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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Frogs, bugs, hot springs, and volcanoes!

COSTA RICA | Sunday, 26 August 2007 | Views [1789]

            Today was my sixth and final full day in Central America. I woke up at 6:30 because I wanted make the most of it. I washed up and then went next door for breakfast. I had pancakes that were actually fried with pineapple and banana. They were the absolute best pancakes I’ve ever had! While eating, I was talking to a family from New Jersey. I think Costa Rica would make a great place for a family trip; perhaps I could ask my sister and her boyfriend if they want to go. The breakfast was not even $3. The cheapness of this country even makes Australia look super expensive. I was then interested in the tour of Volcán Arenal. First, I walked up to the store for a Red Bull and a banana, and then I booked that tour and the jeep-boat-jeep trip to La Fortuna. Altogether it was $45. I also paid for my stay from last night and reserved a room at a hostel in La Fortuna. I checked my email and Mr. Hanley told me to check with State Dept. before visiting Cuba, but I’ll probably have to sneak in. At 8:30, I decided I wanted to visit the Frog Pond. The walk down there was only about five minutes and the Frog Pond had just opened. I had to wait a few minutes for the guide, so I check out the souvenirs. I’ve seriously bought next to no souvenirs since I’ve been here. I did see a really cool shirt that I liked, but I didn’t have enough money. I’ve seen many nice souvenirs but just haven’t had the urge to buy any. My guide, Mauricio showed me all the various frogs. He showed me the largest bullfrog in Central America; but my favorite frog was the poison-dart frog because it is so colorful. There’s a poisonous frog that lives in South America that is so poisonous that one drop of their poison can kill a human! I also saw the red-eyed tree frog, which is on the cover of my Lonely Planet bok. I now have two images that are on Lonely Planet books (Iceland and Costa Rica). I was able to get a few good photos. After Mauricio was done showing me around, I hung around for 10 minutes and another guy came in to clean the glass on the frog housings. I was able to get even better photos. I went around to every frog cage trying to nail that postcard shot. While I was doing that, the guy told me he only earns about $1.25 per hour. That is much lower than minimum wage in the U.S. As a result, I tipped him and Mauricio $2 apiece. I spent about an hour at the Frog Pond and started walking back to the hotel. I got some money from my backpack and went down to the supermarket and bought that shirt I liked (they had the same one). I then went to the tour place adjacent to the hotel and met this really pretty British girl named Stephanie. She told me she’s traveling for 10 months and is going to Panama, all of South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia. I got her email because she left on her canopy tour. That is so much fun! I then decided I wanted to visit the insect place, so I headed down there next. It was very near the Frog Pond. Admission was only $7 and I first saw various displays of dead insects, both from Costa Rica and from other countries. I’ve always been fascinated with bugs. But, please note: all bugs are insects, but not all insects are bug. The guide, Ron, then showed me the live insects. I saw leaf and stick insects and then got to hold a tarantula. I then got a photo to show how much leaves and leaf insects look alike. They even feel like a leaf! I then saw praying mantises and the giant Hercules beetle. The male beetle was as big as my hand! That picture will freak everyone out! I then saw a basilisk lizard, which looks similar to an iguana and is the predator of most of these insects. Ron told me it is the most aggressive lizard in Central America. I really enjoyed it all! After, I thanked Ron and then walked back to the hotel. I decided I wanted lunch, so I went to the same restaurant that I ate breakfast at. I got a pork chop with rice and beans, and a side order of fries all for only about $8. I tipped the waiter $2. He works very hard and I’ve seen him everyday I’ve been up here. Afterward, I went back to the hotel and relaxed for about an hour. I got on the internet and my friend Veronica in Australia added me as a friend again. I was wondering what happened to her. At 2:00, my jeep came and I said goodbye to the manager. He seemed to like me a lot and he’s really awesome! I almost thought I had forgotten my other Costa Rica shirt, but it was in the bottom of my backpack. On the ride, we were driving through many miles of green. It is really beautiful! Costa Rica seems to be the type of place where everyone knows everyone. The jeep driver (as well as many other people I’ve met) waves or honks at many different people along the way. He also picked some locals up and dropped them off their homes. At one point I got to get out for a few photos. This was reminiscent of traveling through the New Zealand countryside. At about 3:15, I got my first glimpse of Lago de Arenal (Lake Arenal), which is Costa Rica’s largest lake. Right near there, there was a rancher herding his cattle across the road. I got a photo of that because I’ve never seen that before. I then had to transfer from the jeep to the boat. It’s always fun riding on a boat (except when it is freezing cold). I couldn’t keep my camera off as I got my first glimpse of Volcán Arenal about half way into the ride. The summit was covered in clouds (like many