a melt your heart sunset dripping like candle wax in the distance and glowing like the candle….gorgeous.
We saw much local life including makeshift homes made of metal or cardboard
which brought tears to my eyes. Surprisingly though the children were in ragged clothes with dust stained bodies, they also
wore the biggest smiles as they ran through yards chasing dogs and one another. They seemed a testimony to the saying, “Money
does not buy happiness.”
Some homes were brightly colored and many had bars on the windows
and across the entry ways (that is the homes that were made of wood or stucco). We also passed many cows and horses roaming
the pastures and the cows seemed plumper – the horses quite thin. Each town had a school, a church, sodas (snack places),
a restaurant, and, of course, their lifeblood – the football (soccer field).
were the last to be dropped off at our hotel, La Colina Lodge. We’d chosen a place closest to the Monteverde
Park so we were out a distance – from any life. The advertisements had mentioned that our lodge had a restaurant
which we’d decided we’d have our Thanksgiving meal. We also had a guaranteed reservation. We’ve learned
though that with foreign travel – this does not always mean anything.
Fortunately our taxi driver waited
for us…as we soon discovered that there was no one in the hotel office – it was locked. The place seemed deserted
as if there weren’t even guests there.
Our taxi driver knew the receptionist which lived near
him (about 20 kilometers away – on that treacherous road)! He phoned her and told her about us. She promised to return
to the hotel when she could. Meanwhile she instructed him how to break into the hotel. We next climbed into our room through
As we sat in our room shivering with no heat and a cold draft pouring
through the slats in the windows, we realized we were right. There were no other guests here - only us. Jim took out a Cliff Bar and we
shared this for our dinner. Happy Thanksgiving!
Our receptionist did show up and bowed before us begging for forgiveness.
(in Spanish as she did not know any English). She’d overlooked our reservation. Without any guests
at all we didn’t quite understand how this could happen. We decided to forgive her nonetheless. We also found out that
due to the slow season the restaurant could only serve breakfast.....
The next few days she took excellent care of us – preparing us a feast of a breakfast each
morning. There was a mattress with blankets on the floor near the television and a motorcycle parked outside. On our final
day we had an early bus pick-up so she agreed to serve us breakfast at 6:00 a.m. When we walked into the restaurant downstairs
we noticed someone under the blankets. A young Costa Rican man sat up with his bathrobe on, smiled at us, and said, “Buenos
Dias.” Our scrunched-faced receptionist ran over and nudged him out of the room yelling Spanish profanities……and
we laughed. Costa Rica,
such a colorful country!
Monteverde is one of five places in the world where the Continental Divide sends waters to both the Pacific
and the Atlantic Oceans. This creates the Cloud Forest environment – and while hiking in the Monteverde Cloud Forest at times we would
see nothing except what looked like a large white cotton sheet. ‘Walking through the clouds’ seemed mystical even
if we couldn’t see much around us – especially with all of the jungle sounds in the background. Hmmm….what’s
wandering around the local area (near Stella’s – a coffee house with cluttered walls containing Stella’s
oil paintings with price tags dangling), we found a private hiking area (for a nominal fee) to a waterfall. The owner had
a motorcycle accident three years prior and had sustained major injuries. In spite of having what appeared to be a prosthetic
leg he had built the trails himself so tourists can enjoy his property.
trails took only about 45 minutes to complete on steep terrain with ropes to climb up and down in places and a creek crossing
on tires (along two wooden planks). I did fine with the rope climbing yet this tire contraption across the creek didn’t
have anything to hold onto. So I crawled like a baby across this with my rump in the air (whilst Jim ran along the tires to
the other side after me. That show off)!
So I took away from this experience that
there is always a way to accomplish something (even if it takes more time) AND if the young man in the motorcycle accident
could build these trails – I could certainly hike them!
Our friends from San Diego, Marianna Pinto and (soon to be Nashville, TN), Dean and Kathy Ziegler joined us for a week of Costa Rican exploration. We took them to the Arenal
Lodge (since we’d experienced Nirvana here the week before).
One of our huge highlights was taking the Canopy Zipline Tour near the Observatory Lodge in the Arenal National Park. We flew (literally) from
15 stations over and through the rainforest with views of the lake and the volcano (for the skies cleared for us this entire
time)—and then poured raining right after we finished (weren’t we the lucky ones).
an experience to lean our heads back, lift our feet in a crossed position, hold the handle bars with all of our might in full
harness gear and helmets….and glide through the jungle! I couldn’t breathe when I started or even look down.
I noticed how tight my grip was on the handle exhausting my strength.
were told that if the guides signaled us by shaking the cable, (meaning we needed to slow down), we were to move our bodies
left to right. I mistook a signal (that wasn’t a signal) and got stuck almost half-way through one of the stations!
I turned myself around to pull myself back toward the next platform and after awhile I just couldn’t go any further.
(I got the message now – it is time to start lifting the weights). So then one of the handsome Tican guides zipped down
to rescue me (which entailed me wrapping my legs around him (or so I thought – he said, “No you put your hands
around the metal bars here. “ Oops…..Then he pulled me back to the platform)…Ah well…I guess it
wasn’t such a bad experience after all. (other than the laughter which greeted me from my dear comrades).
learned so much from this experience….how much we supported one another – this is really about caring about your
teammates; and how in the beginning I allowed my fears to have me just want to get through the experience rather than be in
it! I finally released my grip more and turned my head enough to see the vast beauty all around me. Then I felt like a bird
in flight and I soared. WHEEEEEEE! Yippee!!!
stayed in a large one room chalet perched on the hilltop overlooking the lake, the rainforest, and the Arenal Volcano (when
it chooses to reveal itself). Fortunately we are all close friends and compatible as ‘roommates’ as this was quite
the ‘togetherness’ experience.
very late we all watched the volcano explode time and time again with its red fury…it looked like a line up of cars
going down the mountain with brake lights on – yet no, we experienced the magic of Mother Nature firsthand! In 6 nights
we saw this volcanic eruption only once and like a fine wine we savored every drop.
We bussed here from San Jose with seats assigned (WOW), no one in the aisles (a blessing),
air coming in through the windows (yet hot), and still no bathroom (a bit painful). I spent the entire 4.5 hours watching
a baby so full of giggles, smiles, dimples and coos – she drew me into her state of wonder. How simple, how amused!
we were nearing Christmas during the bus ride several sales people got up to pitch their wares such as; an English tutorial;
Christmas music c.d.’s; and even folks working with non-profits passed their hats around for collections.
And then the bus pulled into the station…..we’d read that this town was worth the visit because
of its colonial architecture so we’d prepaid two nights at the Best Western in the heart of the area. The guide books
had been mistaken…there were no colonial buildings to be found and Liberia was definitely
not worth our time.
We walked around the area kicking trash
out of the way and nearly bumping into the crowds of Ticans out on Sunday – generally their only day off. Some young
people approached us to let us know they had, “Whatever we wanted.” …..I believe they meant drugs….no
At least the grounds of our motel had many tall trees and lush
vegetation so we camped out here much of the time. We had picnics by the pool from the local grocery (as we had so enjoyed
in Eastern Europe) though the cheese and bread did not compare here in Costa Rica.
hoped to take in the nearby national park yet it was closed on Mondays…so we did our laundry instead. And when one
has almost all dirty clothes in one’s bags – this is a grateful occasion.
Though Liberia did not live up to what we had heard – it did give us time for errands
and to sit back and decompress (well, sort of). And the moral of the story, one cannot always believe what one reads! Check
more than one source. And bottom line, learn to make the best of wherever you land. Life is too short and sweet to waste any