Category Archives: Alajuela

Returning to Volcan Poas

Most of the morning I spent sleeping and relaxing. I was still tired after the long drive 2 days ago, but for the afternoon I had scheduled to meet a friend and visit the Poas Volcano.

I met Mario at 1 AM by Pops at the Central Park in Heredia. From there we drove to his grandparents house to greet them and also to ask his grandfather how we should drive to get to volcan Poas.

We took off and mostly we felt quite sure about the way. However at one point there were no signs to let us know where to go on further. Mario thought we may have to take to the right so we went with his intuition (despite of what 3 of his couchsurfers have posted in the references that he is the worst co-pilot in Costa Rica – Im probably NOT the best driver here though). We found the signs further on and felt sure that we were on the right track again :D From there on it was really easy – however there were lots of heavy transports driving up the mountain hills and they were NOT particularly fast so we didn’t get there fast. However we had time to explore the beautiful nature driving up the mountain and watch the change of scenery.

The first time I visited Volcan Poas was back in 1993 with my mom and grandma that came to see me during my High School exchange year. Both the Crater and the lagoon were covered by clouds and todays luck was no better. A huge cloud (nope – not mist) had covered the crater and today I had no greater luck. However I had great company and lots of fun and now I just have a reason to come back – to see the crater and the lagoon on my third try :D

Volcan Poas is a stratovolcano and it lies within two vast calderas at the height of 2,708 meter over sea level. The southernmost of two summit crater lakes, Botos, is cold and clear, and last erupted about 7,500 years ago. The other is warm and acidic and has been the site of frequent eruptions since the first was reported in 1828. Eruptions often feature geyserlike ejections of lake water.

One of the rangers told us that it had had a 50 meter high geysirlike erruption just today !!! Awesome ! And we missed it :(

Do not descend to the crater.

Beautiful nature. Hidden in clouds.

My company and team mate from Couchsurfing MDST Mario. The view is hidden in a cloud.

Me with a poor mans umbrella

At 4 pm the rangers started making sure the visitors started moving towards the exits and we did as well, but while enjoying the beautiful nature. On our way down we drove with calm and made several stops along the way to buy queso de Palmito and strawberries (not so easy to find in the hotter lowlands).

However, today I had my first encounter with the law.
I was driving and took a wrong turn into a one-way street just in front of a local police officer. He honked his horn and I stopped and he came over. In the mirror he looked angry, but when he came over and saw me his face lit up in a smile and then he asked me; Are you lost my love? I heard Mario laugh beside me while I, of course, played the lost card to its full and asked for directions and explanations and then explaining how we had gotten lost and this and that. Awesome !
Then he directed me while I backed up to the cross and could turn in the right way :D Then he saw us off with; Have a nice day my love :D
I love Costa Rica !

We moved on and stopped to take pictures of the beautiful sunset.

Then we got lost again and just as we were most lost I decide to turn on the radio and the first 2 lines that streams are:

Que nos paso? ¿Porqué nos perdimos?
Meaning: What happened? How did we get lost? And of course… We both burst into laughter. It was soooo perfectly timed. Hehehe

However, finally we found Alajuela and with that also Heredia and finally it was time to have lunch (and dinner). We went to a restaurant in Heredia with traditional food and had a lovely meal before I went home to my family and Mario moved on back to Rohrmoser.

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Crossing the Mountain of Death

This morning I woke up at 5:45 for having slept too much yesterday. That was way early, but I guess some days are just like that.

I had breakfast by myself, but were joined a bit later by Jerker (Sweden), Mark and Kathy (Canada) as they were also scheduled for an early leave. We should have been picked up at 7 am, but apparently 7 am meant 7:45 (hora tica).

Kathy and Mark

Sunrise

We were picked up by La Chanchita (the same boat that took us to Bahia Drake) and the boat was loaded when we left for Sierpe. The same Canadian couple that let me borrow the sunscreen on my way here were on their way to Palmar Norte as well.

