Toni said, “I’m sixty years old, and I’ve never seen a volcano,” so we set off for Lake Arenal. Who knew it would be raining? In the Central Valley, where we live, it hasn’t rained since Thanksgiving. We thought the rainy season was over.
The only way we ever see the rest of Costa Rica is when we have visitors. Last week, we picked up friends from home at the airport in Alajuela, and the four of us drove to La Fortuna, to see the Arenal volcano, brave a zip line, spot some birds and monkeys, drink some wine, talk, and laugh.
People told us that the trip from the airport to La Fortuna would take two and a half to three hours. Jack and Mick piled the suitcases on top of our ’86 Toyota Land Cruiser; Toni and I hauled our butts into the back and sat on hard benches facing each other; Jack pulled out of the airport, and we promptly got lost. We knew what route we were looking for, but couldn’t find a sign for it. Route signs are a state secret here, it seems, or they’re posted after the turnoff.
“We’re not going to get there in three hours,” said Toni, after we’d passed the first checkpoint at San Ramon. “We’re not even half way there, according to the map, and we’ve already been driving for over two hours.”
Within the hour, we hit rain and fog. “Drat,” we said. “Our suitcases are getting drenched.” By that time, it was dark, and much harder to navigate the narrow, winding mountain roads, even if the traffic hadn’t been heavy and slow.
At La Fortuna, the lovely folks in a local supermarket patiently repeated the directions to our hotel until they were sure I understood, and gave us the easy tourist map with landmarks on it. We set off with no little trepidation, on the lookout for the tiny police station where we had to turn.
Opposite the police station, we saw a sign for our hotel, Linda Vista Norte. It boasted air conditioning, a pool with a swim-up bar, and affordable prices. The sign said six kilometers. “That’s only 3.7 miles,” said Mick, our official kilometers-to-miles calculator.
We were relieved and happy to have arrived, after almost six hours of driving. But the dirt road to the hotel was a hole-filled, ill-lighted one, and it took as long to get to our hotel as it does to have a baby- or that’s what it felt like. We limped up to the reception desk feeling fatigued and frazzled.
Next time: Things to do in Arenal when it’s raining, your clothes are wet, and you can’t see the mountains, let alone the volcano.