So today was another hiking day with a small group tour through Rainforest Explorers. First up was a two hour hike through the Los Puentes Colgantes del Arenal (The Arenal Hanging Bridges), in Mistico Park followed by a hike through the Arenal Volcano lava trail.
I was picked up at the early hour of 7:00 a.m. by my guide Tony and soon we gathered 3 other couples from various hotels and by 8:30, we were pulling into the near empty parking lot of the Mistico Park. The clouds had rolled in once again and light mist was falling as we set off on our walk that would take us through a dense rainforest across 6 hanging bridges and ten platform bridges. Now I initially did not understand the early start, but once we started walking with virtually no one else around, I understood. Early start beats the crowd.
Now I soon learned that Tony was particularly fixated on bugs and reptiles. As a result, I tended to stay closing to the back of the group to avoid the creepy crawly things Tony was pointing out.
The walk took us on a winding path up, up, up through the forest. And unfortunately, the clouds had now opened up and it was really raining. On the bright side, the forest canopy really helped to block a lot of the rain. (First time in 2 weeks I have been rained on during an activity.)
Anyway, as we walked along we came across a Rufus Mutmut, which was bigger than the Mutmuts I had seen in Montaverde. This one also had longer tail feathers. Gorgeous.
We soon reached the first bridge, named the Picari Bridge, a short platform bridge that took us to a path past a small lizard hanging on a tree and then a tiny bat handing upside down fully attached to another tree. This was turning into a very bizarre hike.
We then crossed the Jacamar Bridge before encountering the first of six hanging bridges, the Arenal View Bridge, aptly named because of the view to the Arenal Volcano. This was also the highest bridge of the hike at 45 meters high.
As we crossed the very bouncy bridge surrounded by the jungle canopy, we stopped for pictures in front of the very, very obscured Arenal Volcano before continuing on across the bridge. As we crossed, we could hear a waterfall below, but the foliage also obscured that as well.
Now the path after the first hanging bridge was not in the best of shape and we had to be very careful not to trip up on loose stone. We then crossed Monkey Ladder Bridge before crossing the Pilon Tree Hanging Bridge where Tony was pointed out another Motmot, but this time this one looked more like the birds I had seen in Montaverde.
We next reached the Waterfall Hanging Bridge as the rain let up and the sun started to poke through the clouds. By now it was very humid and we were all pulling off rain gear to try and cool down. As we crossed the bridge, Tony pointed out some very unusual foliage sticking out from the palm, which Tony said was named the “sexy palm”. The foliage smelled fabulous and was thick with bees.
We then started a slight decent down and across the Keel Billed Toucan bridge before reaching the Mistico Hanging Bridge, where Tony pointed to a stone staircase adjacent to the hanging bridge and told us we could climb down to take a look at the waterfall.
We all ended up hiking the short trip down the rock staircase to a nice little waterfall pouring down out of the dense foliage. Then it was back up the staircase and across the bridge before walking through some dense forest to the walking palm bridge and then crossing through the Jumping Pit Viper Tunnel, a short aluminum covered tunnel.
Next up was the Fer de Lance Hanging Bridge, the second to last hanging bridge, which was being worked on … YIKES. Apparently a tree had fallen on the bridge and damaged it, but Tony said it was safe. And I made it across so I guess he was right.
We then crossed the Olingo bridge at which point, Tony spotted a HUGE tarantula, which I politely declined to look at, however, the little kid in the group behind us was over the moon excited to see it.
The next two bridges were the Crested Guan Bridge and the Tarantula Bridge followed by the last hanging bridge and as it turned out the longest bridge of the hike, the Tayra Hanging Bridge at 97 meters long. And of course no hanging bridge would be complete without seeing a baby eyelash viper. It was bright yellow and curled around a tree branch half way across the bridge. And yes, it can be deadly.
So with the bridge hike done, we stopped for a quick mid morning fruit break (pineapple and watermelon), enjoyed the antics of a coSri, shook our heads at the crowds of buses and vans now in the parking lot (yay for early starts) and got ready for the next hike.
We took a quick detour to pick up another couple before heading off to the Arenal lava trail. The drive took about 20 minutes and before we knew it, we were climbing out of the van into brilliant sunshine. Unfortunately, the volcano was still surrounded by a lot of cloud, but the view was improving.
Now I am not sure what I expected from the hike, but this was not it. The 1 ½ hour hike was straight up, and I really mean straight up, and over loose lava stones. I immediately had flashbacks to the Galapagos where I fell on lava rocks and cut open my leg on my way down from hike up a hillside. (Still have the scar to show for it.). Fortunately, we had been given hiking sticks which were an immense help in the hike over the very sharp lava stones.
Now the Arenal Volcano was dormant from the 1500s until 1968 when it erupted killing over 100 people. The volcano remained active until 2010 and is once again in a resting phase. In the mean time, the rich volcanic soil has been a boon for all sorts of vegetation and in particular orchids, bromeliads and liken.
As we hiked up the volcanic rock, it was really interesting to note the difference in vegetation. Where 1968 lava had flowed, older growth vegetation had taken root, while newer areas of eruption had much smaller plants, including a lot of one day lillies.
The climb up also gave us terrific views over the valley and all the way to Arenal Lake. In addition, we could see the green covered algae hot water flow from the underground springs that feed the areas numerous hots springs and spas. And yes, the algae is filtered out before people jump in.
We eventually reached the top of the trail and spent a few minutes resting and taking pictures in front of the volcano, which was now much more visible, before taking the brutal hike down. And when I say brutal, I mean lots of loose stone, steep steps (a giant must have designed the steps) and narrow turns making it at times treacherous to take a step. Fortunately, I had on my trusty Merrell hiking boots, but everyone else was wearing tennis shoes. Clearly no one read the instructions to WEAR HIKING BOOTS. One lady kept twisting her ankle on the stones and by the time we reached the bottom was walking very gingerly.
Anyway, with both hikes done it was time for some lunch. As we set off, we made a quick detour at the end of the road as someone had reported that there was a sloth with a baby nearby. Once at the site, we hoped out of the van and I immediately spotted it overhead. The baby was curled up to the left of momma and momma was upside down with just a bit of her nose visible. I just can’t get a damn picture of a sloth looking down at us.
Anyway, after the sloth site, we drove about 25 minutes back through La Fortuna to a little village on the other side where a local family hosted us for lunch at their farm (which appeared to be a partnership with the guiding company). We were served a local meal of tortillas, black beans, chicken, minced salad and baked plantains. It was quite good, but I was so tired, all i wanted to do was nap.
We left the little farm at just a about 2:00, stopped at a local farmer’s market for a quick walk around before I was dropped off at my hotel. It had been an enjoyable day, but I was ready to get back to my little casita for a rest and some relaxation in my hot tub. (Yep, my room has a deck with my own hot tub.)
Sadly, tomorrow is my last day in La Fortuna, but it is going to be a fun day floating down a river and hanging out at one of the hot springs. After all the hiking today, I need the break!