Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rickey's Costa Rica Travelogue Part IV: The Quest for Arenal

Editor's note: fair warning, there is absolutely no way this post could ever be as entertaining as the last one. The only way we could top it would be by driving back to that farm, piling the farmer and his family into the car, and taking them with us for the rest of the trip.

The same day we came upon that washed out road that prevented us to getting to Mal Pais (I remember Erika saying "just so we're absolutely clear, we ARE NOT driving through that") we turned North and drove to the Arenal region, home of the world’s most active volcano. Along the way, we enjoyed a pleasant and thankfully uneventful drive through some of the country’s seemingly endless scenic areas. We drove around Lake Arenal to get to the volcano and marveled at this sight: I swear, I'm really a very mediocre photographer. This country just makes it too damned easy. Anyhow, upon arriving in the Arenal region, we found out that the place we wanted to stay was completely booked, and ended up crashing in a place called Linda’s, a mountain resort overlooking the volcano. That night, we feel asleep in our hotel room watching glowing red lava trickle down the side of the volcano. Sometimes lava rocks came tumbling down the side, leaving smoking trails as they went. Even from our distance of 10 kilometers away, we could still hear them crackle and tumble. They snaked down the side of the volcano like fiery caterpillars. Some as big as school buses, traveling at 70mph. It’s times like this when I’m kicking myself for not splurging on a digital SLR.

When travel guides say that you’re paying for the view, they had places like this hotel in mind. We could feel the mattress springs, the food wasn’t great, and there were tons of bugs in the room. But hey, you can put me in a 50 gallon barrel full of hissing cockroaches, and if I get to wake up to this view, then it’s well worth the $102 we paid for the night.The following morning, our adventurous nature got the better of us yet again and we went for a grueling hike in the Arenal Volcano national park. It took us a few minutes to realize that the fine gray dust that fell through the trees and irritated our eyes was volcanic ash.The sound of lava boulders rolling down the volcano was even closer than we'd heard last night. There were bugs like you wouldn’t believe, but the foliage was awesome. Birds and lizards were everywhere. We hiked up to a lava flow and walked around on it for a bit. I saw some sort of gopher-like creature dart across the trail in front of me. Must've been a jungle gopher. Hiking for those two hours, I saw a greater variety of shades of green then I’ve ever seen in my life. Just spectacular stuff.
Around midday, we collectively lost our minds and decided to go zip lining in a nearby preserve. This is the obligatory "before" picture. As you can see, things are relatively calm. The "after" picture shall go unpublished because it features me rigorously chain smoking in the parking lot. I heartily approve of any activity that requires one to look like this much of a doofus.

What zip lining entails is taking a sky tram up above the tree canopy, then flying high across a series of valleys on high tension cables held up by pulleys. You’d think that after the mud incident, we’d be toning things back a bit, but not so much. See, if we’d been terminally marooned in that awful mud patch, it wouldn’t have made much of an impact. People would just assume that we’d become agrarians or that the earth has simply swallowed us up. But plummeting to our deaths on a zipline suspended 800 meters above the tree line on a harness moving at 50mph? That would most definitely make the next installment of ‘When Shit Goes Wrong” on Spike TV.

So we signed the waiver and away we zipped down a series of 6 lines, each one more terrifying and exhilarating than the last. You know that unsettled feeling you get when your plane takes off or lands? This is similar to that feeling ...if you were hanging on to the wing of the plane. One line was over a half mile long. My mother will most likely have a heart attack when she sees these pictures.Just so we’re all clear on this, that posture you see me in is actually SOP for this crazy activity. In order to slow your 50mph approach, you do that air-braking thing to slow down and prevent yourself from slamming into the poll. Do it too early and you’ll get stuck in the middle of the line, dangling helplessly above the trees. The only thing holding you up is the high tension zipline, extending hundreds of meters and tied around a tree at each end. I shudder to think what kind of insurance policy a place like this has.

We capped off the exciting day with a trip to Fortuna, a funky little town that’s very gringo friendly, and grabbed a bite to eat at a local cafĂ©. Erika even made a new friend. Sure he looks cute, but when Erika didn’t give him a bite of her food, he swiped his claws across her back and sulked off, no doubt to sew his wild feline seed. Even the cats in this county are dangerous. Such is the plight of the third world--in the absence of a Latino Bob Barker, nobody thinks to neuter or spay their pets.

That night, we checked in to a neat joint on the other side of the volcano called Montana De Fuego. Lava flows aren’t visible on this side of the volcano, but the digs are much cushier.

