Daily Archives: September 25, 2014

No flow. Flow.

Jack was thrilled to discover that the Singapore Formula 1 was carried on cable TV in our cabina. The commentary was in Spanish, of course, and while we didn’t have wifi I fired up a London VPN on my phone and dialed in the BBC 5 live commentary, streaming over cell. It amazes me how often we manage to watch the races no matter where we are.

The race was over by 8am local time and we walked across the street for our Tico breakfast. Once again Jack opted for Americano, which just meant he didn’t get gallo pinto or fried plantains. During breakfast we met Robin, a solo vacationer from Maryland, and invited her to join us on our planned touring for the day. The weather looked iffy so we opted to hike the Arenal Volcano first before the clouds move in and obscure the view.



It was about a three mile hike mostly through a pretty wooded area, then up the lava field to the overlook that gave us a view of the volcano on one side and the lake on the other.





I was pretty bummed that the volcano stopped its constant erupting just before we got to Costa Rica. I’m wondering what will become of all the cute little hotels and cabinas where tourists would come and sit outside at night watching the show. The show is over, at least for now. Chalk up another dormant volcano for the Schulzes. One of these days we’ll get to a live one.

From the volcano we drove back through town and stopped for lunch at a place offering $4 set lunches, just like in the Galapagos. We thought it would be a quick lunch but it took over an hour for the rice and beans and fish that Jack and Robin had, and for the patacones and beans that I had. No matter, Robin is good company and we enjoyed comparing notes on where to go and what to do.

By the time we finished eating the daily rain started but we drove to the LaFortuna waterfall anyway. As long as it wasn’t a deluge and we felt the footing was secure we decided to go for it. And we’re glad we did.






The hike back up was 550 steps, not quite three times the distance of the New River Gorge but less than half what we do on a StepTrek on the Pittsburgh Southside Slopes. We all made it with no problems, and enjoyed the view as much as we did going down.



We took Robin back to town and said a reluctant goodbye. We enjoyed sharing the experiences with another person and remembered how much fun it is when we have friends along.

As soon as we turned the car down the mountain our stress level rose again. We needed to be at the customs office when they opened at 8am, then get our rental car back to Quepos before we get charged for another day. While Jack negotiated the switchback road in the gathering dark, I tried to find us lodging for the night by searching the Internet on my phone. After a while I had to give up because the unpaved road made it impossible to read the tiny screen as we bounced along. We got hungrier and sleepier and eventually we rolled into Puntarenas without a plan. Jack pulled over so I could look for a hotel and we finally settled on the marginal Michael’s Surfside Motel. The price was right, we were pooped, and worried about our date at Customs. It was not a restful night.

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Leave the cheese behind

What a disappointment that the cheese factory and cheese shop turned out to be a bust. We really thought we were going to get some awesome washed-rind lovelies, perhaps some nutty, buttery sheep’s cheese, or a tangy blue. But no, just the usual faux Gouda and a few other mild cheeses we see everywhere, and at the same insanely high prices. We’re saving our cheese palates for our trip to Pittsburgh and will camp out at the cheese counter in Penn Mac, maybe work our way through the Pyrenees section, or the aged goat cheeses. For you stateside readers, they ship.

So now what? The mountainside village of Monteverde is the gateway to hundreds of adventure activities, rafting, zip lines, hanging bridges, hikes, all centered around the various cloud forest preserves. The main one is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, so we drove a little further on the bumpy road and parked at the entrance. Then we hemmed and hawed about whether we wanted to go in. All of the Costa Rica parks have hefty entrance fees, and a guided tour triples the cost. We learned from experience that without a guide it’s just an expensive lovely walk in the woods because we’re not so good at spotting the wildlife on our own. What we really wanted to do was a zipline or hanging bridge walk, and we chose to spend our limited touring dollars there.

With a plan in place we got back in the car but not before checking out the Hummingbird Cafe, where our guidebook said we could observe dozens of the little guys up close and personal.




After a while we gave up trying to photograph them because they circled and buzzed so fast, swarming around the ten or twelve feeders lined up along the cafe. We were amazed at the variety of size and color and just sat enjoying the show.

As we drove back toward town we couldn’t pass up Stella’s bakery, and even though we’d had breakfast not too long ago, a couple of cinnamon buns called Jack’s name and we enjoyed our second coffee shop in as many days. It’s funny, here we are in an exotic place people spend big bucks and precious vacation time to travel to, and we pass up the cloud forest to sit in a cafe with frou-frou coffee drinks and pastry. Cafe culture is the part of our former life we miss the most and we indulge whenever we can.


More bumpy roads brought us to Sky Adventure where we opted out of the zipline — way too high above the forest so we wouldn’t really see anything — and plunked down $23 each for the Sky Walk. This involves a hike up the mountain then a trail over five hanging bridges of increasing height and length, level with the canopy. Again we were offered a tour guide option but we declined and took off on our own.




It turned out to be an expensive lovely walk above the woods but with the added fear of plummeting 150 feet into the dense forest below and no small amount of palm sweat.





On our way out we saw these smaller versions of the ubiquitous Costa Rican mystery spheres.


We had a long way to go before nightfall so we drove the switchbacked road out of the mountains toward Arenal Lake.






Finally we saw our destination looming ahead, the majestic and perfect Arenal Volcano. Sadly, it stopped erupting just before we got to Costa Rica but we’re excited to see it anyway.



Our lodging for the night was a darling little cabin at Rancho Cerro Azul, a beautiful capper to a magnificent drive.




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