Saturday, May 14, 2005

The boys were happy to assist in dousing the frog to keep him sufficiently wet and before long Umberto returned him back to his perch and we all briskly rinsed our hands of the poison. While the frog was Bev’s favorite, Aidan’s favorite animal sighting was the small Long Nosed bats that were hanging on a tree close to the water. Our canoe glided right next to the log where they were roosting. Quincy’s favorite was the howler monkeys. Umberto did a dead-on imitation of the howlers and they would usually enthusiastically answer his call. In two areas we paddled up inlets looking for crocodiles but didn’t find any even though the boys did a reasonable approximation of quiet. The crocs were out for lunch.

A special treat awaited us when we docked at the riverside farm of Don Pedro and his younger brother – 2 spry elderly farmers (93 and 91 respectively). They treated us to coffee, cheese, tapioca bread, and fried plantains. For dessert we sucked on beans from a tamarind pod. Umberto ate off the fruit and Aidan and Quincy wore the left over shells as earrings. Replenished we wandered around the farm and visited the cows, pigs, and chickens. Bev was excited to see a cocoa pod on a cocoa tree – sadly it was still purple (not the yellow of ripeness).

After we returned back to the hotel we wondered when we would see the Reiffs and Pop. The original plan was for Pop to take a bus to the hotel. However what would entail would be to take a taxi into the central bus station in San Jose, a bus to Ciudad Quesada, a connecting bus to La Fortuna, and a taxi from there to the hotel. Given that we hadn’t seen a helpful tourist information booth at the airport, my own difficulties with the ATM machine and the stories of bags getting “lost” on the bus, we figured Pop was in for an adventure. We were relieved when the hotel receptionist mentioned that a taxi with Mr. Webster had called from the airport for directions. I’m know it was money well spent. Pop found us at the pool not long thereafter. The Reiffs weren’t far behind and somewhat amusingly they had taken the same roundabout road as us. Pop reported that his more direct route was pretty twisty as well – although it sounds like it took almost half the time.

The next afternoon (Sunday), we took the afternoon / evening tour of the volcano and nearby hot springs. Umberto was again our faithful guide. The first thing he pointed out on the drive was that we were looking at 3 volcanoes. The furthest north was Arenal, which is still active today (currently rated as one of the 10 most active in the world). The furthest south was Monteverde, which is the Cloud Forest where we were heading the next day. In the middle was a volcano that had been the twin of Arenal before a violent eruption in the distant past had completely blown off the top. It was referred to by the locals as “Sleeping Boy” based on the contour of the remaining mountain. Due to one strategically located mound it was deemed to be a boy.

As we approached from the east the slopes of Arenal were verdant. As we passed through the town of La Fortuna we learned that the locals had the amazing precognition to rename the city the fortunate one 2 years before the 1968 eruption poured lava and toxic gasses down the northern and western slopes. While it was still light we pulled into an attractive viewing area to gaze upon the volcano. Even the restrooms had open viewing to the mountain. The volcano was majestic and mostly clear. It produced its own gaseous cloud right at the apex.

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