Sunday, February 13, 2011

A million shades of green

Monteverde brought a complete contrast to the pacific coast, the climate was cooler and a million shades of green surrounded the picturesque town. On the first day Julie and I decided a short "warm up" hike would be the way forward and the staff at the hostel told us about Cerro Amigos, a 1842m peak that we could walk to from town. Our little warm up walk turned out to be a steep and constant hike, through a wasp nesting area and taking us over 3 hours round-trip. The peak rewarded us with nothing but misty rain and a view of cloud!! Apparently on a clear day you can see the pacific coast and the Arenal volcano, today was not that day though I'm afraid!

Monteverde holds a wealth of adventure and extreme activities to test your courage, or stupidity, I'm not sure which and since I had already done the Canopy Zip Lining in Mal Pais I thought Canyoning should be the next thing to cross off the list. Canyoning involves a combination of hiking and rappelling down waterfalls. I was lucky enough to be the only person booked on the tour so I actually ended up with a private rappelling and Spanish lesson in one and after a short instruction and safety session I careened down the first waterfall with apparent ease, secretly pleased with myself, this was fun! It was at the third waterfall which was 40m high that it occurred to me that this was actually hard work, dangerous and a little bit scary! I had never done anything like that before, it was challenging and fun and I safely made it down 7 waterfalls ready for the next challenge!

For the following day I thought something less life threatening should be on the agenda so Julie and I visited the Monteverde Cloud Forest and did a 5 hour hike through one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world. It was amazing to walk through the forest, it was so serene with barely a sound and incredible to think there was in fact a million things going on all around us. 

After a few days it was time to move onto something new and Arenal Volcano was next stop, as we crossed Arenal Lake the 1633m peak loomed before us, the top half covered in clouds. The small town of La Fortuna is the base for people wanting to view the volcano and some stay for days to try and catch a glimpse of it in all its glory. As it turned out mother nature was on our side as later the same day the clouds cleared and there was a perfect view of the crater.

The first day in Arenal I had scheduled as a rest day as Monteverde had been 4 solid days of hiking and adventure. The owner of the hostel we were staying at that night told us about a beautiful waterfall, La Fortuna Catarata, that wasn't too far away. It was hot and the prospect of an afternoon swim sounded like a great idea. Paying attention to the part where he said it was a 5km walk might have been a good idea.... After walking uphill in flip flops, downing a coconut and a popsicle, an hour or so later we arrived at the waterfall, a spectacular sight, a super powerful ribbon of water pouring from 70m above.

La Fortuna is a fairly soulless tourist town and I had read about a very cool place to stay in El Castillo which was on the other side of the volcano so the following day I made my way there. Essence Arenal Travellers & Backpackers Resort ( sits upon a hillside with its own pool overlooking the lake and volcano and a short hiking trail around the property. The town is really small consisting of a few cabinas and resorts and a couple restaurants. One of the towns restaurants is in Essence, where I am staying. They have a unique dinner concept which they called "Demo" cuisine. It involves guests participating in cooking the dishes and each night is themed differently, last night I learnt how to make pasta from scratch and tonight sushi is on the menu!  

It rained, actually it poured pretty much all last night so my plan for a hike today has been scratched, this afternoon will bring a relaxing dip in the nearby hot springs and tomorrow I will head back to the pacific beaches of Tamarindo to top up my tan.

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