After a fun-filled day at the ziplines, and a relaxing session at a near-by coffee shop we promptly boarded our afternoon shuttle minutes before 2pm. We took a quick spin around town to pick up a few others, and within 15 minutes we were rolling out of town.
The shuttle ride was slow and grueling. Up and down steep ravines on rocky and very sketchy roads (if you can even call them that). Worse than the roads was the high volume conversation that was taking place in the seats behind us. Apparently these particular Brits find Americans speaking Spanish offensive. Our accents aren't as refined as theirs, apparently! Despite there being three Americans in the car, they weren't phased. And they call Americans loud and obnoxious. I beg to differ.
After a couple hours of winding through the mountains, we finally came to a gravel parking lot next to a massive lake with an incredible vantage of the hero of La Fortuna, Arenal. The volcano is picture perfect. It is the exact shape you would build if it were your 5th grade science experiment.
We boarded the small commuter boat and pushed off shore for our 30 minute trip across the lake. We snapped a few shots of the majestic volcano and enjoyed this method of transport for a change.
On the other side, a new shuttle driver awaited our arrival. He shuffled us up the huge hill and into a hot and packed van. The a/c kicked in quick as we buzzed down the road passing resorts, hot springs, and the ever-present looming volcano in the distance.
We were the first to arrive at our hotel. We filed out, grabbed our bags, and checked in to our room. The room was infinitely more spacious and comfortable than our last and there no signs of vermin at first glance. As we brought our bags in, the sky began to rain, then pour. Once again impeccable timing.
The only issue was that by this point we were extremely hungry. Oh well, we'll just have to wait this one out. Thankfully, it only lasted another hour. As soon as it stopped, we hit the street for a big Casado plate to fill our growling tummies.
After a bit of investigation, we found a spot that looked decent and came recommended. Two Imperials and two Casados (one veg), were exactly what the doctor ordered. Delicious, relatively cheap, and a heaping portion. We have come to understand this is very much the routine of a traveler... Starve and Stuff.
Being properly, or perhaps too full, we decided on an evening stroll to aid in our dinner digestion, and boy am I happy we did. In the distance, We heard the unmistakable lyrics of one, Shania Twain, and upon closer inspection, we turned the corner to find a crowd of locals attempting to Line Dance to Shania's 'Any Man of Mine'. Clearly they had met many times to try and get this coordinated line dance down, but in my humble opinion, they could use a bit more work. He was turning this way, and she would turn another and nearly trip over him. What was impressive was their (almost matching) tight jeans, boots, plaid shirts, and cowboy hats. After they wrapped up they received an overwhelmingly positive response; clapping and cheering like teenage girls at a Justin Bieber concert. They LOVED it.
We continued walking and eventually made our way back. We called it a night at our becoming regular hour of 9:00pm. Within the hour we were fast asleep.
In the morning, we were up and at 'em early. We had our breakfast of PB&J with fruit. For the record... How good is peanut butter?? It's been what feels like a thousand years since I've had it last. Apparently not a staple in the cuisine of the countries we've been traveling, but man is it good!!
By 8:30am our shuttle had arrived. We hopped in and drove the five minutes to the stables. Yes, the day has finally come!! It has taken 5 years, but I have finally worn Adrian down to the point that he agreed on a day of horseback riding, and this particular trip was to a majestic waterfall no less. Oh yeah, romance was in the air.
So Adrian and I, along with the half dozen other tourists, pulled ourselves up and on our steeds and sauntered slowly out of the stables. I can't say that "natural" would be the adjective I would use to describe our demeanor, but we were both pretty excited, and I think I even saw Adrian smile a bit.
The trip out to the waterfall was about an hour and a half each way. Adrian was behind the reins of "Miel" ("Honey" in English) and my pony was named "Amazona". We walked, trotted, and even cantered through green pastures, muddy paths, and rocky streams (I looked that last term up, btw).
We eventually arrived at the waterfall and left our horses at the "horse parking" area. I was a bit relieved to give the ole booty a break. We past through the entrance, and after a quick stop at the bathrooms to change, we began making our way down to the falls.
Our first stop was at the lookout point. My initial reaction was that of surprise. I had no idea how massive it was going to be. It was gorgeous and it was a LONG WAY DOWN. We snapped a couple photos and then headed for the trail down. As each of the 570 steps down past us, the realization began sinking in that we would have to climb back up this mountain when we were through. Not to worry, for now there was a waterfall that needed swimming in.
We hiked down the path and were amazed by the huge plunging torrent of water, and when we jumped into the ice cold pool we were once again amazed by the power and force of the rushing water. With all our strength, we still couldn't even begin to swim to the edge of waterfall, it was like swimming as hard as possible in an endless pool.
After we were properly exhausted, we pulled ourselves out of the water, dried off and snapped a few photos next to the picturesque pool. It was then the hike up commenced. It was a sweaty haul back up the ravine, but within 15 minutes we were back up and ready to get back on our horses.
We mounted our steeds and were soon trotting back towards the stables. The horses started getting bold at this stage in the journey. Adrian's Miel was particularly feisty. She lead the charge with a full gallop right out the gate. Despite some bruised inner thigh by the end of the trip we were tired, but stoked from a fun-filled morning.
After returning to the hotel, we changed into some workout gear and hit the local gym for a quick sweat session. And sweat we did. Most of the facility was not exactly full enclosed, so we were forced to sweat it out in hot Costa Rican heat. After a solid 60 minutes, we were more then ready to be done.
We lunched on fresh fruit smoothies and mixed nuts... random, and headed back to our room for a much needed shower and relaxation. Within minutes of our return the sky opened up again and poured down perfectly timed sheets of rain.
A couple hours later we were once again ready to venture out for our evening's activities. We had a 5pm reservation for the very chill Eco Termales Volcanic Thermal Pools to soak away our 3 hours on a horse and the extra hour in the gym. La Fortuna, beyond being a gorgeous place, is most specifically known for it thermal pools. This particular place is smaller, more tranquil, and less expensive, most importantly than a few of the others in the area.
When we were suited up we b-lined to the bar for delicious drinks to sip while soaking in the pools. Strawberry Daiquiri for me and a Piña Colada for Adrian. We submerged ourselves in to the steamy water, and were immediately melting into a bubbly puddle of bliss. The water was just incredible. The grounds contained 5-6 natural meandering pools of varying temperature. Many were secluded and camouflaged with lush green foliage, and with the misty rain falling, the ambient lights, the steam rising from the pools, and the water rushing down their decorative waterfalls, the place really was an little slice of heaven.
We spent a couple hours rotating from pool to pool, with regular visits to the bar through out. By 7:30, we were pretty famished. We dried off and made our way up to the restaurant. On the menu for dinner was chicken for Adrian and a piece of Mahi Mahi for me, sides included black beans, rice, veggies, and fresh homemade tortillas. It was absolutely perfect.
We finished the rest of our fantastic meal and headed back down for another hour of soaking before having to dry off, pack up and head back to our hotel. It was shower and bedtime for us. Within minutes we were drifting away into a velvety blissful sleep.
The next morning, having slept like a baby for 8 hours, we awoke early charged and ready to go. we had a quick breakfast, even sneaking an extra PB&J sandwich for the road, we grabbed our backpacks and hoofed it to the bus station to grab a bus heading to San Ramon. Unfortunately, the bus wasn't scheduled for another hour and a half, so we sat around the hot bus stop and rotted until the bus pulled up and we shuffled on. It was going to be a brutal travel day; La Fortuna -> San Ramon -> Puntarenas -> Quepos -> Manuel Antonio.
Here we go again!