Costa Rica: Entry 3

10 October 2002: Montezuma, Costa Rica

Subject: Costa Rica

Today we've arrived in Montezuma, on the Pacific Coast. It was quite a trek to get here: three buses yesterday to get to Puntarenas (literally sand-point, and it is an eight kilometer long, 600m wide sand spit like a giant version of Sandbanks) where we spent the night, then an hour and a half on a ferry across the mouth of the Gulf of Nicoya (I think) and another bus journey to get here. More about Montezuma later, but for now here's some words about our second and last day in La Fortuna.

Volcan Arenal

Volcan Arenal is Costa Rica's most active volcano, and one of the easiest places in the world to see a volcano actually erupting. During the day you can see what look likes puffs of white smoke bursting from the flanks; with a small pair of binoculars you can see that they're caused by boulders ejected from the top bouncing down the sides and creating a burst of smoke each time they hit the ground. This is accompanied by sound effects: most of the time it sounds a bit like a steam train getting started - puff puff pufff puff - but from time to time it gets excited and sounds more like a distant jet engine for a few seconds. At night it is rather more interesting: you can actually see the red-coloured bolders and lava flowing down the sides.

You can see all of this from La Fortuna, if there isn't any cloud in the way and once you have walked beyond the neon signs in the village center; the volcano is about 6km away. But unfortunately the majority of the activity is actually on the other side of the mountain.

As I mentioned before it is frustrating that you can get from San Jose to La Fortuna so cheaply, but getting around to the other side to see the view costs a fortune. For US$25 - that's the cost of four nights' accommodation - you can be transported to the other side (15km by road), get a guided walk in a bit of jungle, see the sun set and the lava flowing down the mountain, then visit some hot springs. Of course the trip to the jungle and hot springs are just to make it less disappointing if cloud means you don't actually see the volcano, and we've already seen plenty of jungle and I've swam in several hot springs. But there aren't any buses that will get you there and back after dark.

With hindsite I reckon that the best thing to do is to hitch-hike. I hired a bike - US$10 for the day and so looong that I could only reach the handlebars with my fingertips. It wasn't a bad bike ride, but of course you can't hire lights so I couldn't stay to see the after-dark display. But we did see a bit of it from La Fortuna. Here is the view of the volcano from La Fortuna at sunset:

Christine wasn't feeling up to the 30km trip so she took her bike down the road the other way to a butterfly and frog farm, or eco-centre as they prefer to call it. I am looking forward to seeing the pictures! And then on to a waterfall at the bottom of which you can swim. Sadly no pictures of her swimming!