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2008-01-28 - 10:01 p.m.

Sun 6/1: So we woke up early on essentially our third day in Costa Rica, and had one of many customary Gallo (pronounced "Gayo") Pintos- beans and rice dashed with a Worcestershire-like sauce, generally served with scrambled eggs for breakfast. Before we were due to leave in taxis to the bus station we met the remaining members of our crew- Ursala and Joanna from Long Island, New York (who I think were 25 and 27 respectively), and Emma and Ian from Melbourne- they have been travelling for about a year after selling their house- Emma looked about mid-to-late thirties and Ian looked about 10 years older. At this early stage there seemed to be some discontent among some of the group about the amount of additional costs not included in the price of the tour, but I think everyone at least for the most part got over any hang ups they had and enjoyed themselves.

So we took taxis to the bus station, and had soon loaded our luggage on the bus and were ready to go. The buses were quite luxurious really- it could have been standing room only (well, it was, but we had seats), bad suspension and luggage on roof racks, but it was like the sort of coach you'd catch between Sydney and Canberra, although perhaps with a little less legroom. The trip to La Fortuna took about four hours through winding mountain roads. La Fortuna itself is relatively flat, but it sits at the foot of the Arenal volcano. The town is so named because when the dormant volcano awoke in 1968, crushing houses with car sized boulders and killing people with toxic gas, the town (and in fact that entire side of the mountain) escaped without a scratch. The volcano has been active ever since, which has brought the tourists, most of whom leave a little disappointed by the fact that most of the time the volcano (and indeed any of the slow moving lava on the South side of the mountain that you might hope to see) is completely shrouded in fog, even when all the skies around it are clear. Even if you don't see moving lava, there is a chance if the fog does clear at night that you can see a red glow at the top of the mountain from the town, but we saw neither. Nevertheless I had a great time in La Fortuna, with the Catarata (ie waterfall) de la Fortuna a definite highlight (more on that later).

We arrived in town at about 1pm, and some people were able to get money out of the nearby ATM while others were not so lucky (I constantly forgot to plan my withdrawals to cover the possibility of not finding an ATM in the next place we were going, or indeed staying anywhere from 10 (in La Fortuna) to about 25 (in Monteverde/Santa Elena) minutes from town, to Jo's increasing frustration, but we got by in the end. Our lodge was, as I said, about 10 minutes (but still a cheap cab ride) out of town, along a terrible dirt road (which was nothing compared to some of the roads we were to encounter). We had lunch at the lodge before deciding what we were going to do in the afternoon. The majority of us decided to do a 1 hour hike around the base of the volcano (although a couple chickened out when faced with torrential rain), while some decided to meet at the end of the hike for a trip to the lava viewpoint. All but Catrina opted to then visit the Baldi Hot Springs (which did not look like a natural hot spring, as the water obtained using 35m deep bores, and run into big landscaped pools that had the feel of an amusement park- just an observation, not a complaint, as I definitely enjoyed the experience) which finished with a buffet dinner.

The walk was great (the ones I did later in Manuel Antonio put it to shame, but it was my first taste of Costa Rican rainforest, so it was good)- before we got to the start of the walk we saw a three-toed sloth in a tree (not much to look at when they're sleeping) and a whole collective of Coatis (I'm not going to describe a Coati- check out my Facebook pictures) and during the walk there was good plant and bird life, and possibly some monkeys but all the wildlife spotting is blurring together now so I can't really remember. We got to the end of the walk to find that Arenal Volcano was not going to come out and play, and when we drove around to the South side we spent half an hour staring at a patch of fog between two trees hoping to see lava but it was not to be. I guess that was the lowlight of La Fortuna, but I wasn't too fussed because as I said there was plenty of other fun to be had.


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