volcanoes). On the boat, I met a young couple who have been to Australia and Africa. I was also talking to this American couple originally from India. The lady told me that the health care system in the U.S. is a pain in the ass. That’s one reason that I don’t visit doctors. If there is nothing wrong with me, why go? The boat ride was only about a half hour and I had to go to another jeep. After hanging around for a few minutes, we were on our way. I could see Volcán Arenal a bit clearer, and the area I was riding through is very touristy. Although, there are none of those big name hotels like the Hilton or Marriott. I don’t know if I’ve told you, but I love Costa Rica’s model for sustainable tourism. Hotels and other accommodations are typically small and often have a restaurant and tour desk as all apart of one building. Ecotourism is preferred over mass tourism; all these factors help the environment and help keep prices low. We drove through La Fortuna and I was dropped off at my hostel at about 5:00. I got my key and put my pack in my room. My van showed up a minute or so later and I was off to Arenal! I met this couple who were on their honeymoon, and the lady is a former Peace Corps volunteer. I would love to join the Peace Corps someday! Costa Rica is a very ideal place for a honeymoon, although my ideal place is either Iceland or Australia. We drove for about a half hour to the lookout spot. Almost immediately, we saw molten rock spewing from Volcán Arenal. I got a few photos, but I couldn’t nail the postcard shot. However, I did finally learn how to take good night photos. This gentleman standing next to me nailed the perfect shot, and he told me that the trick is to set the long-time exposure setting. It was getting dark and I unfortunately didn’t have enough time to give it another go. I really wanted more time! But, we were off to the hot springs. It was raining and I could see lightning. We stopped at one hot spring place before getting dropped off at mine. By then it was raining very hard! I was a bit nervous at first about being in water during a lightning storm, but what do I have to fear! I was thinking this hot springs place would be like swimming in the view of Arenal, but it’s essentially a resort. There are places at the bar where you could sit in the water, and all these other cool things. However, the prices for food and drinks were Iceland-like, literally. I paid $5 for an energy drink, and it most place here five dollars got me a place to sleep! The lightning storm was pretty severe, but everyone was swimming and having a good time without regard to the storm. I hung out near the front and then checked out the rest of the park. At one of the hot pools, I met a cute girl named Megan who is traveling on her own just like me. I then let the waterfall give me a powerful hydraulic massage. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve kept my eye out for a good place to get a massage, but I haven’t seen any. All of the massage places in San Jose seemed to be the sexual type, and I don’t want those! Earlier in Monteverde, I picked up a brochure for a massage place where you could get a chocolate body wrap or various other exotic massages, but I didn’t have time to get one. I then went back to the bar and got a virgin pina colada for $5. I was all out of money because I left it all in my backpack not thinking I would need any. The pina colada was very good though! I then walked to the back of the park and slid down the slide, but I hurt my tailbone doing so. I didn’t expect to land the way I did. I then went back toward the bar and talked with these two Israeli girls. I really enjoyed the shuk shuka with my Israeli friends the other night. I really want to go to Israel, but I have to go to Syria first because they won’t allow you in Syria with an Israeli passport stamp. I then just hung out at the bar and was talking with this cute girl from England. She’s traveling all around Central America and said her favorite place is El Salvador. She told me the people are very nice! I sure will make it there someday. She had to go and our bus showed up a few minutes later at 9:20. This was so much fun tonight! I also fulfilled another of my 100 travel goals by seeing an active volcano. I definitely want to come back to Costa Rica. Hopefully, and I’m sure, God has a new plan for me very soon. I got dropped off at my hostel at about 9:45 and I was hungry. There was an older lady (about 70) staying in our room, but who says hostels are just for young people. She’s been in Costa Rica since May and really loves it, but she didn’t like Nicaragua. I’m surprised because I think Nicaragua is amazing! I then saw Megan again, and she’s also staying in the same room. I invited her to go get pizza with me, but she wasn’t up for it. I then walked a few blocks up the road to the pizza place and got a pizza with margarita cheese and a cup of hot cocoa. The pizza was very good! After eating, I walked back to the hostel and sat outside for a bit. I saw this black frog hopping in the grass; the first wild frog I’ve seen in Costa Rica. I ran inside to get my camera so I could get a photo. I then went inside and took a quick shower and then sat in the front room and did postcards. I’m not particularly sad about leaving because I know that Costa Rica is within easy reach: all I really need is the plane ticket and about $150 for a week. Well, tomorrow I have a flight to catch and I’ve been up 18 hours today. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Tags: Mountains

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