Day 3: Tortuguero to Arenal
After snoozing the alarm from 5:15am till 5:45am, we mustered up every inch of energy to get out of bed and get ready for our morning boat tour. We had originally planned to do this tour the prior afternoon, but we were a bit tired from the morning journey. We had also read that we had better chances of seeing animals when the forest awoke at the crack of dawn.
It seemed nearly impossible to spot wildlife in the dense, luscious green jungle, but we soon learned that Willis saw as well as the hawks he began spotting! We first saw a variety of birds, including a black Aninga bird and a juvenile King Heron. The Heron's neck was extremely long, and we saw her put it to use, as she ducked underwater to find her breakfast. A large iguana was comfortably perched up on a branch, almost giving the impression of recovering from a hangover after last night. We were also able to spot the basilisk, a leaner looking lizard, with a light green color skin. Its spine resembled the spikey leaves of a tree and its long tail, a vine. It’s known as Jesus because that lizard is able to walk on water!
The journey was also filled with much chatter from various birds; Toucans talking to each other, kingfishers fluttering about, and a King Heron emitting a growl-like mating call. Quietest was the sloth, which we understood was nocturnal, and was curled around a branch presumably in a deep slumber. We wish we could’ve seen some more action, but hey, it’s a sloth!
We continued to weave our way through the narrow canals of the lagoon and alas caught sight of the famous spider and howler monkeys. While the spider monkeys were up and about, chewing on the leaves, the howler monkeys (all 3 of them) were a bit slower to move. As we proceeded to one of the narrower waterways, well-known for its palm trees, we saw a family of howler monkeys making its way through the jungle on treetops. We saw nearly 8-9 monkeys swing from one tree to another, some more gracefully than the others.
As the clock struck 8, we returned to the Lodge satisfied with our morning excursion, and ready to feast on some breakfast: Made up of house-made granola and a delicious Costa Rican coffee.
We had a long 3.5-hour drive to La Fortuna/Arenal and for some reason it seemed to take forever. To keep ourselves from falling asleep at the wheel we resorted to playing some car games that we used to play back in the day! Scrabble- in which Chirag won every time after stumping me at the last letter, and a good run of 20 questions. We took a little pit stop at a pizza place called tsunami pizza and tried our best to converse with the lady, saying "sin carne, sin pescado, sin huevo." With Google Translate as our little helper we got through it, just with a lot of hand gestures, Italian words and 'Uhh's.
Day 4: Arenal Volcano to Monteverde
Waking up at 7:15 almost felt like we slept in. Fresh from an adequate nights sleep, we woke up for our 8am kayaking and biking tour. Organized the prior evening, I was a bit worried since the website said 6km of kayaking and 16km of biking. However, I decided to charge ahead and deal with the situation if it arose.
After a bit of miscommunication as to how we were getting to the site, we arrived at the edge of a beautiful yet intimidating lake at 8:30am. We were hoping to find a 2-person kayak but luck was not on our side. A tour guide and a German man named Otto joined us. We quickly got fitted into our kayaks and were on our way.
The view was gorgeous. The lake was calm and the backdrop consisted of lush green rainforests on either side of us, with the Arenal Volcano standing tall straight ahead of us partly covered in a shroud of low clouds. There was a slight breeze pushing us along towards the other end of the lake.
After about an hour of slow treading, we were faced with a period of slightly rougher waters, caused by stronger winds that were previously blocked by the rain forest on our left. We began to pull a bit hard with each stroke of the paddle as we faced the waves getting a bit choppier coming in from the west. Still, we enjoyed ourselves and occasionally paused to chat, take pictures and get to know others in the group.
Upon finally reaching shore, we were greeted with some freshly cut watermelon. I opened up the little storage area in kayak that was meant to keep my bag from getting wet. Lo and behold, as I opened it, I found my bag and all its contents floating in the water! Naturally, mine was the only kayak that had a hole in it.
The biking was almost a bit difficult at first. We didn’t get much time to get used to our new bikes as we were immediately faced with rocky hills. Still, we were determined to get the full experience and trudged along.
Near the halfway point, I threw in the towel and chose to sit in the truck that followed Chirag and the others for the remainder of the route. Ironically, the trail became pretty flat from there, and the sun came out after spending most of the day hiding behind the clouds. During the ride, our guide explained to us how the volcano eruption in the 1980s affected local towns and rain forests and how they have recovered since.
Three and a half hours later, we made left turn into a beautiful lit sign saying "El Establo". The engraved sign itself gave us the impression that our home for the next day would be fantastic.
At my parent’s suggestion, we went for dinner at the Treehouse Cafe. It was perched up on the second floor, and though it was an artificial tree, they did a remarkable job making it look real. It was a whimsical place, with a live band playing in the back. We wolfed down our Cassado, had some traditional Costa Rican coffee and called it a night.