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adventures of a not so grey nomad

La Fortuna

COSTA RICA | Sunday, 1 August 2010 | Views [939]

La Fortuna Costa Rica July 24

The roads from Monteverde are shocking-winding, narrow, potholed, rutted dirt roads. There have been calls to pave them but there is resistance to this. The Quakers, who have put Monteverde on the map thanks to their land and wildlife conservation efforts, love their tranquil, green cloud forest environment and don't want hordes of tourists descending thereby putting pressure on all the infrastructure and services. So the roads remain unpaved at this stage-to the detriment of the traveller. It took its toll on our van-the driver had to change a flat tyre along the way which meant unloading all the packs to get to the spare tyre and then reloading again. After bouncing around for about an hour and a half in the van we arrived at a boat boarding area. I can't call it anything else as it was just a bit of lakeside ground in the middle of nowhere where boats pulled up to board and unload passengers. There must be certain times to catch them as there were many vans and tourists there waiting. As a boat unloaded passengers they got on the just vacated vans and were spirited off to destinations unknown. Meanwhile the van passengers boarded the boats for the 40 minute trip across Laguna de Arenal -then a van taxi for the 15 minute ride to La Fortuna town-pop 7000. We had a beautiful view of Volcan Arenal as we crossed the lake -it is Costa Ricas most active volcano producing ash columns, explosions and lava almost daily since 1968. People come hoping to see streams of lava flowing over the sides but apparently that hasn't really happened for 10 years. Postcards show a dramatic lave flow but you are lucky to see any now.

La Fortuna town is full of tour operators, hotels, souvenir shops and restaurants. Its small and easy enough to walk around and has the usual church and plaza in the centre. The church is lovely-quite different to others we have seen-it feels warm and welcoming and friendly. Behind the alter there is a ceiling high mural huge of blue sky and clouds with a large 3D figure of Christ with outstretched arms. There were gorgeous tropical flower arrangements and the whole place was light and airy. There were three ladies sitting in a pew and as we sat admiring the church they began singing-they had sweet and clear voices-it was lovely. Our hotel was modern, 5 storied with an elevator and quite luxurious with air con and Wifi - even a small fridge to keep stuff in-hardly basix standard!

There were lots of adventure activities to choose from-rafting, rappelling, hiking etc.and we attended a presentation at one of the adventure company' office. The Gap group which have been travelling the same route as us were there as well with their American guide-it was so noisy with everyone talking and once Lynn, Margaret and I decided not to do any of the options we left. We had lunch at a local soda-very cheap and tasty-the usual selection of rice and beans, salad, plantain and meat Then it was a wander about the town buying some souvenirs and just taking in the sights.

We had coffee in a nice bar-best coffee in the whole trip so far and only 800 cordoba ($1-50). I rang Hannah to see how the birthday celebrations were going and spoke to her and Mel and Ian-sorry I wasn't there for the party-should be a doozie!!!

July 25

We had decided to visit Reserva Ecologica Catarata Rio Fortuna and La Catarata de la Fortuna-the Fortuna waterfall- so after breakfast of muesli and fruit in our room we caught a taxi and went 7 kms out of town. The road up to the falls is only partially paved-especially on the steeper parts. There was a horse parking lot near to the park entrance for the equine set and a large car park for the buses and vans. It cost about $US10 for the entrance ticket. We walked in over a steel bridge and onto a paved path which wound its way up to a viewpoint of the 70m waterfall. Then it was a matter of going down 400 or so steep steps through lush, green, damp forest full of bromeliads and ferns to get to the bottom of the falls and the river. At the bottom of the falls the water was coming down with tremendous force-too dangerous for swimming although some idiot tourists were of course! A few steps further down and we came to the river with rocky pools of clear, cold water -very picturesque and reminiscent of NZ -especially the water temperature. There were fish swimming about and they weren't fazed by the brave swimmers. I had a paddle up to my knees but it was too cold for a full body plunge!! We had a picnic lunch and watched the many visitors as we summoned up the oomph to start the climb back up. It didn't take too long to get to the top-it was actually easier than coming down. It was early afternoon by this time-rain time! It didn't last too long and we decided to walk back to town. We didn't get too far before we decided to stop for a coffee at a little place where a very nice young man looked after us. As we walked along past papaya trees and pasture land we passed a woodwork gallery with some amazing art works outside created from tree trunks and branches. Inside was full of beautiful wooden pieces-from bowls to figurines with bits of bicycle chain or barbed wire for hair-too big and heavy to buy alas :( The rain returned with a vengeance-our umbrellas were next to useless in the downpour and Barbara our Dutch companion didn't have one so we took shelter in an open garage much to the amusement of the owner. He offered us a seat to wait it out so we took them gratefully. There wasn't a lot of chit chat as he couldn't speak English and our very limited Spanish doesn't allow for conversation! But he was very kind and generous and we thanked him mucho gratias as we left. It took us an hour and a half to walk back-good exercise for the day. Not bad for those of us still feeling the effects of horse riding plus sore stomach muscles from ziplining!

In the evening we met up with the others for a drink and tried the local cocktail made from a liquor from sugar cane with fruit juices-delicious. The Dutch family, Lynn, Margaret and I went for a meal at another soda- plato del dio which is such good value. Margaret was going to Mass so we thought why not? and tagged along. We had a very friendly priest welcome us with “goodnight” and went in and found a pew in the very full church. There were families with everyone from grandparents to babies, teenagers and children. It was standing room only with lots of people at the back of the church-so Lynn and I left giving the true believers chance to sit. Apparently where we two had been sitting a family of six came and sat!

I rang Hannah and left a message for her birthday-21 now-all grown up!

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