Planet Hiker
2004-08-15 On the tour with Artem and Nurit, Part One, Costa Rica

My brother, Artem, and his girlfriend, Nurit, came vacationing to Costa Rica. So for 3 weeks they dragged me along, reminding what traveling is supposed to be like 8-). The first place we visited was Santa Teresa - a small village on the Pacific, not yet hit by the touristic commercialization wave. However, the surfing waves where there and they were more than what we could handle... My plan of gentle introduction to surfing turned into couple of days of hard beating and tossing and turning. The water was so choppy and the waves were coming in at such a high rate that it was nearly impossible to paddle out. And so, we retreated back to land!

There is a nice park just south of Santa Teresa with a trail that goes all the way to the beach. Thus, with full furry, we went out hiking. There also happened to be a large group of French tourists on that day and of course there was no way in hell that we were going to let them out-hike us. So we raced through the jungle, not really paying any attention to plant or animal life that the park is supposed to be inundated with. In fact, maintaining the same pace, we raced all the way back to the hotel for an additional 11 kilometers, just for fun.

Next on the hit list was Monteverde. Now this place was ALL about milking the tourists. There were "canopy tours", cheese factory tours, frog-garden tours, welcome-to-my-backyard-for-only-$5 tours, etc., etc. Naturally, we started diligently checking them off one by one. But when it came to the "canopy tour" (a rope tied between a few trees and you get to wear a harness while sliding from one tree to another), I claimed that it's not my cup of tea. Nurit was convinced that "there is a whole another world up there, with animals that you never get to see on the ground". So I let her do her thing, though I suspected that all of the animals that used to live there have long been gone to other parts of the forest, where they don't have to be annoyed by tourists day after day.

Once there were no more tours left to take, we took a 4 wheeler cab ride, over twisty mountain roads, with a change over to a boat (when crossing lake Arenal), arriving at La Fortuna. The most fortunate thing that ever happened to this village is that Volcan Arenal started erupting about 50 years ago, wiping out all other nearby villages. Ever since, tourists and locals alike have been coming to La Fortuna in hopes of seeing the lava flow. But as fate would have it, the top of the mountain is most of the time covered in clouds, making the lava watching as exiting as starring at fog. No worries though, the tourist infrastructure has been beefed up to handle such a scenario. With little effort we identified the best bike shop in town and rented Conondale mountain bikes for a day, with the plan of biking another nearby mountain that has a water fall on the top. The owner of the hostel that we were staying at, Gringo Pete, declared that he has seen guys with calves the size of our thighs not being able to handle the trail to the water fall. This was exactly the kind of encouragement that my brother and I needed. And after squeezing out a few litters of sweat, we both reach the top, never taking the feet off the pedals.

I must say that even without the mission of proving Gringo Pete wrong, seeing the waterfall was worth the effort. It was tall and powerful, plunging down around 40 feet and scarring all of its visitors to swim further down the river, as apposed to the immediate pool. Naturally, the first thing my brother and I did was we dove into the pool and swam towards the waterfall. But the flow was powerful indeed... I was steaming full speed ahead, raising lots of splashed and providing ample entertainment to the Japanese tourists with video cameras, but moving not an inch closer to the water fall. As a cancellation prize, we swam around it, getting to see what it looks like from behind. And even though we did not emerge victorious, there was a line of people eager to get out blessing to try their luck, now that they have seen us do it.

But that was not the end of our adventures for that day. After taking a reeeeaaallly fun ride down the mountain, there was as 17 kilometer ride to the other side of Volcan Arenal. Our plan was to go as far as we want and then come back to a local hot springs resort, Dante's, for a well deserved brake. After a few hours of trailing my brother (I was doing my best to keep up, but the hills of Berkley have conditioned him too well!), we came to the end of the road, only to find that the entrance to the park is already closed and there is little daylight left... And, you know the hard tropical rains that they show on TV? Well, it started pouring just like on TV. We soon discovered that being drenched is the least of our problems as it was getting pitch dark and the road did not have a single light post. With that on our hands, we decided that it would suck to be run over today and that may be we should try to get a ride home (not that we were tired or anything... uuhhmmmm, uhhhhmm). With the fortune smiling on us, we saw a pickup truck and the driver was generous enough to give us a ride back to town. As promised, we concluded the day in warm/hot/cold/and anywhere in between waters of resort Dante's.