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Costa Rica – Get movin’

December 5, 2011

After my one day wander around the Costarican capital it was time to hit the ground and put my plans into action.

A quick reality check with the hostel staff in San Jose revealed that it was in fact possible to see Arenal and Monteverde in the three days before Phil and Drew came in but that it’d be a challenge to get a good value out of each place on such a quick schedule. The arrogant do-all jetsetter in me was all game while the hippie see the world, get to know the culture touchy feely flip-flop wearer was wary that I would miss the true essence of the country. I’ll tell you in advance that both halves were pleasantly surprised but lets get to the story and you’ll see why.

I hopped on a shuttle bus that the hostel set me up with and prebooked my next hostel within the same chain and headed off to La Fortuna, 3 hours away. I fully expected to be in a van full of other hostel-crashers but It was just me and the driver and it felt like I’d hired a private car to take me. I drove up front and took advantage of my familiarity with the local language to have a cultural experience. It was just nice to kick back with a local, the driver was a young guy and we chatted the whole way until the hills cleared off and I got an excellent view of the Arenal Volcano (really just a really symmetrical looking mountain from this angle) just before it was swallowed up by a big gray cloud an hour later.

I saw Volcan Arenal coming in and I didn’t see the volcano again for the entire time I was there, even when I suffered a 3 hour nature hike to the lookout where the view is best and on a good day you can even see lava spewing out. All I got was a big gray cloud! I also got this:

It’s a three toed sloth! The green color you see on it is algae that it lets grow on it’s back because it doesn’t care!

The cool thing is that this was by the side of the road. I was headed up to the trail in a tour van and the guide made the driver pull over cause he’d seen this thing earlier that day. It took me like five minutes to see it! This looked like a beehive or a clump of leaves.

On the different trails that I did in Arenal and the other destinations I visited on this trip there were many gratuitous animal sightings but the best ones were when I was led on by a guide and shown through a birdwatching scope that most carry. Most of the time you’re scratching your head wondering how the heck this guy spotted that thing!

By the end of the volcano seeing tour I was soaking wet. It was my first stop and I forgot to prepare for the rain. My cameras were safe… I had an all-weather cover for my camera bag but I was dripping. After the tour we were dropped off at the Baldi Hot Springs hotel and resort which is like a luxury style water park of hot-spring pools and wet bars complete with a couple of water slides and plenty of artificial waterfalls to bathe in the naturally warmed water from the Arenal Volcano. Dinner was included and the only problem was carrying cash to the wet bar because all I had with me was my bathing suit.

The next day was especially thrilling for animal watching. Before catching an early transport to Monteverde at 8am I took a 5am birdwatching tour which turned out to be right in the little plot of land by the hostel! At first I was a little disappointed but the dude who picked me up wearing galoshes really knew how to spot the animals. Just walking around I saw macaws toucans, big lizards, hummingbirds, a sloth, a falcon, two kinds of bats, a poisonous toad, a colorful red-eyed tree frog, and at least three other birds which I forgot the names of.

Here’s some pictures of the animals I saw:

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