Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vulcan Arenal

When I return to Gringo Pete's Too, I meet the owner whose name is Carlos. He offers me another room, if I'd like, because my room is on the street. I accept! Then he tells me that there is a tour leaving at 3:00 for a hike in the Arenal forest and then, when dark, a chance to view the lava coming out of the volcano... and, after that, we would go to Baldi hot springs for luxurious hot pool soakings and dinner. Since I've saved so much on the price of the room, I agree to pay the sum for the tour and, indeed, pay the price of a tour for the next day to Monteverde...

We leave in an hour. The Eagle tour bus picks me up at the hostel and I join a French couple from Paris who are young, of course, and we travel up the road to the Arenal forest and hike a good distance up into the cloud forest. Our guide, who is probably in his thirties, and quite convivial, points out cutter ants, monkeys and different species of plants and talks a good deal about the cloud forest. As the altitude rises, we see a thicker, and more plush growth of vegetation until we are rather high up before beginning the descent back to the entrance of the park, where we wait for four others to join us in watching the volcano down in a place by the river...

The place to watch the volcano is covered with people and I find a rock on which to wait while the dusk turns to night. We must be there for a half-hour when a gray-haired lady comes over to me and says, "Are those Keen shoes? I sell those shoes at LL Bean's..." "Yes," I reply, "they are!" In the ensuing conversation, I discover that she's staying with a friend outside of San Jose and needed to to get out to see a little bit of Costa Rica. I explain to her that I'm up in the north to see the volcano and Monteverde, where I'm going tomorrow. When it is totally dark, we are only rewarded with a streak of lava on the outside of the volcano for a moment and then the fog encompasses the entire top...I don't think my picture-taking was very fruitful and I go to look for the rest of my group.

Since Vulcan Arenal is the only real attraction in this town, there is a large traffic jam trying to get back to the main road. However, our trusty drivers sneak their way in and out of the traffic and drop us off at "Baldi" hot springs. Now, I don't know if these are "true" hot springs, but the place looks expensive and touristy. So I change into my bathing suit and tried the 104 degree jacuzzi with waterfall and it feels marvelous! I think they may have two more pools with water up to 117 degrees, and a number of others but this one feels the best.

After an hour, I meet up with the Chilean-German couple to whom I have offered the use of the locker I rented to stow their valuables (and mine) and we go off to have dinner. Carlos, a recording engineer, aged 28 and his girlfriend, Katrina (whose occupation I can't recollect) are great company and our talk revolves around the globalization of the universe -- people of different nationalities combining and the conglomoration of ideas. I have to express my zeal for Obama's State of the Union Address, with his emphasis on education, energy, the environment and health care.

I get back to the hostel and it's pouring buckets of water!!!