Remember how the last blog post started, with aches and pains? Well, that’s today so we’re right up to date. It’s 5am when we wake this morning, so the jet lag is definitely heading in the right direction. We’ve been woken periodically throughout the night by rain hammering down on our roof and through the gaps in our indoor/outdoor shower, and we open the curtains to find the volcano completely covered in cloud. It will not emerge again. So much for a volcano view lodge.
We dig out our rain jackets and head on down to breakfast, where the ubiquitous rice and beans are available. We don’t have to take all our worldly goods with us today so we dress accordingly for this mornings rainforest hike. We meet local guide Rafael who is taking our half of the group around the Mistico Hanging Bridges tour. The volcano which should provide a dramatic backdrop to the treetop canopy is still awol. Rafael proves to be a passionate and knowledgeable guide and spots wildlife nestling in the trees that we would never have spotted had we gone it alone. The viper curled up between tree branches for example, or the tiny bats clinging to a trunk, or the tree frog which was hiding in plain sight on a leaf. I definitely wouldn’t have spotted the sloth hanging high above us in the uppermost tree branches. In fact I still didn’t spot it, just nodded enthusiastically when asked if I had.
From the hanging bridges we head through La Fortuna to Finca Don Juan, an organic farm and educational tour. We’re all cheapskates and have opted for their $5 traditional lunch, which proves to be more than adequate – and of course, the rice and beans are present. I know how those guys in “I’m a Celebrity” must feel now. We’re then introduced to our guide for the tour, a ridiculously charming young man who has a great career in front of him as a stand-up comedian if he decides to give up being a tour guide. He plys us with juice prepared by our own tour group from fresh sugar cane, and then tries to get us all drunk on the local moonshine. We then get a tour of the trees and plants on the property, and a quick 101 on what’s medicinal and what’s poisonous. Everything seems to either cure bellyache or give you bellyache. I’m still a bit confused as to which ones which. Don’t rely on me if you’re lost in the jungle. We also get to meet the cow and pigs whose manure produces the methane gas which fuels the farm. This is a fascinating tour, although we were all starting to feel a little sleepy after lunch.
We’re given a couple of hours off the tour leash by Andres, so we decide to test out the wet bar with Paul, Hayley, Katie and Jack. The pools at our hotel are also heated by the volcano and it’s like having a beer in a pleasantly heated bathtub. We leave our friends ordering round two of happy hour cocktails to prepare for the next activity. It’s a quick change of swimwear and down to meet the bus to visit the Tabacon Hot Springs. This is a series of pools at the foot of the volcano of varying temperatures, and the resort also has a bar and restaurant on site which is where we’ll be eating tonight.
Andres sorts out our wristbands, locker key and towel cards, gives us a curfew and sends us off on our merry way. The six of us mainly stick together, trying to find ever hotter pools, although luckily none of the pools are hot enough to boil us like a lobster. It’s a wonderful experience (if a little stony underfoot in some shallow pools) but we’re under a strict time limit so we manage to chug down a quick drink at the bar before our buffet dinner at the springs. Quick note: our friends got a pre-pay drinks bracelet at reception and then had issues with transferring this into drinks at the bar. We took cash in a waterproof pouch but it still took an age to get our change back so bear this in mind if you’re watching the clock.
As we were part of a tour we were offered the buffet dinner at $15 instead of $39 making today’s food total a piddling $20. There’s a great offering available including a wonderful slab of slow cooked beef and a beautifully flavoured ceviche, and we definitely feel that we’ve had a good deal. We drag our damp selves back into the bus for the ten minute drive back to the Arenal Springs hotel. Our newfound friends had the foresight to buy alcohol-related supplies during our earlier brief supermarket stop and kindly invite us for a party on their patio. As this is only our third night and we’re still jet lagged the party makes it to the wild hour of 9:30 before we call it a night. Tomorrow we’ve leaving Arenal behind and heading deep into the tropical rainforest of Sarapiqui.