The tour from Bahia Drake was quite calm. We took a shortcut through some beautiful mangrove rivers.

We arrived there before 9 am and Kathy, Mark and I exchanged good bye hugs and then I gave the other Canadian couple a ride to Palmar Norte where we finally were able to get money out of the bank !!!

And then I set off towards the coastal highway and the north. I stopped at Dominical for a short break and some lunch and a visit to an art gallery where I got a few souvenirs. At this moment I had still not decided whether I should travel by the coastal route or cross the Mountain of Death. The last time I crossed the mountain of Death I was scared shitless and it was soooo cold. Less than 7 C. The road was wet and slippery, it was raining and buses and trailers were passing eachothers in curves that ended up 400 meters down. For a week now I have dreaded the Mountain of Death. El Cerro de La muerte got its famous name because in the old days when travellers were crossing the mountain from the south to the capitol area, they often froze to death because of the temperature differences from the coastal areas. In the later times it kept its name due to serious traffic accidents with cars over the years.

And just because I was scared to cross the Mountain of Death – I decided I had to go that route ! All the rest of my trip has been pure extreme sport. Why not this trip?

Just 10 kms from the Intersection I found Costa Ricas biggest Reptile Park – Reptilandia. It was awesome. A great amount of rare reptiles and amphibians. You may have guessed by now that I am quite fascinated by those…  Of course I stopped there and spent a good deal of time there.

The route further on was beautiful. Nature was so gorgeous. It was incredibly scenic!. Of course I remembered very wrong how bad the road was and I had a blast crossing the moutain route.


I arrived in Cartago at 4 pm. Just in time for the metropolitan rush … And even better yet… I had no fucking clue on how to drive to get to Heredia where my family lives the easiest way and … My phone was dead since this morning. Interesting !

I stopped at a pet store where the owner was nice enough to let me borrow her phone to call my Tica Sister and ask for directions. A man walked into the store while I was on the phone and he heard me trying to find a reasonable explanation on how to find my way around the city and asked the owner what I needed directions for. So he drew me a map.  A very easy map.

Take to the right at this street, drive until you get to a Y cross, take the left. Continue on that streep until you find Uruca. Take to the right. Follow that car until you get to the roundabout with statues and drive towards the Hatillos and then follow that road until you get to the Pozuelo cookie factory and take a right turn straight after that and drive until you are in Heredia. Then you can call your family.

I must admit. I got lost 1 time only and I managed to find my way back and find the right way. However I spent 4 HOURS crossing San Jose and I had spent only 5 hours driving from far down the south before crossing the capitol area. I was dead tired already arriving San Jose. No battery left on the cell and I stopped at Pops Ice Cream to get some fuel and charge the phone before finding out where I was about to go next to find my familiy. I was so tired I didnt remember I dont eat gluten product anymore and ate the ice cream in a cookie (which resulted in a terrible stomach ache later on) and then finally I managed to communicate with my family and get the last directions on how to get to the house. I found Wal Mart and they picked me up at a gas station just behind it. I was about 500 meters from the house when I didn’t manage to find the rest of the way any more.

Oh man did it feel good to arrive. I was close to falling asleep from how tired I was. I was fed and I stayed up to talk with the family for a bit, but then I was too exhausted and I just wanted to sleep. I think it was one of the most welcome encounters with the pillow in a LOOOONG time :D

Night Hike in the Jungle at Santa Maria Refugio de vida Silvestre

We were pickced up from Pension Santa Elena in Monteverde by Bernald, our guide, for the Night Hike. We were 10 people all together and we were then taken to Santa Maria Refugio de vida Silvestre where we all recieved a flash light and instructions. If we feel anything climbing our legs – warn guide immediately because it could be a scorpion or snake. Yikes. Hehehe.

