Costa Rica: Thursday, May 19 (Arenal)

We had what seemed like a fairly long drive from Poaz to our next stop, the Arenal area. The road wound through hills and towns of varying sizes, but the roads were all paved. This didn’t seem important at the time, of course, but later on the way to Monteverde it would seem luxurious in hindsight.

I expected a lot of rain during the trip, but there were only a few times when it actually rained. For the most part it was just overcast, or clear with clouds piling in the west. As it got dark and our scrappy little car wound through the hills, we saw a lot of lightning, but nothing ever came of it.

Arenal is a volcano in the middle of CR. It has the absolute quintessential shape of a volcano, as you’ll see in a minute when I stop talking and give you a photo. It had been dormant a long time until 1968, when a mini eruption created a small, second peak that’s only visible from one side. Next to the volcano is a big lake created when a river was dammed and, as with the Quabbin, a few villages were eliminated from the map. We were mightily confused by the location of our hotel, which was adamant that it was, in fact, in Arenal. In truth the town of Arenal doesn’t exist any longer (though its inhabitants created Neuvo Arenal, home of a German bakery you’ll hear about in a bit). We plugged the location into the GPS (an important note: If you go to Costa Rica, you MUST get GPS for your car. Roads are almost never marked, even in towns. It simply is not possible to navigate using a map. Don’t be stubborn, just do it.), which assured us it knew the way and we followed. As the GPS stubbornly repeated, “Arriving at destination,” we found ourselves in an increasingly industrial area. Stopped at a payphone and couldn’t negotiate the process of adding enough coins to actually make a call for help. Finally we pulled into a gas station and asked for help.

Happy, though, when we finally found our destination, the Tilajari Resort. The rooms are nice and big, and ours faced the river. Night-blossoming trees all over the property, and Yen and I exchanged ghost stories (a lot of Vietnamese ghost stories involve trees and thoroughly freaked me out). I was irritating all through dinner by looking at all the small lizards up on the walls, but remarked that I wouldn’t want to have a giant lizard next to me at breakfast the next morning.

Which is exactly what I got.

I made friends with one iguana in particular.

And couldn’t resist touching him when he wasn’t looking.

The Coopers, we were relieved to find, survived the journey up from San Jose, and we discussed whether we’d like to find one of those creatures on our respective pillows in the morning. I explained the deliciousness of plantains to them, and we went our separate ways.

In addition to fruit for the iguanas, the hotel sets out fruit for little song birds, and I enjoyed watching Yen photograph them while I drank a second cuppa cafe con leche (mucho leche!).

Finally we set out for the agenda of the day, Arenal and the hanging bridges nearby.

Here’s my photo, Shireen!

The bridges are suspended up in the canopy so you can get an excellent look at birds, which is much of the reason I wanted to go to Costa Rica. Well, that and so much green.

Here’s a view from way up above.

Dad, don’t worry. There were no jumping pit vipers in the tunnel.

But we did find a little poison frog, this one (we found out on a tour later) is a blue jeans frog.

Some kind of parasitic plant, which Yen named the Medusa Plant.

Ok, here’s one of the bridges. Isn’t that great? Look way up at the top and you’ll see one of the next bridges.

A view straight out from the bridge.

And here’s Yen prepping for a photo shoot.

Here’s the professional model in that professional shoot.

This? This is the new desktop for your computer.

Some leaves…

And another lizard. You can see that he lost his tail somewhere along the way and had to grow a new one.

Bridge.

Leaves (I know you know that).

I like this photo. He’s determined to get great shots.

Ok, here’s one of the little birds we spotted up in the canopy.

And another view down toward the floor.

A view of the volcano from a bridge.

As we crossed to the end of that bridge, we came across some park workers. They conferred, and the third one said to us, “Snake?” And we said, “Sure!” Then we followed him around the corner back into the trees and he shows us this tiny eyelash viper. They’re called that because of the little pointy things over their eyes – you can just see if you look closely.

After the walk, we decided lunch was in order. The guidebook raved about a German bakery, of all things, so we set out. The drive took us around the lake, which reminded me a lot of Scotland.

When we arrived, we found a couple of old guys and a couple of cats (and a sign saying, “Do not feed the cats”) and dined on bratwurst, goulash and pretzels. Here’s the view from our table, looking over the roof of the building next door to some coconuts.

And our food, of course.