Monday, April 11, 2016

Costa Rica Recap : Post 2 : La Fortuna

See my other posts leading up to our trip, and Costa Rica Recap : Post 1

Day 2 in Costa Rica was bound to be better than the day before, which was a day of traveling & a not-so-great experience getting lost & having iffy accommodations. The plan was to get from Alajuela to La Fortuna, so we could stay 3 nights at the base of the Arenal Volcano. 

We easily got out of Alajuela & began our drive. About an hour into the drive, we came to the town of Grecia. And when I say "came to the town of Grecia," I mean "ran right into the town of Grecia." We thought the road we were on would take us a straight shot from Alajuela to La Fortuna, until we wound up lost & confused in Grecia. We came to an intersection & I hurriedly told James to go straight. We crossed the intersection, but seen no road. As the car was moving forward, we both leaned forward to see the steepest road we've ever seen. With the forward momentum already leading us on, we began going down said hill, until we realized this road literally breaks off at the bottom. Jim slammed on the breaks, & there we sat, nearly vertical, on a road that could of ended in a black hole for all we knew. 
A lady was on the sidewalk, grinning at our misfortune. Jim put the car in reverse, but we both looked terrified as he slowly released his foot off the brake to accelerate backwards. The car started rolling forward (this was a manual!) and Jim tried to slam the gas. The car killed. I was frantically taking my seat belt off and about to jump out when Jim yelled "Don't move! We'll get out of this." I sat there, looking at the grinning old lady, thinking us & our little Kia Picanto were going to end up splattered all over a tree below, in some tiny town in Costa Rica, where no one would find us. I could picture my mother telling her work friends how her daughter died on an exotic trip to a foreign land, in a dangerous town, when really we were just two idiots in a compact car taking on a road steep enough to be at a Six Flags.
Jim started the car again and, with great focus & agility, released the brake to immediately stand on the gas. We rolled backwards, the car struggling to climb a hill in reverse. We finally managed to get the car at an angle that wasn't utterly terrifying, and backed out into the intersection. At this point, we didn't even care if we were holding up traffic. Just getting off that road was the goal. But we made it, alive & well frazzled, & my mother won't have to tell her colleagues that I died rolling down a mountain in a car made for clowns. 

After a good 15 minutes of driving around a town the size of a village & continually getting lost, we finally found a road that looked promising & we were again on our way to La Fortuna. The roads were squiggly, but nice, tarred, & only slightly filled with traffic. We'd occasionally come across a line-up of cars waiting for a semi to climb a hill, & once the road opened up, we learned to pass like a Tico. The closer we got to La Fortuna, the more cloudy it got. Eventually, it looked like we were driving in heaven, if heaven has very dense clouds, lots of lush green foliage, & tourism vans with pictures of Jesus' face on them. 

We came upon the town of Quesada & seen a very small sign with the McDonald's symbol on it. You could practically hear an angel choir in the backseat, and once we seen those golden arches, we both screamed "There it is!" like we had found millions of dollars worth of buried treasure. Again, our non-Spanish speaking skills were at their prime, as we pointed & grunted at the things we wanted on the menu like gorillas at the zoo, caged & ready to break free & attack things. And attack things we did. I mauled a salad & fries, while Jim stuffed cheeseburgers in his mouth. We weren't even at the gorilla-phase anymore. We passed that level & moved on to rabid apes. Walking out of the place, we seen a small ice cream stand, also owned by McDonalds, on the sidewalk. We both enjoyed a cone & soaked in the bliss, after a chaotic day of driving. 

After driving another hour or so, we began to see this huge mound in our view. Arenal Volcano was in our sights! Signs for La Fortuna directed us to a small bustling town. To keep up tradition, we got lost looking for our hotel, but found it after only a few wrong turns & one-way streets where we were going the opposite direction than needed. Might as well stamped "TOURISTS" right on our foreheads.

Our hotel seemed small on the outside upon approach. The receptionist was monotone as he showed us our room, which was right next to the lobby & the farthest from the pool & breakfast area. I always like rooms on the far corners of hotels, away from people & noise. Upon first impression, we were a bit disappointed. 
Not much for pillows.
Least it's not a suicide shower...
Those are James' feet, flying mid-air, onto the bed after an exhausting drive.
I liked the bathroom door! I thought it was pretty.
At first, I was a little sad by the looks of our room. After the first day though, I got used to it & realized it just needed a few things updated & the room could use a nice fresh coat of paint. Other than that, the room was actually fine. After all, this was a budget trip to Costa Rica! We wandered our way to the pool area for our free welcome drink & met Maria, the cook.

The pool was gorgeous & looked so welcoming, but was too cold for us. The weather in this area isn't hot, but a comfortable cool. Maria, the cook, was there all day long. She has a little cook's house she uses & she is there from early breakfast and into the evening for dinner. At anytime, we could order something. The menu was the cheapest in the area that we found! We ate breakfast there each day & had one evening meal there, too. The breakfast was yummy, but the dinner was just okay. 

We were eager to check out the area, so we took a little walk...
I thought this restaurant looked so cool!
Pina Colada for me!
A Costa Rican Imperial Beer for James
The bar we had a drink or two at...
My first picture of the volcano... cloudy day!
We needed a snack, so we found a fruit stand with great prices & took a pineapple back to the hotel to munch on.


Looking at the volcano, we had to see how close we could get, so we hopped in the car to explore. 
Skies cleared a bit...
Vegetation... everywhere!
Lake Arenal
Steep road

We managed the whole trip with our trusty Kia Picanto!
Jim: "Get a picture of those bananas!" He loved seeing bananas in the wild.

Setting the camera timer to get a decent picture of us...
Selfie!
We stumbled upon some hot springs!
Locals had candles lit on the sides... there was quite the party going on! Too bad we didn't bring clothes to get wet.
When we came back into town, I had to peek inside this beautiful church. This was at about 10 at night & there were people there, worshiping. I loved seeing that.
We were exhausted from our first day in La Fortuna. I'm exhausted just thinking and writing about it all again! But this place was magical. It's like a scene from Jurassic Park or Land Before Time - a world overgrown by wild green plants & trees, volcanoes, hot springs, mountains, fields... there was so much LIFE in this part of the world. We were very happy we decided to stay in this town for 3 nights, as we read as a suggestion from a traveler on TripAdvisor. If you go to La Fortuna, I would also suggest at least 3 nights! 

I have so much more to write about, so stay tuned.

Warm Wishes,
Ash 

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