We set off and the first thing we saw was a giant Tarantula (and yes it was big).

and then we found a Two-Toed Sloth. They are a bit bigger than the Three-Toed Sloth and they move a bit faster. This one wasn’t moving at all though.

The Two-Toed Sloth is a bit brownish in the color compared to the Three-Toed Sloth that is more grayish in color.

We were also lucky enough to see our first snake today. This one lives high up in the branches so that it can keep warm from the sun. This one is a Green Vine Snake.

Thankfully, not all crawling on the ground are scorpions and this a grasshopper.

5 years ago I bought Jack Ewings book Monkeys are made of Chocolate. In that book the story: There is a Fungus Among us was. This is a very informative story about the Leaf-cutter ants (Atta cephalotes is the most common Leaf-Cutter Ant).

Did you know they walk up to 2kms away from their home to collect new leaves and up trees as high as a 10 story building?
Did you know that only the queen is fertile and that the colony dies with her? She lives for about 20 years though.
Did you know that the leaf-cutter ants don’t eat the leafs, but that they grow a fungus on it?

All the members of the colony contribute directly or indirectly to the cultivation of the fungus. The most obvious of the seven distinct castes of Atta cephalotes are the leaf carriers marching through the forest with their green parasol-like cargo. When they arrive at the colony and deposit their leaf crescents, another caste takes over — the cleaners. Each leaf fragment is meticulously scraped and licked until clean. Later it is cut into smaller pieces, chewed, mixed with saliva and formed into a soft wad. The ants then place some fungus starter material, called mycelia on the medium and place it beside other newly planted fungus in a suitable chamber.
From that point another caste, the fungus caretakers, step in and take over the process. These ants are responsible for keeping the fungus clean and free from impurities and infection. They do this partially by physically removing any foreign life form that tries to grow on either the medium or the bread-like fungus.

A bacterium that lives in a patch on the ant’s skin produces an antibiotic that controls the mold. Beyond that, they have learned how to handle technologies more skillfully than the bumbling civilization above their heads. They can grow a monoculture and they have also learned how to deploy an antibiotic without the target pest’s becoming resistant to it.”

Another thing about leaf-cutter ants. Their homes are HUGE:

And this one is just a small part of it !

Read Jack Ewings “There is a Fungus Among us

We saw lots of other animals as well during this hike like the Woolly opossum, the Northern Raccoon, the White-nosed Coati, A few Red Tailed Squirrels, Bats, 2 Frogs (of a species I don’t remember), several species of fireflies and firebeetles.

It was a lovely trip and I had a great time!

After the Hike we went for dinner at Amigos Restaurant. The bar was full with Gringos as the Superbowl was on. However they had good food and once Superbowl was over all the Gringos left. We had an early night.

Fortuna de San Carlos to Monteverde

We woke up around 7am this morning. I had Gallo Pinto for breakfast before I packed my suitcase and prepared for a long day in the car.

We set off at 10 am and made our first stop at Tabacon Hot Springs where we skipped the expensive entrance to the tourist baths and went straight for the river where the locals go. It was quite a nice little spot where the river coming out from the Tourist baths pass. There was loads of locals there, but no tourists !

On our way to Tilaran we stopped at a viewpoint to look at the gorgeous view over Lake Arenal (Lake Arenal used to be a small lake, but in 1979 it was demmed up to 3 times its original size. The lake is incredibly important as it produces nearly 12% of Costa Rica’s electric energy. The lake is approximately 30 km long and almost 5 km at its widest point, making it the largest lake in Costa Rica at 85-square-kilometre (33 sq mi). Its depth varies between 30 and 60 meters (100–200 feet) depending on the season).

We stopped for lunch in Tilaran where we had a nice casado (rice, beans, veggies, maduro, salad and meat, chicken or fish of choice) with ice-cream for dessert at a restaurant just in front of the park. Yummy.

