Sarapiqui River, La Fortuna & Arenal

Published: June 19th 2014
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The previous day I took a flight from Washington DC and headed down to San Jose. Once I was in San Jose, I got to meet my Costa Rican friend, Walter, who I had met from Busuu. I did not see much of San Jose as it started to rain, but did see La Sabana Park. I also met and had dinner with my Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and fellow G Adventure trekkers who I will be travelling with for the next 8 days.

My first full day was an early start as we headed over to La Fortuna. Once on the bus, I enjoyed looking at Costa Rica’s green and mountain landscape. We first stopped off for some photos of the last waterfall at La Paz. La Paz has many great waterfalls with an animal park. I hope to return here towards the end of my trip. We then continued for a little longer before stopping to change over bus as the plan was for some of the others in the group and myself to try out the White Water Rafting. When waiting for the next bus, our CEO had noticed a Sloth in a tree. How amazing, I would never have noticed it! We then got picked up by the bus and headed over to Sarapiqui for the rafting.

Once we had arrived at the start point for the White Water Rafting, I started to feel apprehensive as I wasn’t sure what to expect as never done this before. For those doing the rafting, we got off the bus and went to get changed into some swimwear. Then before we got into the water raft, we had a health and safety talk and instructions on how to white water raft. Then had a practice to make sure we understood the instructions of the instructor who would be in the raft with us. Once the instructor was happy, we then went live. We were told that we were lucky as the rainy season had just begun and the river had been very low, luckily the previous day there had been a lot of rainfall which had made the river deeper and much better for white water rafting. After a few minutes of rafting the apprehension had gone and I was really getting into it. When battling against the rocks, water would splash over me. I tried to make sure I kept my mouth closed as the water tasted horrible, but because I was laughing and having fun I kept opening my mouth and getting the taste of the river. Every time we got past some challenging rocks the instructor would make us stick our rowing sticks into the air and say “pura vida” this means pure life in English. The rafting lasted a couple of hours and we got fresh pineapple and melon towards the end of the trip. The tour company we used were called Desafio and they have an office in La Fortuna.

After we had finished the rafting, we headed to a nearby village to get dry and change our clothes, and to have lunch. The wooden hut that we visited in the nearby village had a beautiful garden behind it. I went for a short walk alone and saw some frogs with black and green stripes. I then headed back to the hut to have food which was included with the rafting and saw hummingbirds that were using the feeders that had been placed outside the hut. I tried to take some photos whilst they were in the air but they moved too quickly. I did however manage to take some great shots of a hummingbird perched on a tree. This was one of the animals I really wanted to see in Costa Rica. This was a wow moment, especially when one of them flew past me. The food was tasty; they call it typical, I had chicken pieces with rice, platano and salad. The platanos I tried for the first time last year in Belize and it was so good to try them again. Platano are similar to a banana, but they taste sweet.

After lunch, the bus picked us up and we continued our journey to La Fortuna. Once we got to the hotel in La Fortuna, I went to my hotel room and unpacked some stuff. It was sunny and there was a pool near my hotel room so I dipped my feet into the water and faced the sun, and just enjoyed the moment.

In the evening, the group got together and we went to the Desafio office to find out what excursions we could do the next day. I really wanted to do a volcano hike and there was a choice of two excursions. The first one was an extreme hike, this sounded good but meant an early start. The other one was an afternoon hike which was less extreme. I decided to go for the less extreme option and thought I could chill by the hotel swimming pool and not have to wake up too early. We then headed out to a nice restaurant called Lava Lounge for dinner and was a great opportunity to get to know people in the group. The group has a good mix of different nationalities and so it’s good to hear about their stories and culture differences. After food, it was an early night for me.

The next day

The next day I woke up early. For some reason there was maintenance work happening in one of the rooms nearby. This was at 7am! I decided to get up and have breakfast at a nearby restaurant. I even skyped with mum and Barry as I knew I probably would not have any spare time coming up in next few days to do this.

I spent the morning sunbathing by the pool. The weather was so hot that I felt like I was melting. At midday I adventured into La Fortuna. La Fortuna got its name after surviving the volcano eruption many years ago and its name means fortunate in Spanish. Once in the centre of La Fortuna, I visited the main church which seemed simple but it served its purpose. The church did look nice from outside though. I then walked around some of the shops and the shopkeepers were happy to haggle, although I only brought a wristband saying Costa Rica. I really wanted a hammock and nearly brought one but decided that I probably wouldn’t use it once back home.

After going into La Fortuna town centre, I went back to the hotel to do some more sunbathing. I saw Kelly and Ryan from my group who were doing the same excursion as me later and they were chilling by the hotel pool. There was this young local boy called Federick, he spoke no English at all. I had to try and speak Spanish to him. He wanted me to play games with him and thought it was funny to splash me. I decided to call him ‘chico malo’ which means bad boy, as this was the only thing that came to my mind when he misbehaved. I learnt that he was eight years old and that his parents worked at the hotel. And although I told him my Spanish was little he kept talking to me at a very fast pace so I just said to him in Spanish that I don’t understand and then he got the message.

As the afternoon passed, I went and got ready for the volcano hike. Kelly, Ryan and myself got picked up at 3pm and were taken towards to volcano Arenal. Once we got to the start point of our hike, it started to rain really heavily. Luckily, I was prepared as I had my waterproofs but some people that also joined the tour did not and got very wet. While hiking towards Arenal we saw some wildlife. The animals I got to see were an eyelash viper, a sloth, tucan and toad. We walked for about 40 minutes to a good spot where you can usually see Arenal on a good day. However, as it was raining, it was very misty and hard to see the volcano or lake Arenal. We weren’t allowed to walk any further as it was deemed unsafe and so walked back to the bus.

After the volcano hike, the plan was for everyone in the group to do the thermal bath. Basically the water is warm from the heat of the volcano. The bus dropped Kelly, Ryan and myself of at the thermal bath. The thermal bath is at a big resort just outside of La Fortuna, it has a hotel and does outdoor activities like zip-linning. We met the rest of the group and had dinner, then got into swimming gear and enjoyed the thermal bath. The thermal bath has waterslides and a bar. It was great having an alcoholic drink and being in a heated bath at the same time. I felt really relaxed and clean after getting soaked on the volcano hike.

After our time at the thermal baths, we headed back to the hotel. I was feeling a bit tipsy from the alcohol I had consumed at the thermal bath and was eager to carry on drinking. The CEO asked if anyone wanted to go out into La Fortuna. All the lads and myself were up for this and so we had a boys night out. We stayed at one bar and drank beer and there was a shot of tequila as well. It wasn’t too much of a late one for me as we had to get up early for our next stop which was Monteverde.

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