I wasted no time getting out of San Jose. Like many Central American countries, the real treasures of the country are outside the capital city. I had to shut my eyes on the bus ride into the mountains as we teetered along a cliff-hugging road in the dark. I safely arrived in Santa Elena by 9pm and got a good night’s sleep to rest up for a week and a half of adventures Costa Rica-style.
The hills were very steep both on the bus and on the hikes and I had more than a little trouble after two weeks of bed-rest and quarantine.
This was only a 3 km hike, but I was huffing and puffing and stopping often to rest. The mountain won. I turned around at the 3/4 mark.
Jungle Night Tour
After a much needed lie-down and some late lunch, I signed on for a night tour of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest Reserve. A group of Swedish kids bought this land years ago to protect the cloud forest from development. Did you know that cloud forests produce 30% of the world’s drinkable water? Many of the rainforest animals are active at nighttime, such as this new friend…
Tarantulas are big spiders, but they are also very shy. We had to stand completely still to lure this guy out of his hole. The slightest tremor in the ground from our footsteps sent him racing back underground.
I was also fascinated by the ficus constrictor, which is a species of tree that eats other trees. Yes, a cannibal tree! Nature is fascinating sometimes. It was also interesting to see that the raccoons here are far smaller than their chubby Canadian cousins. Canadian and American raccoons, like Canadians and Americans, are obese because they eat too much fast food in the city.
Ziplining – Al Extremo
Ok, so that is not me, but the one of me is an extremely unflattering shot so I made the executive decision to pick a different illustration. But I did zipline over this massive cloud forest valley, where a double rainbow streaked over the sky on the right. Unfortunately not in the photo 😦
This was a huge accomplishment for me. I am not fussy about heights. It is not a crippling phobia (like my fear of playground slides or escalators) but heights make me a bit nervous. So asking me to strap myself to a harness and leap off a platform at treetop level is a bit much. I placed all my faith in my safety harness and threw myself off the platform to get it over with. As I whipped along the line, treetops under foot and rainbows in the distance, I realized this was a Moment. The kind of moment that stays with you long after your trip is done. I had zero problems leaping off the next fourteen platforms at Al Extremo and enjoyed each ride more than the last.
Note: I did skip the Tarzan Swing, because you swung like a pendulum after jumping. No one wants to be known as That Girl Who Threw Up. I stand by my decision to watch from the lower platform as others with strong stomachs swung back and forth into the forest.
Coffee Plantation Tour
I do not drink coffee, but I was interested to learn more about it at the Don Juan coffee plantation.
Coffee is a major export for Costa Rica and was the reason Costa Rica gained a huge economic advantage over other Central American countries. They called coffee beans “the golden seeds” because they transformed Costa Rica from the poorest province in the colony of Central America to the wealthiest country in the region. Growing coffee is a slow process; it takes 3 years to grow a proper tree. I did try a coffee, but it tasted like coffee so I did not enjoy it. My hot chocolate with chili flakes was far more to my taste.
The snake farm showcased the toxic, venomous creatures of Costa Rica, with particular focus on frogs and snakes. Non-venomous frogs and snakes were also around but they could not compete with the headliners. I emerged three hours later, infinitely more knowledgeable about all the ways I could be killed by nature in Costa Rica.
Background Context (Why I Am Wearing A Helmet): the only other time I was on a horse, the poor overworked pony had a heart attack and dropped dead ten minutes after my ride.
I booked a half day horseback riding expedition at Finca Las Brisas. The family-run farm runs tourist activities like horseback riding, hiking, etc. but also is a working farm with cattle and sugar cane crops.
The horseback riding was very relaxing, contrary to my expectations. We took it slow with all the hills, which gave me lots of time to enjoy the horizon scenery of lakes, mountains and even Nicaragua way in the distance. Back at the farm, I tried guaro, a liquor derived from sugar cane, sugar cane juice, etc. Then the farm kids insisted on taking me to see their pet turtles, which they “played” with by grabbing them and throwing them into the pond. I doubt the turtles enjoy this playtime as much as the kids.
Arenal Volcano Hunting
According to all sources, La Fortuna has an active volcano called Arenal. That was the rumour anyway. It was supposedly right behind that cloud there just outside of town. This same cloud had followed me out of Monteverde, looming in the overcast sky and erupting into downpours whenever I tried to go outside.
I wish I could entertain you with amusing and hilarious stories of what happened while I was in La Fortuna. Due to the rain, the following boring things happened: I filled out insurance claim forms, washed my clothes and got really wet whenever I left the hostel.
I triumphed in the end, glimpsing the volcano as the clouds finally dispersed as I waited for my bus back to San Jose.
And it was truly satisfying after four days of waiting.