Saturday, May 14, 2005

The next stop was the hot springs. We did not visit the famous Tabacon Hot Springs but rather some nearby springs that were perhaps less spectacular but also less crowded. The tradeoff suited everyone although I would also like to see Tabacon Hot Springs on a return trip. There were 4 pools ranging in temperature from 95 to 101 degrees. The first pools felt quite comfortable and I felt I could stay in as long as I wanted. The hottest pool had a small waterfall that you could stand under for a full body drenching. After that even the cooler pools felt too warm and I needed a quick rinsing in the readily available cold shower. At this point we happily indulged in some frozen drinks.

As we exited the pools we heard the bad news that the volcano had clouded over. The prospects for night viewing were not good but we’d try anyway. We stopped along the dirt road leading to the Arenal Observatory. Our patience was rewarded 3 times when the clouds eased and we saw showers of lava tumbling down the western slope – and heard the popcorn popping sound and one great bumpf sound. When the clouds closed in tighter, we headed back to the hotel.

In all we were delighted with our stay in the Arenal area and would happily return to the Tilajari Resort Hotel. We definitely hope to return to this unique area when the boys are older and make the hike to the nearby waterfalls, visit more of the hot springs, try again for a good nighttime showing from Arenal, explore the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge, and traverse the canopy on a zip line tour.

Here is the full set of Bev’s photos for Tilajari & Arenal:

Monteverde Cloud Forest

On the day that we were going to checkout (Monday) Bev noticed that one of our tires was completely flat. It didn’t seem like a good omen heading into the *bumpiest road in the world* but it was easily remedied. The hotel had a pump and a service station ½ km away removed the offending nail. We dragged the boys from the pool and headed on our way around at noon. As we passed by the turnoff to Arenal Observatory we again detoured to see the spot we had been the previous night. It was nice to see in daytime how close to the volcano we had been. We found a field of Brahmin cattle interspersed with an equal number of cattle egrets and took in the sight for a while.

The drive around Lago Arenal was beautiful. About halfway around the lake we stopped for lunch – where we could both see the lake and our parked car while dining being a big part of Bevs selection criteria. We found a restaurant off the road with a nice panoramic view of the lake. Since it was about 2 PM, we had the restaurant to ourselves other than the owners pair of lazy dogs. The food took a while to arrive and while tasty we discovered that basically everything was a la carte. My taco with carne was simply a tortilla with a couple pieces of meat – no fixings and no sides. Fortunately this left us a little room so that we had no trouble stopping at the German bakery a little further down the road for a variety of baked indulgences.

After waiting for a road crew and traversing several gravel sections we arrived at Tilaran and the start of the infamous road to Monteverde. In our direction the turn off was not well marked and so a hundred meters passed our suspected turnoff we stopped to ask some people waiting at a bus stop for confirmation. A young man approached the car and not only confirmed the turn but gave us a complete map of the road debut. For his trouble he asked if we cared to make a donation for rebuilding the local school. We learned later that the Reiffs had exactly the same experience at the intersection and there was some speculation as to whether the road sign had been purposefully misplaced.

The road to Monteverde was very scenic and everything it was advertised to be in terms of a wild ride. The road surface changed every few kilometers ranging from dirt (by far the best) to loose gravel to hardtop with boulders locked in place (the worst). The only constant were the potholes – and the dust. Amazingly Quincy was conked out and remained asleep for the entire 2-hour crossing. Aidan woke up about ½-way through. Pop assured that he had missed worst of it while I quickly reassured him that he was awake for the worst of it! (Aidan and I had talked several times before the trip about the road and he wouldn’t have wanted to “miss” it.) In the next 3 days we had enough bumpy roads that everyone had had his fill.

We got to the hotel, El Sapo Dorado (the Golden Toad) ( at 6 PM and checked into our nice new cottage nestled on a ridge amongst the trees.

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