A Travellerspoint blog

La Fortuna

Hot springs, rafting and volcanoes

rain 27 °C

I decided to head to La Fortuna, which is about 3 hours by bus from Alajuela (the San Jose airport). Costa Rican time is definitely different from the states. My bus was scheduled to arrive at 9:10am and it didn't show up until closer to 10:00am. Traveling on the bus was not the most comfortable since the bus was packed and I had my 45L backpack sitting on my lap the whole time. All of the locals were very helpful and kind trying to help me out and letting me know where I needed to get off and how far away we were still. The drive was beautiful, it was cool driving through all of the smaller towns and just seeing so many smaller farms with big gardens and lots of cows wandering around the hillsides.

La Fortuna is pretty popular for their spas and hot springs, but they'll all fairly pricey. To save a little money, my first night in La Fortuna I went to this free hot springs with two awesome girls I met at my hostel. We took a taxi there around 6:30pm (which by the way is pretty much night time since we are around the equator), once the taxi driver dropped us off we had to walk down this random road and we were kinda confused at first but we finally saw some lights flickering in the distance. It was a really unique experience. There was an upper area that was hotter water, and mostly occupied by locals. We went down to the larger pool that was just below a short waterfall. If I ever went back to this place I would definitely go during the day. Luckily I had brought a headlamp but when we turned it off it was crazy how dark it got. There were so many sounds that you could hear and without light to see all of our other senses were even more attuned. It was pouring rain, the waterfall was rushing and all of the animals were making their own noises. It felt somewhat eerie at times but it was also really neat to be somewhat off the beaten path in an area that is so touristy.

The next day I did the touristy option and went whitewater rafting on the Balsa river. Woke up early in the morning to see if there was any availability and it ended up working out great! I was one of three women on the whole trip of about 20 people. To explain how much it rains here, when we went to pick up part of our group we got to this road where a good portion of it had been washed out and they had to get out of their car in order to meet us. Pretty crazy.

The river trip was great, though I was with a group of guys who decided to tell our guide that they wanted to go big. Which in turn meant that our guide then decided to take us through the biggest parts of the river. I swam once and some people swam as many as three times, but everyone ended up safe and sound. After the river trip we had a delicious lunch where we enjoyed true Costa Rican coffee made fresh in a unique coffee making contraption. That evening I did end up going to one of the hot spring resorts, Baldi, which was a mix between Disney Land, Vegas and a water park and in my opinion. There were slides, a sauna, swim up bars and all of the pools were lit with brightly colored lights. It was a pretty funny place, but I'm glad that I ended up going!

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I think my favorite day in La Fortuna was my last. I went hiking with two wonderful sisters from the Netherlands. We decided to hike this trail called Cerro Chato which leads up to a lagoon in the crater of an inactive volcano. Arenal is the active volcano that is close to La Fortuna, and is right next to Cerro Chato – apparently at least. Since it has been so rainy the Arenal has not been seen for more than three weeks and that day was no exception. We ended up running into a tour and one of the people in the group was one of the guys that had been on the whitewater rafting trip the day before and we were able to tag along for free. It was pretty lucky that we did because the day would not have been nearly as wonderful if we had tried to do everything by ourselves. The trail ended up being very challenging and it became so steep in some parts that we were basically rock climbing, but with roots and dirt. It was great! :) Our guide, Eric, took us down to the lagoon and we were able to get into the water which was pretty neat. Eric told us lots of information about the flora and fauna that we were seeing, throughout the whole trip we saw a male white nosed coati, a few frogs and an ocelot! After hiking up and back down the volcano we walked over hanging bridges to reach a large waterfall and at the end of everything we were shuttled to the free hot springs that I had gone to the first night. I must say that I was a bit skeptical to go back, but it was MUCH better with a large group of people and many more lights. We were given mud masks and everyone relaxed in the bubbling water, soaking their tired hiking muscles. Eric even showed a few of us the small cave that is underneath the waterfall – it was really awesome. The total cost of our wonderful adventure only ended up being 5,000 colones (about $10) per person as opposed to the $60 sticker price.

I took a shuttle this morning from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio and I am looking forward to seeing what will come next!

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The lagoon at the top of the Cerro Chato hike

Posted by rae.lloydlever 03:43 Archived in Costa Rica

Next stop: Costa Rica

sunny 26 °C

As a few of you may know, I am going to be heading out to Costa Rica this summer! I will be working for an awesome company called Broadreach as a Wilderness Instructor on a Field Biology program for middle schoolers and high schoolers. I am going to be there for just over a month, and I will be instructing two 12 day sessions. The trip is going to be awesome and I am really excited to explore a new area of the world! Some of the things that the students, myself and my co-instructor will be doing include: rappelling down a waterfall, carrying out a reforestation project and doing some dolphin research in the Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. Like I said, I'm pretty darn excited!

