I don’t really have a lot more to say other than what I already have in the Monteverde post, but I did want to share some pictures of the Jeep-Boat-Jeep ride…
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Early the next morning, it was “on the road again” for me. I was picked up at the tour office and shuttled from La Fortuna to Lake Arenal, across the lake in a little boat and met on the other side by another shuttle that took us to Monteverde.
Ok, technically we were taken to Santa Elena which is right next door to Monteverde. Locals insist you use the proper name of Santa Elena, but tour groups and tourists call the whole area Monteverde.
When I arrived in Santa Elena I was dropped off at a place that some people recommended to me. If memory serves correctly it was called El Toucan. The reception staff however were not very helpful as when I asked how much the rooms were (private with a private bathroom if possible) they asked how much I wanted to pay instead of telling me the price. Red flag alert! I stated no more than $10 per night and they jumped on it! Red flag alert #2… I asked to see the room first (always a good idea for any traveler) and they seemed nice enough but I did notice that the place was practically empty and the “private room” I was to stay in had 3 other beds. So I decided to move along and see what else there was.
As I hiked up a teeny hill I spotted the tour van passing me, and the tour driver spotted me giving me a look of “what is that crazy tourist doing now?!?!” as I had just left where I was dropped off and was heading in the same direction he was driving! In any event, I noticed many people being dropped off at the Monteverde Backpackers so I decided to check it out. It was $16 a night and I don’t believe there were any private rooms left, so I opted to keep going. I was told there was another hotel/hostel just down the road so I went to check it out…
Enter Cabinas Eddy… I literally get chills thinking of this place and the kind hospitality and beautiful accommodations that I was provided during my stay here. I can’t say enough good things about the place and the people!!! Cabinas Eddy is run and owned by 2 generations of “Eddy’s”, the father and his wife and his son (Eddy) and his wife and child. For $8 a night, I was offered a beautiful and cozy private room with a private bathroom and HOT water!!! I almost passed out when I found out the price for it and scrambled furiously to get money out to pay before someone else came by to snatch it up!!! Well in all reality I first had to excuse myself politely to furiously get money that was stored in my bra out to pay, as I never travel with cash easily available but rather always store it in less likely places…
After signing in and settling in, I signed up for some tours. One jungle night walk for later that evening, and after making sure the place was a good one that took care of its horses, I signed up for a horseback ride.
Monteverde/Santa Elena truly is a magnificent place! Nestled in the cloud forest of Costa Rica the biodiversity is rich and the land literally reminded me of the hills of Ireland!! Rich, lush and rolling, this area really was a beautifully magnificent sight to behold!! Now, I should mention here that I have never been to Ireland, but the land is what I would imagine Ireland to look like. Since being there I have met several people from Ireland whom have also visited Monteverde and have asked if it reminded them of home, and they have said absolutely yes! So I really don’t mind so much making that comparison even though I haven’t actually been to Ireland…
Anyway once again I’m getting off topic! I spent only 2 nights in Monteverde, which really unless you plan to do a bunch of tours is about the right amount of time. They are also quite famous in that area for zip lining and for sky walks as they are in the cloud forest. The weather while I was there was quite nice as it was sunny and warm in the day and got chilly at night! The winds even picked up for the second night I was there, which locals said was very unusual for this time of year (normal for December time). The cool mountain air at night was so refreshing and nice and made you want to bundle up making for some of the best night sleep I had had in a while. The food was fantastic as I was once again indulging in casados, and the people all very friendly! None as friendly as the Eddy family though as on my second day there they offered me a homemade tamales! It was so darn scrumptious!!
I of course did find time to do a little fiesta-ing in the town too and on my way back from one bar ran into some people whom I had noticed around town in La Fortuna. They were staying at the backpackers place which is where I ended up going and meeting a ton of other travelers. I stayed up till quite early in the morning talking and drinking and playing cards with my fellow travelers and the hostel manager. I know I’ve probably mentioned this before, but it really does still amaze me how many travelers are on the same path. There are so many who have just had enough of where they were and what they were doing and decided to simply pack it up and move on. One such case was of a guy from England I believe who was an architect there. He once loved that occupation but then just got burned out and decided to pursue his true passion: photography of primates! He has since been traveling the world in pursuit of every variety of primate! There were and are of course just your regular garden variety travelers on vacation or on a sabbatical, but quite surprisingly to me even more who left everything from their previous life behind to just travel and try something new.
The morning of leaving Monteverde I ended up on the same bus as the people I had seen in La Fortuna and in chatting some more with them realized that we were once again going to the same place: Manuel Antonio.
I arrived in La Fortuna the next afternoon and headed to the hostel I found on the internet called “Sleepers Sleep Cheap”. The word ‘cheap’ of course caught my eye immediately when searching for somewhere and the reviews seemed good enough.
