The first rule about blogging is not to apologise when you haven’t blogged for a while. Because the only person who is annoyed by the absence of posts, is the blogger. As you’re reading this, you might think “What? She hasn’t blogged for a while? I didn’t even notice it!” So now, I just made you aware that I’ve become very lazy and would rather drink a beer with the Bearded Wonder, than blog.
Excuses and ramblings aside, here’s why I think every person on earth should visit Costa Rica:
You will experience the ultimate in jelly legs after hiking a volcano
Our first stop after San Jose was La Fortuna. Our hostel was a bit crap (and smelled like it too), but we took to this tourist town’s main attractions with guns blazing. And with guns, I mean biceps and other important muscles. La Fortuna is popular for three things – the volcano, hot springs and hordes of people offering expensive tours to busloads of tourists.
Not wanting to partake in the third tourist activity mentioned, we decided to navigate our own way to the hot springs. Now, you can visit one of the hot spring resorts for $50 a pop, or just go where the locals go – for free. Not wanting to pay for a taxi (big mistake), we rented two bicycles and cycled there. It was a steady uphill a la Tour de France for 11km, under the blistering Costa Rican sun. With jelly legs and pools of sweat to rival the hot springs itself, we discovered a hidden little oasis of fresh volcano water – warm, inviting and surrounded by forest. Thank goodness it was downhill back home, because our lukewarm jelly muscles were really good for nothing after a couple of hours hot springing.
Our next adventure was hiking Cerro Chato – the volcano crater right next to Volcán Arenal (the main attraction at La Fortuna). After 400 years of dormancy, Arenal violently erupted in 1968 and until 2010, showed off its ash clouds and steamy molten rock, making it quite the tourist attraction.
Our hike produced very similar post-eruption byproducts. Ash clouds erupted from our lazy and dormant muscles as we huffed and puffed our way up. Covered in mud and insect residue, we finally made it to the crater lake, where the husband had a good swim. I had a banana, which suited me just fine. First of all, I can’t swim. And crater lakes are deep and ominous. >gulp<
The best part of the whole excursion was watching the birds returning to their nests after a busy day of being a bird. We saw the most amazing feathered creatures, like parakeets, loads of hummingbirds and swallow-tailed kites. Without any binoculars or bird-watching know-how (and a good dose of involuntary leg wobbles), we just took it for what it was. And it was magical.
You’ll hear a song in your head that will cure traveler’s fatigue
En route to our next Costa Rican destination, we had a 2-hour stopover in Tilarán – a windy town with squeaking shop signs. We had been traveling (in the pouring rain) since 5.30 that morning, so when we got to Tilarán, the husband and I were both grumpy at life. Until we walked past a couple of sabaneros* having a beer at a bar with crochet curtains. And then this song started to play in my head. With a good song, one can travel for miles and miles.
You’ll see a sloth just hanging about
Yes! This is the coolest story ever. After a looooooong bus ride from La Fortuna, we finally got to Monteverde – a little town made out of hilltops and cheese (see, I told you it’s a good story). We stayed at a really nice hostel (on Santa Elena’s side) with banana-bread breakfasts and good coffee. On our first night, while chomping away on hostel-made bruschetta and tomatoes, the manager told us there’s a sloth in the tree right next to the hostel. I love bruschetta, but I love sloths even more, so we ran outside and saw Misses Sloth just hanging out. But it gets better – she had a little sloth baby clinging to her for dear life, and they gave each other sloth kisses! I squealed and tugged at the husband’s arm until it almost broke off. Today, which is almost a month later, my eyes still glaze over when I think of that moment.
Before I get too glazy-eyed, let’s talk about cheese. Monteverde’s cheese heritage kicked off in the 1950’s, when eleven Quaker** families settled in the area. After buying a big chunk of land to cultivate, they allocated a wedge of the land to opening a cheese farm. We were way overdue on a good mouthful of cheese, so it made perfect sense to hike to the cheese farm instead of the cloud forest the area is most famous for. A stray dog joined us for the hike and life was good. The cheese was also good. Their Parmesan is nutty and sweet and they have a Baby Swiss that tastes exactly like you think a Baby Swiss should taste like.
Moving swiftly along, we also had adventures of the sporty kind. The husband went zip lining and finally realised his childhood dream of gliding through the fresh forest air like a bearded Superman in cargo shorts. I wanted to see a toucan, so I went for a suspension bridge walk through the cloud forest. The husband had an awesome time. I, on the other hand, only saw a wild turkey. I however had a really nice conversation with a fellow traveler called Vicky.
The next day we did the Cerro Amigos hike. You basically walk vertically for a good hour or so, and the view is (according to the Lonely Planet) amazing. Our luck had us hiking for what felt like hours, just to discover that it is overcast and you can’t see a thing. So we had bananas in the mist, and went back down in the rain.
The thing about nature is that it doesn’t really care about two hikers sliding down a vertical mountain pass. Or hiding its toucans when you pay $25 to see them. Nope. Nature shows what she wants, when she wants to. I guess it keeps things exciting. Like the day I stumbled upon the world’s biggest spider nest in Honduras. But that my dear friends, is a story for another day.
One of many volcano selfies. Seeing that all our adventures involve just the two of us, we don’t have other people to include in our photos. So I included a flamboyant bird we spotted to break the monotony of our selfie faces.
There’s always that one photo that doesn’t make sense, but that I love. That’s why I included the top photo. We were at the pharmacy trying to figure out whether we should chew, dissolve or swallow the Vit C tablets we bought. I got bored so I took photos through the pharmacy’s window of Santa Elena’s main street.
*Costa Rican cowboy
**Coming from South Africa, I had no idea who the Quakers were. Here’s a nifty article about them.