Costa Rica Day 5: Photographing Arenal, Hiking, and La Fortuna

Published: June 8th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

I woke up around 5:15 am and went out to see the volcano and see what I might be able to shoot, I love the first light in the morning it is so soft and provides interesting contrast. When I found that the volcano was virtually cloud free I asked Sophie if she wanted to go for a drive. “Sure.” She jumped up and started getting ready. Tripod in hand we were on our way before 5:30 am. Alvaro had asked what time we would like to take breakfast the day before, so we had a breakfast date at 8:00, two and a half hours to explore. We drove around the volcano, stopping periodically to take pictures when I thought I had a good angle or good light. Turning onto the bumpy road dirt road that leads around the volcano we drove on for a few kilometers and were treated to views of the lake, a toucan perched in a tree, and some cool narrow bridges spanning swollen creeks. We turned around after a few kilometers to head back to the main road, hitting pavement was a relief as driving on those bumpy rock roads is like sitting in a bad massage chair too long.

Breakfast was served at Alvaro’s house, and prepared by his wife, there were three picnic tables set up, each with fresh flowers adorning it. A dog sat lazily in the sun as humming birds darted in and out of the tropical bushes around the house. Breakfast was a traditional style one with beans and rice, eggs, fresh fruit, toast and juice. It was great. Perfect actually. Alvaro had offered, upon checking in, to lead us down to the hiking trail; so we asked if we could take him up on the offer. We thanked them both for breakfasted and walked across the street to grab my camera and spray down with some bug spray.

One of the horses approached us after we passed through the gate to the hiking path, we were told that his name was Eclipse. The horse warmed up to us quickly and we gave him a good rub as we listened to the instructions that were “Follow the path, there is only one trail, and remember to close the gate.” The path looked to be a trail for the horses as well, not clear but not overgrown either; it meandered around until it neared the water and then took a left into the forest bending around until I couldn’t make it out. That is when I saw it. Sitting on a leaf next to a moss colored tree was my first poisonous frog in Costa Rica. He jumped under a leaf by the time I had told Sophie, I moved the leaf and was able to snap a few pictures. I was super excited, it was all I had wanted while hiking Monteverde and Arenal. So when I saw the blue jean frog with its blue legs and red body I was giddy like an in love school boy. As we continued down the path we spotted no less than 20 of them, there were also butterflies, and some other frogs that we saw while making our way next to the stream, which was moving quickly, swollen from the rains the night before. Following the hike we made our way back to the cabin, packed up and checked out with Alvaro, saying our adioses.

La Fortuna gets its name from a 75 meter waterfall, the falls were about a mile away and after checking out we loaded up and made our way to the park. They made me back my car into the spot in the event of an eruption which I thought was kind of strange, but smart. The hike down to the falls is steep but well maintained, much like the walking path in Monteverde. It is only about 500 meters but due to the steep terrain, wearing my backpack and having my camera in hand it had a decent difficulty level. There were a few spots where one could stop and take photos of the falls, and I took advantage of many of them. The crash of the falls, the mist given off, and the opaque green water in a circular pool really made this place something out of a dream. We set our stuff on some of the rocks and headed down to the water…. Which was cold! Not like scuba diving in Iceland cold, but cold like I just sat in a hot springs last night and am sweaty from walking around in 90 degree heat with 100% humidity for the last five days cold, so probably like 70 degrees. It took me a minute or two to acclimate and plunge in, and once I did I was surprised by how forceful the current pushed me back into the rocks. The actual falls, and the torrent of water that creates it, was only about 30 feet from the shore so I could really feel the power as it pushed me around and towards the rocks. Sophie got in next and really felt the pull as she was caught in the current, compelling her around the waterfall. She easily made it back to the safety of the rocks and in I went again. I am a strong swimmer, and an idiot, I kept thinking to myself and wondering what would happen if I tried to swim full out into the falls... I didn’t try it but I did push out quite a ways and it was like swimming upstream in class two rapids.

Back on shore, drying off and warming up, some others joined us and I watched a guy go all the way around the waterfall, it was pretty cool and I almost wanted to try it, but I

These little guys sing all day long for mates, the best singers get the girls.
was almost dry and I didn’t want to try it bad enough to get back in. Now, had he found some vine I could swing from to drop into that pool? I definitely would have been out there.

The hike back up was like a stair climber at the gym on expert. Sophie made it with no problems, not even looking back for me, she must have gotten way ahead as I was stopping every now and again to take a picture or two. Back at the top we hit up the souvenir shop, my friend Gabe, back home, had one request of me, to pick him up a “sweet necklace,” this is where I found it. We stopped at some town called Chachagua for some lunch before carrying on the rest of the way to Puntarenas, through the pouring rain.

It was cloudy when we got home so we decided to skip the sunset and just get ready for dinner. It was at this point that we decided that although the menu changes every night it is kind of the same stuff, even though it is a good tune, it was an old one and we were over it. With the early start to the morning and the drive home, I needed a tea after dinner to stay awake. It was worth it though because we caught our first show at the resort. (We were such bad resort participants. Sophie compared it to the one on Dirty Dancing with all of the activities. This was day five here and we hadn’t done anything like this yet.) The show was entitled “Around the World.” They tried to play it off like we were taking off on a flight and going to different countries, the first was France and once they told us that we had landed the dancers came out. It was awesomely bad. Every country was another dance, some were much better than others, the costumes were actually pretty good. We saw France, the US, Spain, India, Mexico and a couple of others, there was also a comedian that was good for a few laughs that helped break the show up a bit. I was glad that we went but I was definitely ready for bed when it was over.

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