From Tilaran the last 40 km took us 2,5 hours to drive. The road was really really bad (and with bad I mean bad). The maximum speed we managed was 20 kmph because the road was steep, curvy and full of holes. It was a gravel/dirt road and each time a car passed us – we had 4-5 minutes of dust clouds around us.

We arrived at 4 pm and once we had checked in and carried our stuff into the room, we signed up for a Night Hike at Santa Maria Refugio de vida Silvestre. Then we relaxed a bit before we were picked up for the Night Hike.

Baldi Hot Springs

After a 4 hour hike in the jungle searching for animals we went to Baldi Hot Springs where we stayed for the rest of the afternoon and had a great time relaxing in the sun.

Integraded Bars  / Swimming Pools

Magnus enjoying waterslides

Me enjoying the 47 C degrees hot water.

We also had an amazing lunch buffet with a gorgeous view of the volcano.

In the Park there is also a huge amount of birds and animals that come to enjoy the water as well and we got to see a lovely pair of Chestnut Mandibled Toucans.

It was a lovely visit! Absolutely recomendable!

Driving from Liberia to Fortuna de San Carlos

I hereby present you to “The Car”. This one will be our slave throughout our drive through Costa Rica.

We started our journey just after 4 pm from Liberia. I drove the first part from Liberia to Cañas. Along the road there were lots of fruitsellers and the closer we got to Cañas the more we saw selling Vino de Coyoll and I had to pick up a few bottles of this very typical wine. Vino de Coyol is a wine distilled from a liquid that is collected from holes of the trunk of a very spiny palm. However it is supposed to have a very special effect – because if you DO get drunk with this drink, – intoxication goes away, but as soon as you go out again to work or spend time being active in the sun with a Coyol hangover you will get yourself drunk again up to two days after the day of getting drunk on it.

In Cañas we changed driver and Magnus took his turn and drove all the way from Cañas through Tilaran to Nuevo Arenal.

We almost got lost in Tilaran (Since Tilaran is like the BIGGEST city in Costa Rica and real easy to get lost in… NOT), but once we were on the right way we were good.

Most of the road to and around the Arenal Lake was covered in darkness and incredibly swingy roads. Some areas have no paintlines left to show drive lanes although in some spots you can see that once they had and other areas have nicely marked lanes with reflex lights marking the lanes in the dark as well. The best option here was to drive slow and be prepared for anything. At one point, in a swingy downhill, we found a bull walking in the middle of the road with a huge stick attached to its horns. Poor thing looked like it wasn’t too happy about that.

In Nuevo Arenal we stopped to have dinner at Rumours Bar & Grill. Magnus being a vegetarian and myself avoiding anything with Gluten made that stop difficult. But what do you expect from a Bar and Grill that sells Nokia and IPhones with 3G, but have to run over the street to get a can of soda and beer for their clients?

Actually they had nothing at all that wasn’t either pasta, pizza or baked in Soy or wheat products. However Magnus had a nice vegetarian dish and then we went across the street to the local restaurant where I had a casado dish (typical Costa Rican dish with rice, beans, salad, egg + either chicken or steak)  and a Papaya smoothie. Yummy.

I drove the rest of the way from Nuevo Arenal to Fortuna de San Carlos and several times we had to drive through really dense jungle and really swingy roads full of holes. I made a few stops where the jungle was particularly dense and we had to cross rivers because the sounds were just breathtaking.

We heard 100s of frogs. We saw fireflies. We heard birds. It was a really nice trip.

Arriving in Fortuna de San Carlos we checked in at the Arenal Backpackers Lodge which is a 5 star hostel with a really nice swimming pool and quite nice standards !

After checking in and leaving our luggage in our room we parked ourselves in front of the pool (in the pool) and thats where we stayed until bedtime.

Monteverde to Fortuna de San Carlos – Arenal Volcano.

partlycloudy.gifNice day. Around +20C and not that much wind.

