Thu 9 Aug 2007
We shook hands with the rental agent. “All right!” he said. “Let’s go take a look at your car.” As we moved from the desk to the door, the bright gray skies collapsed into thick darkness, dousing the parking lot with dense raindrops the size of fava beans. “Maybe not,” said the agent. He directed an underling to bring the car into the garage. An inspection, some cautions against fraudulent tire-changers, and we were off, cut loose to roam the narrow Costa Rican roads in a tiny yellow Suzuki. Our first destination was Arenal Observatory Lodge, a former volcanlogist outpost below the volcano,now converted to tourist accomodations.
To get there, we had to thread through green mountains and banana plantations for hours. In the rain, the tropical flowers and plants shimmered in well-landscaped yards. For a long time we lost the trail of pictographs with arrows we had relied on like Hansel’s breadcrumbs. Where the heck were we? The roads were alike and unlabeled, and we had made several turns. We went on awhile longer, finally reassured by the snarl of stalled traffic we encountered over a rise. No one was hurt. We shook our heads pityingly as we inched past an abashed truck driver whose trailer had tipped into the ditch. By the time we reached the town closest to the volcano, the sun had set and the heavy clouds created a starless darkness. We spotted a sign for the lodge, indicating a turn onto a dirt road. “<– 9 kilometers,” it said.
The insects were loud enough to overcome the rain and the rolled up car windows with their song, and trees pressed in on both sides as we drove deeper and deeper into the forest. This place was really, truly, in the jungle! We saw an animal like a racoon with round ears. Near the end of the road, a rippling sheet of water flared up in the headlights– we had to ford a shallow river. How cool was that. At last we reached the lodge, lights glowing yellow from the windows. Our room had cool tile, a ceiling fan, and a balcony overlooking a deep forested gorge. It was just steps away from a wide deck where we could sit bird watching in the day and volcano watching at night, but we were tired. We ate steak in the overpriced restaurant and then went to sleep.