We wake up to a lovely sunny day. After a breakfast of gallo pinto, eggs and fruit it’s an 80km drive to Lake Arenal along a slow-going long stretch of road which is under construction, hundreds of orange-clad workers, mud and heavy machinery for miles. The road takes us around the shores of Lake Arenal and up to Lake Arenal Brewing Company where we stop for some lunch and a taste of their pale ale and dark beer which is not too bad but a long way off from British beer (a very very long way off and over priced according to Martin!).
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We take some scenic backcountry roads through green rolling hills, the dark red road contrasting with the lush volcanic hills. Making our way north to Volcano Tenorio National Park which we plan to visit tomorrow, we stay in a cheap guesthouse in the village of Bijagua.
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26th October VOLCANO TENORIO NATIONAL PARK
In the morning, we leave for the park turning up a rough dirt road for a few kilometres. The car in front of us struggles to get up the steep rocky hill and starts to slip backwards, we reverse and let them try again. Arriving at the park‘s entrance, we are surprised to see quite a few other cars and then remember that it‘s a Sunday which is a popular time for locals to visit.
Established in 1976, the park is one of the most secluded and least visited due to non-existent public transport (although it‘s quite busy today!).
The 1.5km trail takes us through dense rainforest and then down a set of moss covered stairs to the Catarata de Rio Celeste falling 30 metres into an aquamarine pool.
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Back up the steep stairs we carry onto the Mirador or lookout on a muddy, occasionally steep and branch filled trail for great views over the rainforest canopy.
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A little further on down some more steps is the Blue Lagoon.
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The trail then loops around the lagoon until we reach the confluence of the rivers known as Los Tenidores (The Stainers). The two small rivers mix together; a rare chemical reaction between natural volcanic sulphur deposits and calcium creates the blue milky colour of the Rio Celeste.
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We retrace our steps back across a couple of makeshift bridges that cross the blue waterways.
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The hike takes us around 3 and a half hours to complete, with stopping for photos etc. As we have not done any walks recently, my calf muscles don‘t seem to appreciate the workout! We pass streams of locals on the way back out who have come from tourist vans so are quite glad we got here early!
We drive back along to Lake Arenal towards La Fortuna; the drive takes us through more scenic dirt roads on the way crossing a couple of rickety bridges built from tree trunks.
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We stumble across a horse festival in the town of San Rafael and decide to wait for it, not realising it would take another hour before it would come down the main street! The whole town seems to be out, sitting out on the back of pickup trucks, some sporting cowboy boots, most with drinks in hand and even a few with mini bars!! Hundreds of horses are paraded down the road, with men, women and even kids riding them whilst a young boy in cowboy costume sings.
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A lassoer performs to the waiting crowd.
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By the time it finishes, we find ourselves driving along the quickly darkening roads complete with cat‘s eyes and into La Fortuna trying to find somewhere to sleep for the evening. It feels relatively safe driving here at night, something we definitely would not have done in the past few countries if we could avoid it!
After asking a couple of people for directions then being barked at continuously by a ridiculously tiny dog when we finally arrive, we head out for dinner. La Fortuna is definitely a tourist town with hotels, bars and restaurants lined up all along the main road. We choose a soda (a local cheap eatery) which is packed with both locals and tourists and order from the menu. Although the food is quite good, we wish we had just gone with the ‘plata del dia‘ (dish of the day) as it‘s cheap and looks tasty….next time!