By the time we got to La Fortuna, we were tired from traveling and it had started to rain. We went to a random hostel and inquired about staying there because our reservations for La Fortuna Backpackers Hostel did not start until the next night. Unfortunately, the first hostel we tried was full. We were very fortunate though to meet a nice lady working there who called almost every hostel in La Fortuna trying to find a room for six soaking wet girls with a mountain of luggage standing desperately in front of her. She eventually found us a room at Chill Out Backpackers’ Hostel. We had our own private room with three bunks and a bathroom in the room. We were most excited about the lukewarm water in the shower and fresh towels (ours smelled like a a mixture between stinky feet and must from not drying in Puerto Viejo). I was very tired and not feeling well so stayed in the room with Hannah to watch Quantum of Solace and eat snacks in our pajamas. It was exactly what I needed.
The next morning, we woke up and had a free breakfast of eggs and toast at the hostel. But, what was more exciting than the free breakfast was the puppies that belonged to the owners. I was just eating breakfast when I spotted three adorable chow mix puppies clumsily walking through the grass. We played with them for at least an hour while discussing spirit animals; my friends said I was a dolphin (I was very flattered!). After breakfast, the kind owners of the hostel personally drove us to the clinic so that Hannah could get her toe checked out (she had stubbed it badly and didn’t want it to get infected). We went to a coffee shop called My Coffee Lounge to use the Internet and indulge in smoothies and hot beverages. I had wonderful hot chocolate that was definitely homemade but not too rich. It was served very hot in a glass mug. My other friend Tori wasn’t feeling well so we checked into the next hostel, La Fortuna Backpackers, so she could rest. We were not a very healthy group, but I consider myself fortunate that I only had small bouts of stomach troubles. The healthy ones of us went to La Choza de Laurel; it ended up being a huge authentic meal, although it was one of the most delicious I ate the whole trip. I split an order of patacones (fried unripe plantains, mashed and fried again) and a typical chicken plate with two friends. Both were great choices and I was very full after eating all of my food. I also really enjoyed the costumes of the waitresses which I assume were traditional Costa Rican dresses. Everything there seemed rustic but very Costa Rican including the drip coffee on tables; this was a spectacle in which waitresses brought huge kettles of hot water to tables and poured it the drip coffee makers to make steaming hot Costa Rican coffee. Also, the small touches like hot pickled vegetables and homemade hot sauce really elevated the meal. We figured out our activities for the next few days in the afternoon and then ended up shopping and going to a chocolate shop (the Bailey’s truffle was decadent!). I think you can tell that I fit right in with my group of friends!
Sarai, Sarah S., and Hannah with the puppies
The tan one was my favorite, it was so fluffy!
Ready to go outside our hostel
Hot Chocolate at My Coffee Place; it was a deliciously creamy and scalding hot
Lunch at La Choza de Laurel; clockwise from top left, patacones with guacamole, pico de gallo, and refried beans (it came with three huge patacones but Cynthia and I couldn’t keep our hands off of them before I took the picture), La Choza Typical Plate (I split it so it was twice this much food- rice, beans, grilled sweet plantain, mixed chayote and corn, salad, corn, hardboiled egg, and chicken), the huge dining area in the restaurant, hot pickled vegetables (I liked the onions and carrots the best)
On Friday, we tried a new restaurant for breakfast called Rainforest Café (not in at all like the one at Disney World). I tried the Agua Dulce con leche caliente (Sugar Cane Tea with hot milk), a specialty drink that I had wanted to try ever since we helped use the trapiche to extract sugar cane juice at El Sur. Although it was very sweet, I did enjoy the distinct flavor of the sugar cane as opposed to regular processed sugar. That afternoon, I went horseback riding. My horse’s name was Palomo, which means pigeon in English (still trying to figure out the reasoning behind that one). He was a heather gray color and made a nice ride although he always wanted to be near the front of the pack. Under the instruction of two local guides, we rode about 30 or 45 minutes to a place where we dismounted and changed into our swimsuits. We hiked about 20 minutes to the La Fortuna Waterfall. It was beautiful and more awe-inspiring than other waterfalls I had seen so far this semester. We waded a little ways and then climbed some