A free Saturday necessitated a trip to Volcán Arenal– a wonderful treat after a week full of last-classes and final testing. We boarded a bus to La Fortuna, the closest town too Arenal National Park, and arrived mid-morning Saturday. Unfortunately, we were 4 years to late to see the lava flowing down the volcano at night. It was difficult to see anything, actually. I think it rained 95% of our waking hours this weekend, so visibility was poor (and we were in a cloud forest, after all). But we had the advantage of cooler weather because of the rain, so we took this window and went on some extensive walks to waterfalls and lagoons.
On Saturday, we walked from our hostel (Hostel Backpackers La Fortuna, rated the best hostel in all of Costa Rica) to La Reserva Ecologica Catarata Rio Fortuna. What our hostel manager explained as a 30-minute walk ended up an hour and a half. We later found out that our manager had never gone to the waterfalls on foot; the taxi ride in itself is 15-20 minutes. Our hike was straight uphill past cows and horses and lovely lodgings. Chestnut-mandibled Toucans hung out in the trees overhead and little scarlet-rumped tanagers (now Passerini’s Tanager) flitted around.
After 6+km of walking, we arrived at the entrance to the park with 40 minutes until close. We sprinted down hundreds of steps to the waterfalls and spent the rest of the time staring at their insanity until we were kicked out at 5pm.
The next day, we ventured to a private hotel property next to the waterfalls (we taxied up this time) to hike to Cerro Chato, the Green Lagoon. It was raining the entire time, and we were thoroughly soaked outside. The vertical hike up also drenched us with sweat (3km up, about 1.5 hrs), and we made use of hands and knees and grasping for tree roots often to hoist ourselves up.
The lagoon was obscured by clouds, and only accessible by an extraordinarily steep climb down to its shore. There was mud all over my clothes and legs with booty-scootching and digging into the mud was sometimes the only option for a handhold. It was worth the effort, and a guide stopped us on the way back down. With a knowing grin and an allusion to our mud-caked legs asked us if we had climbed all the way down to the lagoon. We began laughing and the long stumble down the trail with more mud to come.
We ended the day by scraping off dirt in thermal hot springs, 3 km from our hostel and clearly the place for Ticos on Sunday afternoons. Las Termalitas del Arenal had numerous pools of varying temperatures, and relaxed our very pruney feet and left us refreshed and rejuvenated to board the bus back to Atenas, ready to start Directed Research.