I woke up at 6 am and then spent the next 2,5 hours online to update my blog and write e-mails. Then I spent a couple of hours in the hammock outside the hostel reading the new book I just bought. Or. well its not exactly new as I have read it before, but this time I acquired a copy in spanish to improve my skills. Oh How Nice to just relax in the hammock.

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At noon Barbara came back from the cloud forest and we met up with Tim, Christian and Bryan from the party at 3C yesterday. They were gonna give us a ride to Fortuna de San Carlos and the Arenal Volcano.

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We started off at 12:30pm and spent 3 hours driving in 20kms/hour on the bumpy, curvy, unpaved road from Monteverde to Tilaran. When arriving Tilaran the good road began and we could finally drive faster. We were a little insecure about the road and took the wrong road and ended up in a small village before getting back on the main road again. We had a stop to look at the view over the Arenal Lake with Arenal Volcano in the background.

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We also made a lunch stop around 3pm at the small village Nuevo Arenal before driving the last 2 hours in to Fortuna. When we reached the Arenal Lake dem, we made another stop to see if we could see the volcano errupt. There were some smaller sightings of rocks and moist and the toxic fumes, but no bigger erruptions to spot. The sad thing was that the whole mountain was covered in clouds.

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Arriving Fortuna we checked out 2 hostels but decided for Arenal backpackers resort that even had a swimmingpool. At only US 11$ for a dormroom, all 5 of us checked in together and about 7pm we decided to go to check out one of the many Hot springs in the area.

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We went to a resort called Baldi Hot springs that has 16 Hot Springs of various tempuratures surrounded by beautiful tropical gardens. Facillities include 2 swim up bars, Spa services & resturant. It was FANTASTIC !!!

Where do you else find hot water swimmingpool with bars? The waters had temperatures from +70C (naturally noone was in that one) to +27C and is located about 5 km outside Fortuna downtown.

The entrance fee for tourists is US 25$ but as I tried to pay with my Banco Nacional debet card I realized that I am going to continue doing that. They asked me if I had my cedula (identification card) with me and I said “no, but I do have my passport”. Whereas the receptionist asked whether I lived in CR and since I concider myself living in this country due to my long stay I said yes and were charged locals fee of US 17$. WOOOOOHOOOO. This country is great.

We stayed in the pools for about 3 hours till closing time and during that time we heard the volcano having a huge Gas explosion. It was fantastic and went on for about 3-4 minutes. No lava to be seen on this side of the mountain though.

At the pools we also met 3 girls (Marcelle, Michigan and Kiwi), that had stayed at Pension Santa Elena in Monteverde the night before, and The Israeli, Kobe. We hung out with them and gave them a ride back to the pension as it turned out that they were our room neighbours.

At the pension we all were hungry and went out for a bite and some more drinks and at one of the bars there was live music. However the guys considering it practically was their last day in Costa Rica as they are leaving Monday for the US they wanted to party and decided to go to Fortunas only disco. They took a cab up there with Michigan and Kiwi.

Barbara, Michelle and I took a cab up to El Mirador de Arenal and stayed there for 1 hour watching one after another fantastic erruption from the Volcano. It was marvelous.. The sightings of red lava flowing down the hillside at midnight was so exiting and emotional that I am still breathtaken. God must like me.

He also made sure that the clouds ALMOST dissappeard completely from the moment during some of the explotions.

The cab driver waited with us.. (Anyway. Its not like it is expensive. US 20$ for an hours use. hehe.) He also explained a lot about the volcano to us. About its erruptions, best sighting season etc. And about stupid tourists getting to close so that they would be killed by toxic fumes more than a +1000C degrees hot. It burns up the lounges. But people still wanna walk in te national park that is very very close to the foot of the volcano. There are signs anywhere telling that this is a high risk volcanic area and that you enter under you own responsability.

At 2am the volcano was done showing off and calmed down for a moment where we went home to sleep. The guys came in about 10 minutes later and decided to get up at 4 in the morning to see the volcano in action. Must I add they did not make it hehe…