Weekend at Arenal
Living in Anchorage, when we wanted to get away for the weekend we would load up the minivan, point her south and head down to the Kenai Peninsula. In two and a half hours we could be in Kenai, an hour further we would be in Homer. It didn’t matter much which one, just as long as we were out of town.
Well the same thing applies here in Costa Rica. With mom and grandma visiting we figured it was a great time to head to Arenal, one of the local active volcanos in Costa Rica. We loaded up the 12 seater with 11 bodies, and a bundle of bags and took off in hopes of catching a glimpse of the molten red lava spewing into the night sky.
Now Costa Rica is know for its diversiveness, and we live in the dry region famous for great beaches. We were headed towards the rain forest and jungles. The drive is about 4 hours and I like to divide it into three sections. The first section I would call the highway, from here to Liberia and a little beyond. The roads are well traveled, pretty straight and blast through small town after small town. The second section takes you into the hills where the winds await. There are sparse trees, wind farms, and a giant lake littered with wind surfers and their neon colored kites speckling the white capped lake. From inside the car, it looks cold, very cold. It reminds me of a lonesome bay in Alaska on cold blustery summer day. In reality, it is about 80 degrees out, and the wind, 20-25 mph, is a welcomed coolant.
Once pass the sparse hills we enter the jungle, clouds appear, fog is present and the edge of the road disappears into the vivd green dripping jungle. There are a myriad of one lane bridges, rivers and eroding, albeit paved, roads along the way. The temperature is significantly cooler and the air becomes heavy with moisture. It is af you are driving into Jurrassic Park.
Four hours into our expedition we arrived at our destination, Los Lagos, a hotel / resort known for its spa and hot springs. But it had much more than we anticipated, a small butterfly farm, a frog farm, a crocodile farm and it was nestled right on the shoulder of the active Arenal volcano. It was very lush, very green well kept and catered towards tourists:us. It was perfect for this party of 11. For the kids it had three fast water slides, for the adults 7 different hot springs, pools and a spa.
During our two day tour we decided to take advantage of some of the must do activites. We decided on the Ecoglide canopy / zip line tour, horseback riding for some, and a hike to the La Fortuna waterfall. In between all this we would soak our weary bodies in the hot springs and sip virgin pina colados served out of pineapples, can’t get much touristier than that.
The zip line was the highlight for most. It consisted of 15 different zip lines at varying lengths, heights and speeds. All fantastically fun and exhiliariting. But what really set it over the top was the Tarzan swing perilously awaiting you in the middle of of the tour. Of course I was offered up as the sacrificial Tarzan to go first. As I eased forward onto the shaky mesh metal platform hanging over what felt like the abyss, they strapped me in the never explaining what was about to occur. The guides hooked two thin, weary looking and frayed white lines into my harness. They tugged, tightened and pulled me right next to a gate overlooking a 1000 foot drop ( at least it looked that far) and told me to press up against the gate. At this point I thought they would explain what was going to happen, instead “click” the gate was open. “Wait what is going on” I stammered, “relax, just sit” and I as bent my knees to sit I began free falling to the earth below. My intestines just about flew out of my mouth as I began screaming “NO, NO, NO”. It felt as if the two puny ropes had failed and I was going to be a ball of mush on the side of a mountain. But then the lines gently grabbed hold and began rocketing me straight up to the sky, inches away from the canopy above, and I began swinging, like Tarzan, back and forth, inches away from tree trunks. It was scary, it was exhiliarting and it was fun. The best part was watching those who went after me, knowing what they were going through, but also knowing they had the advantage of knowing what was going to happen. I must acknowledge those who took the leap, Tracy, Dorian, Alli, Jeremy, Olivia, and Grandma. Yes my 83 year old grandma took the leap screaming ‘WHEEEEE!! You’re going to miss out” Much like the Geico pig. She loved it. Mom, well she got strapped in, stepped up to the gate, and then couldn’t go through with it. But she got close.
After the two hour tour, we rushed a group to the horse riding tour while the rest of us elected to rest our weary bodies in the hot springs. I hear the horseback tour was awesome, but I did not go as I prefered not to have saddle sores for the remainder of our stay. Besides, the last time I did the tour it ended up being a little more adventurous than I bargained for. They however loved it, especially my wife who got to ride her favorite kind of horse.
After an excellent, gigando dinner at La Choza in La Fortuna, the next morning, we headed out for our hike to the waterfall in La Fortuna. The hike was down the side of a mountian on steps made of perforated concrete which allowed the massive vegetation to grow through and around it, almost engulfing it as part of the earth. I am not sure how many steps there were, I stopped counting after one trillion, but at least they were of varying heights angles and depths to keep it interesting. The trip down was worth the view, the trip up was tenuous. Next time we are packing a lunch and our swimming trunks and enjoying the view for a while.
Although we did not get to see any lava, or even the very top of the the volcano, it was a weekend to be remembered, a great way to spend the last one before school starts up again. We got to see a lot of critters; the infamous coati begging on the side of the road,monkeys chilling and posing, toucans, iguanas, butterflies, crocodiles, frogs and even a sloth. I am extremely proud of grandma as she did each an every adventure set before her, living life to the fullest. But most of all I am proud of her for surviving three days and two nights without her facebook. That my friends was a real challenge!
Here is a short video compilation of our weekend for you to enjoy. Until our next adventure, I need some sleep.