La Fortuna, Costa Rica - (map)
We arrived in La Fortuna in the afternoon. It's a small town that has become popular with tourists since it's neighboring volcano, Arenal, erupted in 1968 and now has lava flowing down its sides daily. Tourists come to watch the powerful eruptions.
Tim and I were spending the afternoon walking around the town when it suddenly started raining hard. Running across a soccer field we spotted a shelter by a church and darted towards it.
It was great to watch the rain come down under the protected covering while we gazed at the volcano in the distance. A local man from the town approached us. He spoke no English and we hardly spoke any Spanish so the conversation that ensued was quite amusing. Lots of hand gestures and shaking of heads to say "we don't understand". I couldn't tell if he wanted to sell us something, wanted money, or if he was just being friendly. He was very persistent though, trying to communicate the same message. As more time passed his gestures grew more animated and his words louder. He would point at Tim and then myself, make two circles with his hands and then put them together. What could he be telling us?
In the end, after much struggle, I realized he was asking if Tim and I were a couple. I guess he was interested in my romantic availability. When we told him we were indeed together, he smiled, shook both our hands warmly and continued on. Tim and I just laughed.
I felt I won twice. First, for the flattery of his interest. But more importantly, I at last understood what he was trying to say! Victory comes in small packages.
On the River
La Fortuna, Costa Rica - (map)
This morning we decided to take "The Safari Float" - a river rafting and jungle trek trip.
After a walk to the bank in heavy mud, we dropped our boat at a point in the Penas Blancas River (White Cliffs). The river ran fast, high, and brown as a result of the heavy rain - so we moved along quickly. The tall rainforest trees and vegetation surrounding the river gave the slight impression of rafting through a canyon. As we moved along the river, the guide pointed out egrets, hawks, toucans, iguanas, sloths and monkeys.
We landed on the muddy bank of the river walls and walked uphill to a farm. We were visiting Don Pedro, a 87 year old farmer who had spent most of his life farming on the edge of this rainforest. As he greeted us we noticed his distinctive weathered face and hands that reflected his hard farm work. With our guide translating, Don Pedro told us of how he came to this area as a young man in his twenties. Now the area is a prosperous farm supporting his extended family.
The night before his sow had given birth so we were greeted by 17 new piglets! We walked around the farm full of chickens, cows, horses, pigs and dogs. We were welcomed into his house which had dirt for the floor and no walls. While we sipped coffee, he told us stories of the huge snake his family had just killed and the jaguar he saw walking on the edge of his farm. He said as long as the jaguar left his animals alone, he didn't mind if it roamed nearby.
We then put on boots that almost reached our knees (to protect us from mud and snakes!) and set off on a small trek in the rainforest. Something red caught Tim's eye at the base of a large tree. It was a colorful poison-arrow frog. It was beautiful with it's bright red body and blue legs. You have to be careful though when touching the frogs. Their skin glands exude toxins and if the toxins get into a cut and your blood stream, it can be deadly.
Venturing a little farther we suddenly realized we were being watched. Directly above us in the trees were howler monkeys. The male monkeys make a loud howling noise when approached by intruders. To me it sounded like a roar!
Back on the boat, then to a van to drive us back to town. On the road we passed a couple trees with 10 to 15 huge iguanas. Quite cool!
Later in the day we left for a second tour of the Arenal Volcano. Although it was rainy and foggy, the 45 minute hike up to the lava wall was beautiful! Low cloud cover and darkness reduced the landscape to soft shades of gray. The red-eyed frogs throughout the forest surrounded us with a chorus of sound similar to bells. We arrived at the lava wall, sat for a while in the rain, and hiked back down.
The fog covered our view of the volcano, so we decided to drown our sorrows in the Tabacon Hot Springs. What a place! Water from natural hot springs feeds into 15 or so different pools. Steaming rivers snaked through dark and strangely lit gardens, running over waterfalls and filling pools of different shapes, sizes, and temperatures. There is always something fun about a swim-up bar, even if you can't afford to buy a beer and hang out on the under water bar stool! It was a great way to end the day!