I will be traveling for about a week before my program starts and my rough plan is to go North of San Jose to La Fortuna and visit the Arenal Volcano for a few days, then head down South on the Pacific side to Manuel Antonio, then back to San Jose. I'll post more updates as my trip continues. At this point, I feel as prepared as I will be, all that is left to do is fly out tomorrow and see where this adventure takes me next.

If you want to learn more about the company I'm working for check out: http://www.gobroadreach.com/, there you can read trip updates once the program is under way as well! The picture below is from our staff training at the end of May in North Carolina!

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Posted by rae.lloydlever 13:25 Archived in USA

Returning "Home"

sunny 19 °C

Had a great last weekend in Spain. It was bittersweet, excited to see my family in the states but say to say goodbye to the family I had created in Granada. Our host mom got all teary when Lauren and I left, hauling way too many bags to the bus station. Sweaty and gross by the time we got there, but it was good to see our friends as we all piled onto the ALSA bus for one last weekend at the beach. Nerja was beautiful as always and it felt great to literally have nothing to do. Exams were done, I was already packed, our tickets were booked, nothing but the ocean waves and Sangria to keep us company.

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The next day we hopped back on the bus to go up to Madrid, because that's where we flew out. Three American girls with total of 3 backpacks and 5 suitcases (or something like that) was the biggest struggle I have ever experienced on the metro in Madrid. First of all, we were all paranoid and watching each other's backs for thieves seeing as we were incredibly obvious targets. Second, the metro in madrid is not handicap accessible we found out as we lugged our suitcases up countless flights of stairs. Trying to take an elevator one time just spit us out to where we would have to pay again, but luckily this seemed to be a common problem because the security guard let us through anyways. Finally make it to our hostel, only to find... more stairs. No wonder people are fit in Europe.

We had a great last night out, unfortunately didn't make it to the 6 story club Kapital (since it wasn't open on a Sunday). But spending the last night out in Spain with Lauren and Alice, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

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The next day was fantastic, even though it was an incredible struggle. Lauren and I got churros and chocolate one last time. Tried multiple times to sell Lauren's guitar, and it was just not working out at the Cash Converters (aka Pawn Shops). Giving up we went to go have our last cafe Bonbon. The sweet restaurant owner took pitty on us it seemed, and even though he had absolutely no use for the guitar he bought it from us for more than the Cash Converter shop. SUCCESS! We were in the goofiest mood, and decided to play on a playground for a solid 10 minutes.

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Afterward we stumbled upon the fresh market in Madrid, and took the longest time deciding what we wanted to eat. It was worth it though and we had Iberian ham, gouda (with spices in it), a fresh baguette, and an avocado sandwich -- with olive oil of course.

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We meandered the rest of the way over toward the Plaza del Toros because we had tickets to see the corrida (bull fight) that day. On the way it just decided to start HAILING -- when it had been sunny only hours before.

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We ducked inside a coffee shop and waited it out for awhile. By the time we made it to the Plaza our feet were soaked, but the clouds were passing. I was seriously hoping for a rainbow, but it didn't end up happening. During the corrida one of the matadors got smeared into the ground by the bull :/ but surprisingly was still able to stand up and finish the bull fight.

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After the corrida we made our way back to the hostel and then to the airport to spend the night. I ended up staying awake and letting Lauren sleep. We were to the airport with plenty of time before our flights because I was determined to not miss my flight like the last time I was coming back from Europe. However, upon checking in with Iberia I was informed that even though I had been purchased my ticket back in September the airline is allowed to overbook the flight by 10% or something and I was therefore on standby. The solution was to put me on an earlier flight, one that happened to board in 15 minutes from the time they told me. With lack of sleep and a bit of travel stress I was freaking out a bit trying to get through security, and ended up running to my gate and just making it in time to board. Even though my time in the London airport was a bit strange, on the plus side I think I got rid of my jet lag.

Upon arriving in the SeaTac airport I immediately saw familiar faces, including my friend Jennie and Monique and... Macklemore (even though I only spoke to him enough to get a picture).

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It has been great being back in the United States, though of course bittersweet. This may be my last blog post about this adventure in my life, but it definitely will not be my last. So grateful to have had this experience in my life, and I cannot wait to see even more of this amazing world that we live in. ¡Hasta luego España!

