Okay everyone....pictures will have to wait as I am in an internet cafe right now. But I just had I think the most amazing and memorable weekend EVER. I don't know how to put the emotions into words, but here's the overview:
I went on a trip the school organized to Volcan Arenal. To get there, we took a bus on the bumpy dirt road for about 2 1/2 hours, went in a boat across a big lake for 30 minutes, and in another bus for about 20 minutes. We couldn't see the volcano at all when we got there. We went to our hotel, which was pretty nice with pools and a restaurant, big beds and jacuzzi baths-luxuries! We pretty much dropped off our bags and went to lunch and then a hike near the base of the volcano called El Silencio. When we got there it was clearing up so we could see a lot of the volcano, though not the top. It turned out that different people in our group emphasized different parts of "nature hike"-I was all about hiking, others all about mountains. This guy Andrew (surfer type from California) and I hit it off talking about mountains, Mount Chirripo, etc. and got ahead of the rest of the group (flatlanders) and got to the scenic overlook first-we could even hear the volcano making volcano noises! Then we had a guided walk through the rainforest and saw toucans, some sort of white hawk (sorry dad), a toucan, and sloth, and MONKEYS! The (spider) monkeys were so cool!
After the walk, we went to some natural hot springs. I felt like I really deserved them, after the hike and horseback ride the previous day, which I have not posted about, but I was really sore the next day. The springs were great. Also got to try the local spirit, in a "Guaro sour." It is the best thing I have ever had! I'll make some when I get home and throw a party. Like drinking a sweet tart. Guaro is the local alcohol made from sugarcane. It was really relaxing and for a bunch of people just randomly thrown together from all over the world, we got along amazingly well. There was a group of 4 of us-myself, Rachel (from England), Patrick from Texas and Andrew from California that got along extremely well and we had a blast together-the trip wouldn't have been the same with anyone else. After the hot springs we headed back to the hotel for dinner. It was dark out and we could see lava from the volcano! It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, I think. It wasn't flying too high in the air but it was just amazing. We could see it while we ate, too, because it's one of those open air places with only a roof. After that and then went to a club. The 80s and 90s are all the rage here....Patrick and I had to practice our new salsa skills to some early 90s song! It was hilarious. I was also whisked away by one of our guides' friends to actual salsa music. I had no idea what I was doing but apparently that doesn't matter when the other person is good at leading. Funny, I have never in my life danced in a club in the US. It's either the salsa dancing, or the guaro. ;) At any rate, it was a good time.
When we got back to the hotel, the same 4 of us sat outside and talked, and watched the volcano in the distance. I feel so lucky that it was a clear night and we were able to see it! The next morning, we got up and after breakfast headed out to our hike at "Catarata La Fortuna." It is a 70 meter high waterfall! We saw it from above (pictures to follow, hopefully tomorrow) and then walked down...the whole walk down was stairs. We got to see the waterfall from the bottom, and then swim/wade in the river. It reminded me of going to Eldorado Springs as a kid, except the water was deeper with strong currents. And it was so cold! After getting used to it it was pretty fun and we staked out some rocks in the middle and did some sunbathing. A girl on the shore was supposed to take pictures of us but she must have used someone else's camera because I don't have them! Eventually our guide made us leave and we had to go back up all those stairs. The hungover portion of our group (from the club-I have a definite advantage due to altitude...and not taking shots of guaro!) was not very happy. When we got to the restaurant our normally rowdy group of about 9 was silent, some of us had our heads on the tables! A combo of sun, water, hiking, and it was really hot there. After that we headed back to the hotel. People from all 3 campuses came and some were transferring over the weekend so everyone had to get onto different buses to go back. It was really hard saying goodbye! I have been totally amazed at how quickly I have made friends here, and the kinds of friendships they have been. Rachel I have known only for a week but I was almost in tears saying goodbye! She is someone I will definitely keep in touch with, and feel comfortable calling if I ended up in England and needed a place to stay. And Andrew and I are definitely going to get together when I go to Playa Flamingo next week. We even talked about climbing Mount Chirripo together. Patrick came back to Monteverde with me and we've been hanging out too. We found out that our "Mama Ticas" (Costa Rican moms) are sisters!
Anyway I know this post cannot capture the emotions of the trip (like a camera can't capture the beauty of things, but gives you an ideas but it was absolutely amazing. I filled 9 pages of my travel journal (thanks mom!) and still haven't captured it, but I don't think it's a weekend I will ever forget. I am even wondering what it would take for me to change my ticket and stay here longer! I still have 4 weeks to go though, so we'll see. I am having a better time here than I could even imagine! I hope everyone at home is doing well...I do miss you guys, but I'm having an amazing trip too!