Sunday, June 14, 2009

Driving around Laguna Arenal, Costa Rica

We drove our car around the lake the entire day on Sunday. We took the main highway (one lane each direction, so more of a country road) almost all the way around. We couldn't finish because the road was destroyed by the last eruption (1968) and still hadn't been fixed! Our original plan was to drive toward a couple touristy areas the guidebook suggested, try to check out the caves at Venado, then finish driving around the lake. Almost none of this happened, but we ended up having a great day anyway!

We headed to Venado, which was up in the mountains surrounding the lake, to check out the caves. Venado was 17 km away from the main highway, up the craziest road I have ever been on in my life. We took 1.5 hrs to go about 3 km toward Venado and 3 km back - I couldn't believe it! The road was not paved and had huge holes and rocks on the entire thing. The trip was super bouncy and all Gonzalo and I could do was laugh about how crazy it was! We stayed in mostly first gear the entrie time, only going into second a couple times and once into third gear on the plateau of the hill (but the road was still rocky and holey). We ended up giving up and not visiting the caves. The drive back down was easier, and super beautiful with great panoramic vistas of the lake and volcano. It seemed really a lot like Alpine lakes from pictures, just with tropical foliage.

We stopped at an art gallery with lots of cute things, and the owner was a German woman who had lived there for years. Gonzalo slyly mentioned that I spoke German, so I ended up talking to the lady a bit about our trip in German. I kept getting things confused with Spanish, though, because I had been speaking Spanish for four days by then! At least she said I have a good accent (though I'm sure I pronounced a few things with a Spanish accent which was weird when I thought about it).

One of the coolest things about our ring-around-the-lake was the wind farm. You can read more about that here. When we were about 2/3 around the lake, we stopped to chat with a street vendor selling curios (I got a blue, sparkly wrap around skirt!). He was the one that informed us that we couldn't go the entire way around, but suggested we go down to a hotel right on the lake and go swimming. We ended up going there and I took a quick dip in the bay, but the water wasn't as clear as I'm used to, so I got a little unsure and got out after a few minutes (how embarrassing!) We ended up eating at that hotel too, fresh fish from the lake! Yum!

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