Costa Rica 18 -- October 17, 2005
La Fortuna

By Bob Corbett

Folks, It just doesnít seem to get this hot in St. Louis. Today I am simply melting. I arrived in La Fortuna about noon. Iíve traveled widely in the world and been to some of the most beautiful places one sees on travel videos and such, but nothing Iíve ever done exceeded the scenery of the last 2 1/2 hours of my ride. It was phenomenal. Actually it reminded me a great deal of the area of Austria around Innsbruck. The mountains there are higher, but this was infinitely more green. And we were on a narrow two lane road with no traffic, no houses, no farms, no people. We would go two - three miles without seeing a house or car. It was simply breath-taking.

Alas and alack, we then came down out of the mountains into La Fortuna and scenic it isnít. There is one long street, about 8, may 10 blocks long. The town them blossoms out exactly ONE BLOCK in either direction. So about 3 x 10 blocks. It looks like the set of an old western, all one would need is tumbleweed coming down the main street which there wasnít.

However, my arrival was greeted with a huge ruckus. The guide books say -- if you go to Fortuna in rainy season you will likely never see the volcano. You may well walk the rain forest at the bottom of the forest and see the clouds, but you wonít see the volcano. Nor will you WALK it, ever. It is constantly spewing out boulders the size of train cars, and lava. Iím anxious to see this at night, people say it is like a fire works display.

At Casa Ridgeway today one fellow whoís been here several times, most recently about 2 weeks ago, but always in rainy season, and heís NEVER seen the volcano.

We pulled into the main drag and my driver started yelling and pointing, Volcan, Volcan -- and there is was. GIGANTIC, looks exactly like Mt. Fuji, and very similar to Etna, which I only saw from a train heading up the west Sicily coast about 10 years ago.

People were pouring out of hostels and hotels, bars and restaurants, even shop keepers and a zillion photos were being taken. They dropped me off at Gringo Peteís but he was filled up and so I walked 50 or so meters to choice number 2, the Pesado, and I have a really gigantic and clean room, private bath and shower, the bathroom is larger than my large room at Casa Ridgeway!!!! I have a really nice fan, but oh my air-conditioning would be good here. They said they had a room, but wait, look, the volcan.... So we looked. It is neat.

Within 15 minutes rain came in and I got my stuff organized in my room. then, just as I was leaving the room, the rain stopped, out came the sun and there it sits again, clear as a bell, volcano Arenal.

After 400 some years of quiescence, it erupted in 1968 burying 2 villages and killing some 78 people. I donít know how La Fortuna escaped -- maybe thatís why the name!!!! -- but here it sits right under the thing. All the guide books tell you it is virtual suicide to try to hike ON the volcano, since daily it spews out gigantic boulders and streams of lava.

Once settled I got food. I was famished and read the guide book with care. Should have done it before I came. Everything you want to do needs a guide to keep you from killing yourself. So many areas you just canít go into. I was frustrated. But, back to the south about 4 km, but straight back up the mountain I came down, is a trail leading 30 minutes or so to a huge waterfall. You can only get into the water in a small run off trail which is signed. The water fall has a treacherous undercurrent and all bathing in the fall is strictly forbidden. However, the guide book does recommend one of the only things you can do here without a guide is to hire a cab for 3,000 colones, about $6.50 to drive you UP THE MOUNTAIN the four kilometers to the falls parking lot, then hike to the falls and walk back home along the highway, all down hill.

And thatís what Iíll do tomorrow...

Then I decided, heck with this place. The village is simply too hot and too ugly to bother with. Iíll head on up to St. Elena on Wednesday. (I read all about the trails in the forest here and expected to stay two weeks or more Ė but unless you take the guides and their four wheel drive vehicles you canít get with 10 km of a trail to begin with!!!!

I checked out the bus schedule. This is a cul-de-sac, so to get back to the main road where I could a get bus north to Monteverde/St. Helena, I have to back track several hours. The trip in sum is about 7-8 hours.

I splurged coming up here and again took a seat in one of those mini-buses that picked me up at 8 am at Casa Ridgeway. So nice. Ah, we got here just at noon, so it was a 4 hour trip. I hopped in and off we went. It was half an hour until I realized I was the ONLY passenger. The driver spoke English and was very nice. I said, I had no idea I would be the only passenger (and I was only paying, had already paid, $20.00). He said once they make a reservation they never donít go, even if it is a single passenger, but this rarely happened. Since it was only me his wife had come along to keep him company on the way home. They didnít even have a SINGLE passenger for the return, which he said is extremely unusual.

After seeing this horrid bus schedule, I saw a tour place across the street -- this 8-10 block street of town is nearly 100% tour places (you have to have them here and they are frightfully expensive), and bars, restaurants, tourist trinkets, and some fancy clothes. Ah yes, a grocery where I have already gotten a bottle of wine for the next couple days.

The young woman at the travel place said yes, but indirectly. I asked her to explain. A van will pick me up from my pension and take me to the damn by the foot of the volcano, where there is a huge lake. There I will be transferred to a boat for 1 1/2 hours to cross the lake, and another van meets us on the other side. In sum within three hours I will be dropped at my chosen hostel, Eddieís in St. Elena. All this for $25.00. I was just THRILLED. I simply love ferry boat rides and maybe weíll get lucky again Wednesday and Iíll be able to see the volcano from the lake. Itís still visible right now.

So that gets me here. Itís not so hot here, but there is no air-conditioning as in Quepos, but a nice fan, so itís not so hot and e-mail is only $1.00 an hour here. I like that.

Iím off to the grocery up the street now. Looking for two buns and a cucumber. I have a can of unopened tuna in my bag. Tonight Iíll make two tuna, cucumber sandwiches on these French rolls they sell here and sip some of my wine in our lovely garden place next to my room.

Tomorrow Iíll walk a lot, sleep hard, and depart very very early -- I think she said the van picks me up at 6:30 AM.

There should be some walking trails I can access less expensively in the cloud forest in Monteverde.

Iíll keep you posted for sure.....





Bob Corbett