This morning is our first full day in Costa Rica. I am awake at 5 am (which is actually 11 am in the UK and also in my stomach). Two hours until breakfast and I’m starving.
At 6 am it gets light and I can brave going outside to sit in the garden without standing in anything produced by the little dog. It’s a pretty garden with a gazebo and plunge pool set among the shrubs. Breakfast is served in a clearing in the garden and is very tasty – fried rice and beans, omelette, sausage and plantain. Although I go off my food a bit when I see quite how often the cook fondles the little dog whilst cooking.
After breakfast, we take a walk to find a shop to stock up on supplies. The accommodation is just off the main airport road so it’s not the most scenic walk, but it’s nice to be somewhere warm and sunny away from the British winter. Once we have found a store and stocked up on essentials (diet coke and crisps), it’s back to the hotel and a little relax in the garden until it’s time to collect our hire car.
Car hire is very expensive in Costa Rica, so we have gone right to the bottom of the budget options with Mex Rent a car. Even that is setting us back $942 for 18 days. We check out of the hotel (the owner gives us a lift to the hire car company) and pick up our car – a Toyota Rush. It’s definitely seen better days (years even) which is fine. Last time we hired a 4WD car was in California. It was pristine with only a few miles on the clock and we were terrified of actually taking it off road. No such problems here. We could probably drive it off a cliff and get away with it!
We set off for today’s destination – La Fortuna. It’s a 73 mile drive, starting on the main Route 1 for 25 miles, then onto a smaller road. It’s a bit pot holey but not as bad as I’d anticipated. The most interesting part of the journey is the rickety rackety bridge over the Rio Peñas Blancas. It looks like it was made from Meccano and you have to queue up to cross, as it can only take one vehicle at a time. Just after the bridge is a viewpoint, so we pull over to take some photos and a walk back across the bridge. It’s a long way down – one of us walks further across the bridge than the other!
Shortly after, we turn a corner and there is Volcán Arenal standing over a mile high with clouds just obscuring its peak – it’s quite a sight. After a brief photo stop, we reach the town at the foot of the volcano; La Fortuna and our hotel for the next three nights; Xilopalo.
The hotel is literally at the end of the road with rows of cabins with verandas set in gardens full of all sorts of wildlife. Before we’ve even finished checking in, we spot a huge iguana walking along a branch outside reception and a hummingbird. We finally complete check in amidst the various wildlife interludes and are shown to our room. It is very pleasant and has a volcano view. Plus the staff attach bananas to the tree directly outside our window which attracts plenty of birds (and squirrels).
After sitting and admiring the view for a while, we take a wander into town, stopping at a bar for a couple of beers, then a bakery for some amazing cream cheese stuffed bread. We eat on the bench outside our room with its volcano backdrop, watching dozens of exotic birds feasting on the bananas, plus a colony of enormous ants busy transporting leaves back and forth along a tree root.
The combination of jetlag, an early start and a long drive (followed by a couple of beer) means we are settled in our room with no desire to move again by 5 pm. To be honest, the view is so cool that moving seems counterproductive. I could happily just sit on my veranda for the next 3 days…
We watch the sun set over the volcano which threatens to be stunning, before clouds descend and obscure everything. Then take an early night before setting off for a more up-close volcano encounter in the morning.
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