About 100 meters south of the bus terminal, I arrived at the hostel which was set back a little from town than most of the others. For $10 a night, I got a private room with a private bath, hot water and breakfast! I paid for 2 nights and proceeded to get settled in. Honestly I don’t have any negative words for the hostel. It was a very basic set-up and nothing fancy by any means, but it was cheap, my room was clean, the staff were very friendly and accommodating, and the breakfast area had one of the best views in my opinion… I will later divulge what that view was;)
Now, I wanted to state my opinion about the hostel before writing about this bit: interestingly enough, weeks later when I was in Bocas Town (Bocas del Toro), Panama, I met a couple who just happened to stay at the hostel at the same time that I was staying there! But they had a very different opinion of the place… Though they did agree it was cheap, they said they believed they had bed bugs and that their door wouldn’t close all the way so all sorts of critters would come in during the day and night. Their room wasn’t clean and they weren’t that thrilled with what was served for breakfast (toast, eggs, fruit and coffee). So, I guess it just goes to show you that not everyone’s experiences are the same!
In any event, after getting settled in it was about time to eat something, so I found a local soda that was recommended and that was just down the street from my hostel and had a fantastic fillet de pollo casado! I absolutely love those casados!!!
Waiting for my meal to arrive, two guys whom I had met on the bus showed up so we dined together. I spent that evening wandering the streets of La Fortuna with them, drinking beer in the central park. Since we had all arrived in the late evening, there really wasn’t much time to get our barring of the area, so at this point none of us really knew where the famed volcano was. Sitting in the park drinking, it became a little bit of a game trying to figure out where the volcano actually was. If the volcano had been active, it would have been quite obvious, but alas the volcano was dormant while I was there. And mind you, it had been dark since before dinner, so there wasn’t any way to see around us…
The next morning I rose early determined to check several things off my list. First off, I wanted to do a tour of the volcano and perhaps the hot springs and second I wanted to go to the famed La Fortuna waterfall and finally, I wanted to get a plan in place on where my next destination would be. Even though the purpose of my trip to Costa Rica was not to be a tourist, one really can’t help but do a tour or two once here! They can be pricey, that’s for sure but I did a lot of tour “office hopping” prior to settling on the final place to book at. And since it was the off-season, there were more deals available than not.
Red Lava, a tour office located at the bus terminal offered the best prices and most unique tours. Through them I booked a tour of the Arenal volcano that was 5 hours long, including a nature hike to a waterfall (not the La Fortuna waterfall but another one), a history of the Arenal volcano and finishing off with a night dip in a natural hot spring. I also booked for a Jeep-Boat-Jeep package that would get me from La Fortuna to my next destination of Monteverde via, well you guessed it: a jeep, a boat and a jeep:)
It was mid-morning by the time I got all my bookings complete and since my volcano tour wasn’t going to start until 2pm, I opted to spend my time in between by going to the famous La Fortuna waterfall. Since my motto on spending money was “the less you spend now, the more you will have later” I decided to walk to the waterfall, located inside a National Park, instead of taking a bus directly to the entrance of the National Park… I really should have just paid the darn $8 for the bus!!!!! But oh no, I decided to keep that money and hike there myself instead! Afterall, it was a paved road to the park so I figured a little exercise would do me some good! I have no idea what the temperature was outside, but the sun was shining and it was definitely humid! I had my little personal bag with me so I could bring my camera for the trip and take plenty of pictures. And I was off for my hike…
About 8 kilometers (about 3 of which were straight uphill- the end 3 of course) later I arrived to the park entrance red-faced and completely dripping in sweat. In fact I was so saturated with sweat that both my t-shirt and breathable pants were completely soaked through!! My bag, supposedly waterproof, even began to soak in some of my sweat so that the inside contents became damp! The very first thing I did when I got to the park entrance was go to the bathroom and practically bathe myself in the sink with my clothes still on! Thankfully I did have along with me my vapur water bottle and therefore was hydrated the entire way, but I still had to refill it twice before ever leaving the bathroom because of my extreme thirst!! People were looking at me like I was crazy, but all I cared about at that point was that I had made it!!
But then, I glanced at my watch… it was noon… there was NO way I was going to be able to actually get to the waterfall and back down to town by 2:00 for my volcano tour:( You see, I had made it to the park ENTRANCE but the waterfall itself was still about a kilometer deep into the park. And tack on the fact that if I wanted to even try to see the waterfall I would have had to pay the $10 entrance fee, well, it just didn’t make much sense at that point to even try for it. So I decided to simply head back down to the town, perhaps get a bite to eat and make it in time for my tour.
The walk back to town was much nicer!! All downhill with a little breeze to boot! The little breeze did wonders to dry my clothing on the walk down and by the time I made it back (about 1) I had just enough time to grab a bite to eat at the soda where I had dinner and get ready to meet my tour.
Oh and I promised I would divulge the breakfast view from my hostel… It was indeed the volcano!!! I had been staring at it all morning during the first morning while enjoying breakfast yet never realized I what I was looking at, lol!!!