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Published: September 6th 2007
Our lodge in the rainforest
Totuguero National Park, Costa Rica
It´s been nearly a week since my last blog, and I´ve done so much that I´m going to struggle to keep this brief, but I´ve attached loads of pics instead.
Last time I wrote I was in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, about to go on a hike through a rainforest by an active volcano called Arenal. It had rained constantly during the afternoon but luckily the rain stopped just as we were being driven to the the start point of the walk, and amazingly, there was a small eruption just as we were driving past the volcano, and a cloud of black smoke spewed out the top, followed by some tumbling rocks which landed not too far away from a house at the bottom of the volcano! The was a major eruption in 1968 which opened a new crater, and this crater has been pretty active ever since.
During the walk we saw some spider monkeys, but not much else because of the rain, but it was still great to be in the rainforest. Unfortunately, the heavens opened again at the end of the walk which reduced our chances of seeing lava at the top of
Cahuita, Costa Rica
the volcano. We couldn´t even see the volcano! But gradually, the cloud cleared a little (although the rain didn´t stop) and for a brief but wonderful moment we could see the red glow of the lava. It was too quick and far away to take pictures of it, but it´s a sight I won´t forget in a hurry.
The following day (Saturday 1 Sept) we left La Fortuna for Monteverde, which is where one of the last cloudforests in the world is located. It´s called a cloudforest because it gets most of its moisture from clouds rather than rain, but given the fact that it pissed down during the whole of our first afternoon there, it didn´t seem much different to a rainforest! The journey began with a boat trip across lake Arenal which gave us great views of the volcano, followed by a 4 hour drive in a 4x4 on pretty poor roads. Normal cars can´t do this trip in the rainy season as the roads are so bad. As soon as we arrived in Monteverde the heavens opened so I spent the afternoon on the internet or in a cafe.
We were up early on Sunday
for one of the best days so far. We headed into the cloudforest for a morning of zip lining and sky walking. The zip lines are a series of cables stretching across the rainforest on huge pylons, sometimes above the canopy, sometimes through the trees. You´re attached by a system of harnesses and pulleys and basically fly down the wire at high speed whilst leaning back and crossing your legs. The longest line was 2500 feet long and the highest was 400 feet up and it was pretty scary at first, but great fun and perfectly safe.
After that came the skywalk, which is a series of suspension bridges that have been built through and over the rainforest. The views were amazing and I would have love to have stayed longer.
In the afternoon, a couple of us went to a coffee plantation to learn how coffee is made, which was interesting and I got to taste my first decent cup of coffee since leaving home. Did you know that dark roasted coffee, like the one used in expresso, contains less caffeine than light roasted? Neither did I, so next time you want a caffeine boost, choose a
latte rather than an expresso.
In the evening, we went for a guided night-walk in the cloudforest, the highlight of which was seeing a big hairy brown tarantula wandering around.
We had an early start on Monday as we left Costa Rica for Nicaragua. The journey to the border was uneventful, but the border crossing was a bit of a nightmare, not so much because of the amount of forms we had to fill in and the number of times we had to show our passports, but because I had to walk about 600m with my backback! I did have the offer of paying someone to take it for me in a trolley in return for a few dollars, but I thought I´d be able to manage it myself. But I didn´t take into account the high humidity, and by the time we reached our van on the Nicaraguan side, I think I´d lost around 3 stone in sweat!
Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America, and it showed as soon as we crossed the border, with ramshackle houses at the side of the road. What was noticable was the amount of animals wandering the street
View from La Fortuna, Costa Rica
- pigs, horses, cows, chickens and lots of dogs. The roads were pretty well-paved though.
Our first destination in Nicaragua was Ometepe Island, which sits on lake Nicaragua, the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world and the only one to contain a freshwater shark. Ometepe Island is the only island in the world to contain 2 volcanoes. One is active, but the weather was quite cloudy as we crossed lake Nicaragua by boat, so we didn´t get a great view of them.
After a short drive across the island, we arrived at the hotel which was literally right on the beach, surrounded by rainforest and palm trees. Nice. Spent the afternoon sitting on a hammock, drinking and chatting, before dinner of beef with rice and beans and a game of cards. There were a lot of dogs roaming around the hotel gardens, most of them strays, but they were all friendly, and many gheckos on the wall.
Up early on Tuesday for another rainforest walk, accompanied by one of the stray dogs from the hotel. I was wearing my walking sandals rather than boots, which I soon realised was a mistake as the rainforest was strewn
Arenal, Costa Rica
with volcanic rocks which made walking difficult. We didn´t see much wildlife apart from several capuchin monkeys which were great to watch. The monkeys didn´t like the dog - I think they felt threatened by it - and they kept throwing things at us from the trees.
The rest of the day was pretty lazy until we went to the hotel next-door for food. Chimi, our tour guide, arranged a salsa lesson back at our hotel after dinner which was fun, and 3 local girls joined us, although it seems they had never salsa´d before! Luckily I have done a little so I wasn´t a complete beginner.
I decided to sort out my backpack and managed to bin a few things that I probably won´t need, so I´ve probably lightened my load by about 3kg. Let´s hope bottled water is easily available when I reach the Amazon jungle later in the trip, as I threw away my water filter, amongst other things.
We left Ometepe Island yesterday, again by boat across lake Nicaragua followed by a van to Granada, which is where I am now. Last night we went for a hike around a volcano called Masaya.
One of the craters is active and clouds of white smoke were constantly pouring out of it. We had a visit to a cave where thousands of bats live, and then went for a walk inside another cave which was formed by a previous volcanic eruption. As we left the cave, it was raining probably harder than I´ve ever seen it rain, and my umbrella was in the van and my raincoat in the hotel! There was a lot of thunder and lightning, some incredibly close to us, as we ran back to the van, lit only by the light from our torches and the flashes of lightning. I was soaked to the skin but it had me thinking that this is what travelling is all about and it was amazing. Unfortunately, the weather meant we couldn´t view the lava, which was a shame as the lava is visible pretty much every day of the year.
We got back to the hotel to find that a power cut had hit Granada. I´m not sure if it was because of the weather, or the hurricane which has hit the other side of the country hard. Most places have generators to
overcome power cuts, so we were able to go next door for pizza, which we ate by candlelight.
The power is back on today, although I´ve been reading that the hurricane was a big one. We´re heading that way in the next few days so I´m not really sure what lies ahead, but the storm will have passed by the time we get there. We head to Leon tomorrow, which is another town. It´s nice to be in a town for a couple of days as I can catch up with laundry - things get a bit smelly in the rainforest!
Sorry, that wasn´t quite as brief as I intended, but I´m sure you can understand why! Enjoy the pics.
Hope all is well back home.
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