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Potholes and hummingbirds

Why come to Costa Rica? Wildlife and rainforests, volcanoes, coffee and chocolate. Don’t come to Costa Rica for the nightlife or smooth roads! Our drive to the region around Mount Arenal was long and winding and included a fair number of swerves to avoid enormous pot-holes. It reminded me of travel in the Irish Republic in the 1980s! But our trusty like steed got us to the ear-popping heights where we intended to spend the next few days. Our itinerary was varied: 1. taking in the breathtaking view - check; 2. observing some of the stunning birdlife - check; 3. bathing in volcanic springs - check; 4. white-water rafting - check; 5. hiking in the rainforest - check!

What we didn’t expect was the warmth of the welcome from Villa Decary and our hosts, Dan and Suzy, who treated us to a stunning breakfast each morning with stimulating conversation and looked after our every need. The view of Lake Arenal from the balcony in our room was magnificent and inspired us every morning when we woke with the dawn chorus. This felt like a luxurious retreat house where we were constantly surrounded by nature in its richest diversity. Such a pleasure to get out of the car after dark and be enveloped in the sounds of the forest to any an almost deafening pitch. Or come back to our room to almost trip over a frog the size of a football on the stairs. But the real treat was watching the various species of bird come to the feeding places each morning on which Suzy placed fruit. Euphonias, Kikadees, Tanagers - species I had never even heard of but whose beauty was truly captivating.

The local food was the other delight to be had. Moya’s Place and Gingerbread are two places we would definitely recommend in and around Nuevo Arenal. We went to Moya’s on Friday evening, when live music is a regular event and were not disapppointed by either the food or the entertainment. But the highlight was an evening in the company of Chef Eyal at Gingerbread. We were invited to be adventurous and let the chef bring us his choices and it was a feast and a half. I’m not sure whether it was the salad with carpaccio of tuna (if that even exists?) or the Boco Negro desert (like the most amazing Black Forest Gateau you have ever tasted!) that blew me away more, but the evening was incredible and fun. I reckon it was an evening like this that gave me the taste for further adventure, allowing myself to be talked into white-water rafting. That, or the hot volcanic water at Paradise Springs near La Fotuna had cooked my brain to a mush. Such an epic event deserves its own blog which will duly follow.

I don’t think this is the last we will see of Arenal ...

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