Thursday, 21-08-2014. Day 2.
Road Trip to a Volcano
The Studio Hotel offered a free, buffet-style breakfast. Jackie loved the tortillas, but everything else was a little out of her comfort zone. Keeping her fed is going to be a challenge.
We were served standard coffee, but I noticed some people next to us getting the pour-over treatment, so when I asked about it, our waiter Carlos was happy I asked about it and was happy to show it to me. It's very similar to the method I use to brew at home, but here they call it chorreador, and it tastes pretty great. I recommend it.
After we reshuffled our luggage a little bit, we checked out of the hotel and visited the local market where we used an ATM. We were charged a service fee of 2,850 colónes, which beat the heck out of 13% at the airport the day before, and which will get refunded at the end of the month (a great benefit of the Charles Schwab checking account we learned about from Nomadic Matt).
We bought some chips (Pringooools), water, tortillas, and a small cheese & sausage platter for the upcoming drive to Arenal. Of the 10,000 colónes we spent, 6,800 was on cheese & sausage. Meat seems to be expensive here.
Our next stop was the Tica bus station to buy our tickets for Panama on August 27. San Jose is a busy city and there's not much in the way of parking spaces, so we circled around the same block a few times before we nabbed a spot.
The bus ride is going to take about 15 hours. The one we got leaves at 11 a.m. and gets to Panama at 2-3 a.m. on August 28. This is slightly different than the initial plan of leaving at 11 p.m. and arriving at 3 p.m. the next day. I'm curious how that's going to work, and it looks like our bags might be a bit heavy for the bus, but those are concerns for next week. Today, we drive to Arenal.
We hopped on the Pan-American Highway (Highway 1) to 156 into San Ramon, then got on 702, a long, windy road with a good amount of elevation gain and loss. An early section of 702 was called the Los Angeles Cloud Highway, and there were stretches of the road where visibility was limited to just a car length or two. Driving along this road was a lot like driving Angeles Crest Highway, but a lot more green.
During this drive we saw a soda (lunch counter) or a roadside supermarket every kilometer or so. Whatever happened, we weren't going to starve on this portion of our adventure.
100 kilometers later, we arrived at La Fortuna, a resort town on the edge of the Arenal Volcano National Park, and Dorothy still had 3/4 of a tank of gasoline, so we jumped onto the 142 and headed toward El Castillo.
Once we turned off 142 onto the road to El Castillo (named on Google Maps as La Fortuna - El Castillo) that took us through the National Park, we saw a few Passerini's tanagers (a cool bird I'd always wanted to see) flitting about and a coati (another animal I've always wanted to see) crossing the road. People were hand-feeding the coati cheese puffs (and like anywhere I've ever been with wild animals, you're cautioned against this).
This road was all rocks and mud. Although it was well-packed, it still made for a rough ride. At times it felt like Dorothy was going to shake apart, but we made it to Essence Arenal, a new age oriented boutique hostel with great views of the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal, in one piece about 2:30 p.m.
The girls immediately played with Canela, the Rhodesian ridgeback who lives at the hostel and were fascinated with the resident scarlet macaw, named Banono, who took to hanging out on the front table eating sunflower seeds, almonds, bananas, and the occasional rock. He was friendly enough unless you tried to touch him.
Essence Arenal has plenty of wild life and plant life. It features a small farm (where the owner, yoga instructor, and some other people who work at the hostel live in tents), a coffee plantation, a tilapia pond, and a good section of rainforest to observe monkeys, toucans, and, if lucky, the occasional ocelot.
Jackie was hungry, so we walked to the Super Mini Market about 200 meters away, a little building lined with shelves. I'm pretty sure you could find anything you'd need there.
Then we killed time in the jacuzzi and played some dice games and chess until dinner was served at 7:00. One of the cool things at Esssence Arenal is that all guests are invited to help make dinner. So we stepped up and, under the direction of chef Marvin, made naan bread which was then served with vegetables. It was delicious.
After dinner, as we were heading back to our room, Jackie saw a parade of leafcutter ants making short work of the leaves and carrying freshly cut leaves right up the tree in front of our room.
It was a really cool thing to see in person, and a fun thing to discuss as we drifted off to sleep.
- Hours driving: 4.5
- Volcanoes seen: 1
- Naan bread made: 8
- Gasoline stops: 0
- Dogs seen: Too many to count