Day 7 - Monday
We planned to leave at 8:30 from the Bekuo hostel for the next two nights so everyone was up early packing up. Because of limited space on the tour portion of the trip we left excess baggage behind. Bekuo gave us a storage area for our excess luggage since we will be coming back to San Jose for our last night. It was an area of the laundry room that is normally locked up.
Well, I had time for one more pancake with pineapple! 🙂 We ate our last complimentary breakfast at the Bekuo and started loading up our remaining luggage in the Schwarz tour vehicles, the rented van and their Toyota Prado. I was impressed with the group being able to condense their necessities into smaller bags and backpacks. My wife and I left one medium suitcase behind with dirty clothes and we took the other one. I think it was one of the largest in the group! (Remember, there was two of us sharing!)
On the way out of town we stopped at Citibank to exchange money. We had all spent most of our colones. This time, rather than forming a long line for individual exchange, Yonda Schwarz collected money from each one and exchanged the entire amount. Unfortunately, the exchange rate had changed a little and it was no longer the nice even 500 to $1. It was now 498 to $1. Oh well, so goes the financial markets. She was able to get it changed with no problem it was just a little more challenging to calculate the exact amount for exchange. But, she’s sharp and she got it all worked out on our first stop out of town.
We drove out by the airport and began the gentle climb to the mountains. Somewhere up the road we stopped in a little town mall. They had a variety of fast food places in the food court and plenty of restrooms (banos) for a quick stop. They even had H&M boutique. We were impressed until some of the girls went in and came out in less than 10 minutes! They couldn’t have too much in the store.
It was only 11:00 and some of the food places were just opening, but several of our group got something to eat. I had eaten breakfast so I wasn’t really hungry, but you never know where the next opportunity to eat is! We got a two cheeseburger combo at McDonalds to share. Sister Schwarz got the money all distributed and we headed out again for the mountains. From there the roads became more winding and steep toward La Fortuna and Volcan Arenal national park. The hills were beautiful and green with lush grassy fields.
We arrived at La Fortuna and drove around the center of town. It was a very typical town, boasting a catholic church and a park. We were unsure where the hostel was located so we stopped to ask where the Sleepers hostel was located. No one seemed to know of it. Finally, one place had internet where they were able to look up the phone and address.
It as just outside of town, but of course that was only about a mile or less! It is the Sleepers Sleep Cheaper Hostel!
We took three rooms: one for the guys, one for the girls and we got the other one. They were like two bedroom apartments with a shared bathroom and common room. We encouraged Ethan and Adrian to stay with us in the other bedroom but they chose to stay with the singles. 🙂
Seven of the girls opted for the horseback ride to the waterfall in La Fortuna. They were picked up at the hostel in a van and off they went on an adventure of their own. The rest of us loaded in the van and drove out to the park for the entrance of the La Fortuna waterfall. Another seven of us took this option. David and Yonda Schwarz and Gayla stayed behind and found a little soda ( referring to a small café) down the road for a snack.
There were hundreds of steps down the side of the mountain to get to the base of the waterfall. It was definitely easier going down than the hike back out. I took lots of pictures and enjoyed it vicariously for my wife! It is a beautiful falls cascading down the canyon and plunging into a pool of water at the base. The pool of water is really not that big considering the amount of water coming down from the falls. After Andrea left I thought I might should start up as well. I didn’t want everyone to have to wait. It is an incredible hike out of the canyon. Thankfully there are concrete block type steps forming a path and steps out of the valley. It is still a grueling climb out. I was huffing and puffing (maybe I should admit it was more like “gasping”) most of the way up. I stopped a few times for a breather and thought about my water bottle I left at the top with my wife. 🙂 I was thankful for the drizzle of rain, but it was still hot and I worked up steam hiking. When I finally reached the top I bought the biggest bottle of water possible at the little gift shop.
Of the guys who stayed behind a couple of them went swimming in the pool below the waterfall. They were just about ready to make the hike back with the girls on horseback arrived and made the trek down to the base of the waterfall. After the guys left some of them jumped in the water for a swim.
On the way back to town the clouds had completely cleared from the top of Volcan Arenal. It was a wonderful picture opportunity and the only time we would clearly see the entire mountain. You could see the steam coming from the top and some coming from the side of the mountain where there was apparently a hot flow of lava.
The hiking group returned to the hostel to wait for the horseback riders. Some took a nap while they waited. I tried to catch up on downloading pictures and uploading the favorites to Facebook.
By the time everyone arrived at the hostel we were all famished. Brother and Sister Schwarz had gone to find a hotel for the evening and he found a local restaurant that offered us a deal on Casado, the traditional dinner in Costa Rica of white rice, black beans, and fried plantain and a meat. They offered us a choice of three meats: fish (pescado), beef (bistek), and chicken (pollo) and a fruit drink for $6.00. We all had pineapple juice. The other drink offered was “different” according to Bro. Schwarz. They also included a little dish of dessert of candied plantain with a small dip of chocolate chip ice cream on top. Everything was good and the outdoor dining area added to the uniqueness of the experience.
After dinner we took a drive on up and around the backside of the volcano where most of the recent activity has been. Sometimes you can see the lava flow in the darkness of night. At first it was clear and you could see the silhouette of the mountain against the night sky but there was no sign of hot lava. We continued for quite a distance to where there is a low water bridge and a clearing where they sometimes see the lava on the mountain. We saw nothing and by now the fog and clouds were growing more dense thus sealing the verdict that we would not see any volcanic activity tonight.
Brother Schwarz drove us back to the hostel where we retired for the night. It was very hot and humid and I was so thankful for the oscillating fan that was in our room. The mattress was firm … I think because of the plywood underneath it! The sheets were very thin. All I could think about was how many people have sweated on this bed….