Leaving the mountain | Boy, what a carrot! | Hello Switzerland
It was nearly time to leave Monte Verde and head to La Fortuna. About 40 miles as the crow flies, or 90 miles if you're driving thanks to the blooming great mountain we had to get down and around.
We decided to make the most of our last day to check out the wildlife (and find another good microbrewery - a quest that Ali has been very good at so far!).
It's fair to say that we've definitely found our walking feet out while we've been here, so a 30 min amble up and down some hills was no problem in order to seek out our destination - Hotel Belmar. We did worry a little though as google maps said to turn left past the (only) gas station and up the road. What google maps doesn't tell you is that the last part of road is basically dirt, holes and stray dogs. What we've learnt in Costa Rica is that this does not mean you've gone wrong, it's just a perfectly normal way to locate a five star hotel with its own microbrewery.
After ambling up past the intrigued doggos we spotted a gap in the hedge, and a little sign saying Hotel Belmar, only to discover this little treasure.
That's the view from the bar table. They have their own lake (to be fair with a sign saying 'Swim at your own risk') and possibly the best cocktails I've ever had (stuff Ali and his beer, I'm all about the cocktails!).
I was going to put some photos of them here but decided that no one cares about a drink I had, it's not as if you could taste it. So instead here's a rare selfie of the three of us together, don't we look happy!
Usually pics of us look more like this:
Anyway....after experiencing the delights of this hidden little gem we headed back to the hotel as the sun would soon be setting and 1) boy do the mosquitoes love the dusk, my leg looks like you could do a complex dot to dot picture on it and 2) we weren't keen on navigating the dirt road down in the dark.
As luck would have it, opposite our hotel (with its very expensive menu, no thanks!) is a place called Morphos. They offer a view of the sunset from the bar and great food at great prices. Sold!
Everything here is connected to butterflies in some way (the Blue Morpho being a beautiful blue butterfly - and incredibly difficult to get a photo of!). The tables were butterfly shaped underneath, the candlesticks were butterflies, the inside was carved with trees and butterflies. The drink above was called a Blue Morpho. Okay, you get the idea! Highly recommend anyone coming to Monte Verde to try it out though. The only thing that doesn't quite fit is the music. Imagine old pop classics from the 60s, 70s and 80s redone as elevator music. Very very strange.
Our last morning in Monte Verde started off well. After a rather wet start to this trip, we finally got some sunshine. But you can't exactly avoid the clouds entirely up here...
We also had time to do a final run into town for water and stuff. One thing Esme has been fascinated by here is the fruit and veg. Though I have to say, even I didn't expect to see a carrot this big, even in the rainforest!
After that we felt we'd seen everything and it was time to make our way down to La Fortuna.
If you don't know the area, the main thing La Fortuna is known for is its volcano. There are nearly 70 volcanoes in Costa Rica, with about 6 being active. The one at La Fortuna (Arenal) is currently 'resting'. It has been the most active volcano in the country for the last 50 years but abruptly stopped spewing stuff out in 2010. You can now walk around the lava fields at the foot of the volcano, but not go any higher.
So you can imagine our excitement when we turned a corner on our trip down and suddenly there is the volcano!
Okay, so it might be more impressive if you could see the top and if you had some sort of scale to understand just how big this thing is. Maybe Esme's reaction will help?
Okay, maybe not. Fear not further pics of the volcano will appear in future blog posts I'm sure!
The other impressive sight to greet our eyes was about an hour in (when we also finally found some tarmac) was our first view of Lake Arenal. For a bizarre moment it felt like we were in the Alps rather than in Central America, only for our taxi driver to tell us that Costa Rica is known as the Switzerland of Central America!
One of the nicest views of the lake was actually from a restaurant we stopped at on the way - tropical garden and Alpine lake. A real find.
They'd also put out a shelf with lots of fruit on which attracted a good number of beautiful little birds and even a hummingbird!
Here's the troops with our taxi driver, Isaac, who just happens to be our first taxi driver's son in law :-)
After what felt like hours going 'wow' at the beautiful lake, we finally made it to our hotel in La Fortuna. This place is a LOT different to Monte Verde. A lot bigger, more shops, bars and the feel of a real town (as opposed to a small village designed for tourists). It feels like a different world entirely. It's also HOT. Finally!!! We found the heat! 30 degrees celsius and humid as hell but a welcome change from the mountain air.
It helps that this is the view from our hotel room too:
And that thing in the distance is the volcano! Yes it's covered in cloud, but honestly it's the volcano! One day I'll get a pic of it in it's full majesty.
In the meantime, we're looking forward to exploring the area and finding out what's next.
Pura Vida everybody!