rocks to get to the pool with the waterfall. The water was crystal clear but took my breath away when I stepped in it was so cold. The rush of the waterfall created a strong outward current in the water and made for fun swimming as long as you didn’t get too close. On the way back, we stopped at a Maleku village; Maleku is the only indigenous tribe in the North of Costa Rica (there are 23 in the South, mainly on the Caribbean side). We learned a little bit about their culture (“capi, capi” and holding up your fist means, “Hello, I hope you are doing well”). During the trip, I was able to have some surprisingly good Spanish conversations with one of my guides, Alonzo, and my shuttle driver. I think that much of my improvement in Spanish is just being more confident and not worrying too much about the correct tenses, etc. but just trying to speak without reserve. Later, all of us went to Restaurant Los Nenes for a nice dinner (it was Sarai’s last night with us). We ended up seeing a friend there with her parents; it’s a small world. The restaurant itself was very nice; the waiter was very attentive (unlike most other restaurants in Costa Rica, but tips are included in the bill so that could explain it) and even set in front of each of us the exact pieces of silverware we would need for our meal. Also, some dishes were brought out on fire and they would dim the lights as the whole restaurant focused on the table and excited patron the dish was destined for. I ordered a heart of palm salad, which was very fresh and beautifully presented, and the fish ceviche, one of the house specialties for a reason. Although already full, we got ice cream afterwards. I had a scoop of dulce de leche and a scoop of passion cake ice cream. I especially loved the latter, I want to try to make that cake!
Agua dulce, a good start to the morning
Left, a view of the mountains (Arenal Volcano is to the right out of the frame); right, La Fortuna Waterfall, where we went to swim
Left, the horses; right, me and Palomo
Left, masks hand-painted by members of the Maleku tribe; right, huts at the village
Left, heart of palm salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil; right, fish ceviche with tortilla chips and a creamy sauce
Arenal Volcano with a halo effect created by afternoon clouds
Spring break group
All three “Sarah”s
Sunday morning was Easter. As I was eating breakfast (typically guayaba, trail mix, and tropical fruit yogurt), I heard singing coming from a nearby church; it was really beautiful and made me feel connected to the holiday and my faith. I had never spent Easter with people that don’t celebrate but that moment and my own personal time that morning were really important for remembering the importance of the day. We said goodbye to Adopted Sarai early in the morning. Around 11, we went to Baldi Hot Springs for the day. Our passes were for 10 am to 10 pm and included a meal; we were determined to make the most of the much anticipated hot springs and spend all day there. There are 25 pools that were heated by hot springs and had varying temperatures; also, in case the hot pools were not enough, there was a huge jacuzzi, several cold pools, water falls, three slides, a sauna, and several swim-up bars. We explored everything there and I absolutely cannot pick a favorite part. I could literally sit in hot water until I am about to faint but tried to pace myself and took some time to lay out on the chairs and explore the gardens. I treated myself to reading a Costa Rican food magazine, Sabores, I bought at the MegaSuper and we all had a ridiculously expensive but delicious cocktail at the swim-up bar. The buffet dinner was also wonderful; I enjoyed the plethora of options, especially the salad, fruit, hummus, and tea.
Baldi Hot Springs (it still eludes me why the fat lady is placed at the entrance)
Monday was April Fools’ Day. Unfortunately, no pranks or practical jokes were played. We did have a delicious brunch at Soda Ara. Sodas are small restaurants that serve cheap, authentic food and usually have quick service. I ordered an omelet with the fruit plate. I did not realize how much food I ordered until my plates came out. The fruit was some of the best I have had in Costa Rica; it was all cold and arranged beautifully on the plate, including banana, mango (which I think I might actually like now), pineapple, and watermelon. The omelet was a classic combination of ham and cheese; it was also far bigger than I had guessed. But, I managed to clean my plate and be full the rest of the day. Two buses, two taxi rides, and six hours later we were back at the Center. All of us were very tired but excited to see our friends and hear about their spring breaks. Like all good things, spring break had to come to end but it is definitely a week that I will always remember and cherish.