We started off the next day by timidly venturing into the car rental agency to discuss the possibility getting some sort of replacement car. Perhaps even one with functioning breaks and the ability back up, two features sorely missing on our Grand Vitara. Now I completely expected them to hold my balls over an open flame for the variety of mechanical problems that this car was experiencing following the mud incident, but no, they simply swapped us out for a new car and assured us that our rental deposit wasn’t in jeopardy. No questions asked. Life is good.

It's... ...A NEW CAR!!!We spent the afternoon at Arenal’s other big attraction: the hot springs. We found this amazing spa/hotel simply known as “The Springs” that takes sulfuric water heated by volcanic vents and pumps it out into a series of pools, ranging in temperature from 90 to 103 degrees and chock full of minerals and all sorts of good stuff. The rules here are simple: you sit in the pools and under soothing warm waterfalls, letting yourself get massaged by the force of water for an undetermined amount of time until the worries of the world are erased. Now I’m not one to make dubious medical claims, but had FDR vacationed here instead of Warm Springs, there’s a good chance his polio would’ve been cured and he’d be President of the United States this very day. This stuff is that good. Imagine sitting in a warm soothing bath for 6 hours—it’s phenomenal, and yes, it definitely does aid the circulation and help to reduce stress levels. If I was any more relaxed, I’d be back in the womb.We’re definitely going back tomorrow, because honestly, this is how a honeymoon is SUPPOSED to be, right?

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Adam said...

I'm finally beginning to become jealous of you two now. Mazel Tov!

FYI- Since you've left the States, pretty much everyone has died. Death Pools are paying out like rigged slot machines up here!

Smitty said...

We zip-lined once in the Marines, during our mountain warfare training in Bridgeport, CA. Same concept as you outline, plus about 85 pounds of gear per person. It became Keystone Cops very quickly as some never slowed down and crashed, others slowed down too much and were bashed into by others still going quite quickly. It was not graceful. Nobody died, though, but that only meant that we even failed in killing someone.

At any rate, your trip is fascinating. This is a honeymoon for the record books. Is it true: every gringo who ventures to costa rica at some point says they're never coming back to the states?

Rickey Henderson said...

Adam: so who else has died? We watched bits and pieces of the MJ memorial last night... creepy stuff to say the least. Trotting the kid out there was a poor choice and the Brooke Shields eulogy made my skin crawl.

Smitty: tis true, the temptation not to come home is pretty powerful. It's gorgeous down here.

wfta said...

This Costa Rica place looks and sounds pretty nice. Have you seen any golf courses?

George said...

You are one gutsy man, to wear the t-shirt of a defunct airline while zip-lining. That's just tempting fate.

Rickey Henderson said...

wfta: Rickey wouldn't know... he's abstaining from golf. Last time Rickey was on a golf course, somebody almost got killed (but that's a story for another time).

George: wow, good catch. Rickey always thought the PanAm t-shirt was witty but in that context... oops.

Adam said...

Recent deaths: Billy Mays, Karl Malden (that's the first time you'll see those two names in the same sentence), Steve McNair, Robert McNamara, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon.

Abe Vigoda still lives.

George said...

Oh, the Mets' offense died, too.

Adam said...

Holy crap, Oscar Mayer died! There really was a guy named Oscar Mayer behind the bologna (the man behind the meat... I am so sorry for speaking on your blog, I embarrass myself constantly here). But yeah, age 95- the Bologna master is dead.

wfta said...

A lot of former big-leaguers take up golf. Rickey should not concern himself with collateral casualties. Getting out of bed carries a certain amount of risk.

Bob said...

Who is that attractive blond and why is she hanging out with that pasty dude?

Rickey Henderson said...

No clue--she must've just wandered into things... So Bob, does this mean you don't want to see rickey modeling for a swimsuit calendar anytime soon? Because one he gets the photos on to his laptop, it's happening. Fair warning .

Adam said...

Where's the beefcake photospread?

Haley said...

A better question might be why are you looking for the beefcake spread again?

Adam said...

Well, funny running into YOU here as well, eh?

Anonymous said...

Ahh, Rickey and the lovely Mrs. Henderson. Congrats on the exquisite travelogue of your adventures in the wild and exotic jungles of Costa Rica and beyond. You have shown great determination and an adventurous spirit that will take you far in life –beyond and around any other sinkholes that may temporarily impede your progress.

Now I presume that “Rickey” is your nom de plume as the real Rickey Henderson is darker than Van Gogh’s Night but alas, you, young Rickey, are even whiter (no mean feat) than the late king of pop, Mr. Michael Jackson, may he and his llamas find eternal peace in god’s own wonderland - Amen.