Posted by rae.lloydlever 21:29 Archived in USA

Ibiza

sunny 24 °C

And now I want to move to an island.

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Posted by rae.lloydlever 20:37 Archived in Spain

An amazing weekend

Jerez de la Frontera

sunny 26 °C

First off traveling by motorcycle in the wind is an experience. With everything flashing by so quickly as we zipped along from Granada to Jerez, I felt as though I was in a movie that was fast forwarding. I must admit, I was not very impressed when we first got to Jerez and were walking around because for some strange reason it was completely abandoned.

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We had a delicious dinner of octopus and croquetas, then decided to wander around and ask about the Feria de Caballos (Horse Fair) that was going on that week. Finally we kept seeing more and more people making their way in the same direction, all of them dressed to the nines! The women were either wearing fancy clothes and heels or a full on flamenco dress, and the men were all wearing buttoned shirts and blazers.

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The Spaniards definitely know how to throw a party, the amount of lights, rides, food, music, dancing and people that were present were INCREDIBLE! Completely changed my opinion of the city, and I could understand why nothing closer to the center of the city was open -- all of the people were out celebrating at this event. We we walked into the main area where there were a bunch of little houses that served food and had bunches of people, I felt like I had stepped into the middle of a firework.

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I realized that I have not been to the fair probably since high school either, the flashing rides and the huge ferris wheel were a strange contrast against the old style flamenco dresses.

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The next day we went to the horse-show aspect of the event schedule. I was so impressed, and I know absolutely nothing about horses. My dad was explaining a lot of the things going on to me throughout the performance. All of the horses were so well trained. There were flamenco dancers that would flip their shawls in front of the horse -- literally dancing in front of their faces as well, and they were trained to not freak out or become startled in the least. There were two horses that even were trained to dance as partners facing each other, creating a mirror image. I felt like I was watching a mixture of a dog show and a circus performance. Some of the horses were able to stand on their back legs, bow, and then process to sit down with their two front legs propping them up. Really amazing.

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I would have to say though that probably the most emotionally stimulating and exciting thing about the weekend was the Corrida de Toros that my dad and I went to. It is a very controversial subject in Spain as well in the rest of the world, because to some it is seen as cruel and barbaric. I can definitely see where people are coming from on this, but for myself I feel like I cannot denounce the Corrida because I also eat meat. The large bulls have the best of lives for 5 years, where they live comfortably and eat the best food. It was an incredibly interesting experience. I would say that I am a worrier as well, so watching people purposefully get as close as they possibly can to a 1,000+ lbs animal made me nervous to say the least. At first with all of the adrenaline pulsing though my veins my hand was shaking enough that it was difficult to take pictures, I can't even begin to imagine how the toreros felt being in the ring.

A little bit of information about the Corrida that can help you visualize: there are 6 bulls, 2 for each torero. There are 4 main phases and in total I believe that each bull is supposed to take no longer than 20 minutes because after 20 minutes the bull will have learned all of the moves of the torero, because they are very smart. First off, the bull enters the plaza and many toreros come out with the magenta and yellow cape (capote) trying to rile it up. The matador takes the bull by doing some cape work.

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Next comes the picador, this person is on horse back (the horses are completely padded up, have their eyes covered, and cannot hear) and the picador jabs the bull in its hump, I think to enrage them more? But I am not exactly positive. This part I was not a huge fan of because the bull runs straight into the horse; which yes it is padded but that cannot feel good at all.

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Then come the bandilleros who face off to the bull with nothing but these spikes that they have to stick into the flesh of the bull.

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Finally, comes the matador which is what most people think of when they picture a Corrida. He uses a red cape, and we learned that the reason it is red is because they wanted it to be the same color as the blood which is better for the spectators. Bulls are colorblind and can only see in black and white anyways, so the movement of the cape is what is important. You can tell when a matador is good, I would have to say that it is definitely an art. The second matador put on the best show in my opinion, but I think the third was supposed to be the favorite. The second matador: David Fandila Marín is from Granada actually, but he just had so much confidence that he was able to dominate the performance. On his first bull he received both ears (which means they did a really good job), and he threw them to the crowd... The whole crowd rose their feet when he was done and waved their white handkerchiefs in approval.

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David Fandila Marín had that macho attitude that so far he has been really successful with, but he was definitely playing with fire. He would do cape work on his knees, run backwards with the bull chasing him with his hand out, and turning his back on the bull -- a sign of bravery (or stupidity depending on your opinion).

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Posted by rae.lloydlever 10:50 Archived in Spain

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