Sunday, 22 February 2009

Arenal Volcano


This Time Last Year

A travel day. Up at 7am, taxi at 9am, arrive at airport 10, queue until 11 and find out that I'm allowed to fly on the earlier 2pm flight. Fine. Gives me more time at Houston.

And then the flight was delayed an hour anyway!

At Houston it takes me two hours to get through Homeland Security. Just how many time do you want to take my fingerprints?

Customs make a fuss with a bottle of duty-free I have. They confiscate it and then insist I have to check-it in which means I have to pay $10 to pack it! Great.The bottle only cost me $15 dollars anyway. But it's a gift for the rest of the crew and we'll enjoy this by a camp-fire on top of a mountain somewhere. So I'm determined to go through this whole stupid process. I have to go in and out and back in through customs to do this ... and I'm taking my shoes off all the time too. Complete and utter madness.

I just about make it to the Chihuahua flight and meet Jim, Adriana, James and Catherine at the gate.

It's a short two hour flight on a small plane. Poor Jim has to fold his legs up to fit!

When we arrive at Chihuahua all our luggage comes through except my duty-free. Great. I kick up a fuss and make everyone wait. Eventually someone brings it out. I just get the feeling they were hoping I would say 'don't bother' and they could enjoy it themselves. They must have known what it was!

After a short taxi drive we arrive at our hotel. It's fine enough. We have a couple of beers and crash out.

This Time in 2007

Up at 5.30am in anticipation of an early breakfast before being picked up at 6.30 for my early morning walk in the Cloud Forest. No breakfast was available in the hotel though so I got a coffee and cake at the road-side stall across the street.

The van arrives to drive us out of town on the bumpy dirt road. We are going to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest. We arrive about 7am and have time for a coffee before donning Wellington Boots for the walk. Our guide was Jorge and we were joined by Cecilia and Nicola from France, and by Richard and Mae from Quebec.

Outside the reserve entrance we observed a row of humming-bird feeders and saw four different species here before stepping into the forest. Although the walk through the forest was very enjoyable we didn't, in fact, see very much bid-life. The recent bad weather had apparently forced many of the birds down the mountain. This included the famous Quetzels. The guide also pointed out a sloth but it was way too high in the canopy to appreciate.

Back at the Park Headquarters I had an early lunch before setting off on a walk of my own in an attempt to photograph some butterflies. In this I was quite successful and saw several new species (for me!), although it was not a big return for a walk of three and a half hours. However I was lucky to get some good clear views of the Arenal Volcano which is usually shrouded in cloud.


Back at the Park HQ I had to wait for a group to come out of the forest before catching the bus back to town.

At the hotel I cleaned my boots before having a couple of beers and relaxing.