So Rickey, I surmise that you are an inquisitive sort and not without a certain, shall we say, genteel and boyish charm, and as such I presume you must also have a conversational knowledge of Yetiology – the study and science of those abominably large and mythical creatures, also known as Sasquatch, Momo, Big Foot and Piedone, who are said to haunt and troll the forests of North and South America and the Far Eastern Himalayas. But did you, Rickey, know that a similar being is said to exist in Costa Rica? Perhaps not.

From the Maleku and Borucas indigenous Indians, comes the legend of Pie-Grande. This mythical monster purportedly dwells in a cave on the northernmost side of the Arenal Volcano. Pie-Grande sleeps during the day, but once every month, at dusk, exits his lair in search of tufts of black chest hair from male humans, such as that little tuft you have, Rickey, as evidenced in your photos. Now you are probably thinking that it is only a wee bit of chest hair you have, certainly not enough to attract the attention of a massive being like Pie-Grande, but does any of us really know for sure? No, Rickey, it is always best to be on one’s constant guard and err on the side of being overly cautious; secure the screens and lock the windows and doors at night.

The shamans tells us that when the moon is full and appears like a large melon in the sky, Pie-Grande sneaks up on the hapless and typically sleeping victim and with one swipe of its mighty paw, and a prolonged bellow, severs the hair cleanly from the chest and then, satisfied, returns to his lair where it is placed on the ground in an ever deepening and softening heap. In fact, those who claim to have heard the sound of Pie-Grande believe his mantra, (very loosely translated from the native dialects as I am not an expert in that area), and uttered in a Vincent Price raspy monologue, goes something like this:

Fee Fie Foe Fum
I sense the presence of a human man
Be he alive or be he dead
I’ll swipe his hair to make my bed!

But do not fret young Rickey, for the legend also recounts that those who are brave of heart, strong in spirit (and perhaps foolish in mind), and who venture forth in search of Pie-Grande and manage to sneak up and surprise him while he is sleeping will be given a great treasure; but only if they can stare directly into his beady yellow eyes without blinking, even once. This treasure, young Rickey is rumored to be base #1,406 that the real Rickey Henderson stole and that Pie-Grande somehow managed to procure – a treasure worthy of you, young Rickey.

And with that, Mr. and Mrs. Henderson, I wish you both buen viaje, a safe and wondrous trip and may thoughts of recovered stolen bases permeate your dreams.

Adam said...

There's that insane "Anonymous" again... freakin' me out!!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh Adam, sigh - don't be so easily spooked; one must learn to expect the unexpected - Rickey knows that just from his adventures in CR.

Anonymous is good. Anonymous has things to say even if the line between fantasy and reality is somewhat indistinct. But then, isn't all of life really like that as well?

Anonymous implies Rickey's blog is receiving recognition beyond his small circle of friends. And if Rickey doesn't want Anonymous comments, he can always prevent that in his Blogger comment setup options.

So don't freak Adam, Rickey knows Anonymous - perhaps he just hasn't quite figured it out yet! :)

Jason said...

Hey great site!

I was wondering if you wanted to exchange links with us. Let me know if this is possible.



Adam said...

You're Rickey's dad, admit it.

Rickey Henderson said...

Rickey's dad wouldn't use a smiley face emoticon... This is somebody else. Possibly the Riddler.

Perhaps a facebook buddy. Definitely college educated. Based on the diction, it sounds like a female. Am I getting warm anonymous?

Sorry for the lack of CR updates by the way--no internet at the past few places we've stayed. I'll toss up a bunch of posts once we get home tonight/tomorrow.

Here's a brief update: last night we heard what I'm pretty sure was gunfire outside the hotel we were staying at in San Jose. Two sets of five to six shots. Didn't sleep much after that. It is now officially time to get the hell out of Costa Rica.

Anonymous said...

Rickey – eh - “based on the diction, it sounds like a female” – I don’t quite know what to make of that, first time anyone’s ever categorized my prose that way - hmmmm.

Perhaps this will help:

Find a 5 letter word that is a synonym for “tiered crown”

Those 5 letters when rearranged spell my first name but with one mistake, that is, one letter is wrong and needs to be substituted with a different one. If it is a vowel that is wrong, the substitution would be another vowel but if it is a consonant that is wrong, the substitution would be another consonant.

Cogito, ergo sum

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Tannia said...

I'm agree with you This country just makes it too damned easy. And of course, is so beautiful. Visit lots in costa rica to find a beautiful place.

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Imitrex said...
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