Arriving in Costa Rica and Arenal

3. November
As I stepped off the plane in Panama City and into the hallway-chute I felt the humidity so strongly. My immediate thought was: what have I done to myself? I found the gate to Liberia, CR, and read until I boarded. The Cubs won the baseball game, so I can wear my hat with pride. I slept/read my way to Liberia. There I picked up my massive backpack, walked around for five minutes before I found the bus to Liberia, paid $1 and  in 30 minutes I was there.

Liberia was undoubtedly a stop over town. There was nothing to see. I walked around, but there were no cool buildings, no statues, it didn’t even seem like a city to me. It was just blocks, squared blocks, with sodas and fruit vendures etc. I felt the eyes of the men on me, staring, just like they do in presumably all of Central America. I felt exposed, regretting the shorts despite the heat. I missed people, I missed everyone that I know and trust. I missed Clara, who had been through this with me in the Dominican Republic. I missed a companion and the comfort of numbers.

After learning about a bus to a beach I went there. I arrived just in time for sunset. I went for a swim and the ocean was a warm embrace. I drank the biggest margarita and wrote in my journal. I waited for the final bus for almost an hour, feeling once more my solitude as a burden and not a blessing. It always goes in waves like this. But then Adrien from Cananda that I had met in the hostel came along, he had also come to the beach, and now he was going back. I instantly felt more relaxed. It is a beautiful thing to feel how the closeness of a stranger can make such an impression of your state of mind. Just to know that we were in the same boat made us instantly friends, and my stomach unclenched. It also helped a lot when the bus came.

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4 . November
I briefly entertained the idea of Nicaragua: there was a volcano that was active, you could see lava, and another that you could volcano-board off. But I decided that I was in Costa Rica to see Costa Rica, and got on the bus to Arenal. There I met Tommy, another Canadian, and my company for the next seven weeks. He leaned over to ask if I knew where I was going. I said I hoped so, and then we figured it out together. We navigated from bus to bus: Liberia to Cañas to Tiláran and made the one and only bus to La Fortuna at 12:30. The road there was gorgeous, all green rain forests and a beautiful view of the lake. The sky was semi-cloudy, and in the distance we could see most of the Arenal Volcano towering, it’s summit crowned in clouds. This was the only view we got of the volcano, and if I had known then I would have taken pictures, but I was convinced we would get some great views.

In La Fortuna Tommy booked into the same hostel as me, and we grabbed some food at a Soda. I ate my first Casado, a typical Costa Rican dish consisting of rice, fried beans, salad, fried plantains. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was cheap and filled me up. We also booked a trip to hike Cerro Chato, a smaller, dormant volcano with a lake at it’s crater that we could swim in and a nice view of Arenal Volcano, the next day. We also went to these natural hot springs that the hostel offered free transportation to. It was more a river than spring, but it was so nice to just lay there and soak in the hot water for a while.

5 . November
The hostel practically boiled during the night. We only had two fans in the room where 12 people slept, and I was sweating so bad. I eventually fell asleep, and when I got up to have breakfast at 8AM I was the only one eating breakfast –everyone else had already left.

We got picked up for our hike at 10:30, and drove to the trailhead. There we signed a waiver etc. and Tommy made 5 new friends in the space of a smoke. Our group actually turned out to be really cool, and we made a lot of new travel friends. The hike was also really cool. It was cloudy still, so the rainforest was shrouded in fog, and now and then a rainfall would catch us. The trail was quite steep, and the dirt turned to mud from the water. We often had to climb using both hands and knees, and the underside of my backpack was entirely covered in mud. The rainforest was lush, green, and humming with life.

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At the summit we saw nothing. No Arenal Volcano, no crater at the bottom of Cerro Chato. We hiked down to the crater, and the trail was almost vertical at times. Ergo, more mud. I had my legs thoroughly smeared in mud by the end of the trail. We reached the crater and it was so foggy we didn’t see the other side (apparently you should be able to swim across). Although we didn’t see the green water, the massive volcano, it was beautiful in it’s own way. All hues of grey, and we did still swim. It was a little cold, but how many times can you swim in a volcano crater

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Then we hiked through some hanging bridges, to a waterfall, and did a small trip to a frog pond to see some frogs. It was dark by then and we were going by flashlights. We saw the red eyed frog. Suddenly this guy from England shouted and jumped, and on the snake in front of him was a small snake. It had fallen from a tree onto him. This made me very jumpy, so I was quite happy to get out of there. The bus took us the hot spring we had been at yesterday, but they also provided us with a mixed drink and some mud for a facial mask. It was really nice to end the day off like that, we all felt really relaxed afterwards.

A lot of us went together for food, and two of the guys, Olivier and Marko from Quebec, as well as four girls from Germany, were going to be on the same boat as Tommy and I heading to Monteverde tomorrow. Back in the hostel we got the AC going, thankfully, so it was almost cold to sleep. I’m getting to realise how much of this trip is ruled by too hot or too cold sleeps.

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This is the view we were supposed to have.
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