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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

The Road Less Travelled

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

So in addition to steepness, speed bumps, gravel, slow drivers, potholes, road erosion, drop off cliffs and fog... I have now discovered I also have to worry about mud! Bring it on!

Dodging potholes has become my new drive-it-till-it-drops Atari game.

I'm getting good. Just a few more levels and I'll be pro.

I'm just waiting for that flat tire. I know it's coming... it's just a matter of time. Deep down inside, I'm just positive that it will happen at the most inconvenient time. It'll be dark, I'll be lost, I won't have any gas and my phone will be dead. I know it.

It's comin'...

There is no way I could drive DAILY on these roads and NOT expect it.

I had the day to while away in Arenal... and I had seriously considered hiring a guide for a trek. There was one I was interested in and it took me to the La Fortuna waterfall. The only real deterrent was the fact they wanted $75US in order to sign up. This, to me, sounded absolutely outrageous. That was nearly $100 Canadian for a two hour hike. Of course, I think I probably could've benefited from the knowledge of a trained guide... but come on. I could get an online diploma in horticulture and animal science for less.


As I'd already been on the night walk, I considered myself quite well-informed (temporarily) in the flora and fauna of the forest.

I also had my own wheels.

That's right... my own wheels. So I drove myself.

I pulled right up to the La Fortuna biological reserve reception.

I parked my Bird.

I paid my $18US entrance fee. *still expensive, I might add.

I walked 500 steps, through gorgeous, tropical wet forest, down to the base of the majestic falls.

I took a lot of photos of this impressive 75 meter cascade.

I ooh'ed and aah'd with everyone else.

I walked the 500 steps back up to the top, huffing and puffing the entire way, cursing myself for not being in better shape.

I bought a couple token souvenirs.

I got back in my car and I drove away.

It was a must-see for Costa Rica... and I must-saw.

I also saved myself $57US.

It's a real thing down here... charging you to hike. It's almost as if Costa Rica is cashing in on every possible situation. Every trail has a registration office, or a kiosk, or some chap standing there, waiting to ensure you've paid your exorbitant fee in order to be permitted on the trail. I intend to do something similar as a summer job, when I return home. I will position myself in random locations throughout the lower mainland, and ensure everyone who is wanting a little bit of exercise and fresh air, has paid their dues... to me. I can understand the necessity of a donation box... or even a small contribution to the maintenance of the trail... but a lot of these excursions, whether 5km or 1km... OR LESS, are upwards of $20US per trail.

Makes for an extravagant mosey.

When you take into account ~ the spiders, the snakes, the bullet ants and other assorted nasty bugs, the jaguars, the pumas... and in some locations, the crocodiles... you really are. in essence, paying to play your very own Hunger Games. It's survival of the fittest.

NOT to mention the danger of the mud and the slippery rocks...

Soon I'm not going to be able to afford to hike. Never thought I would say that!

I wonder what a month's gym membership is?

With my newly acquired funds/savings, I decided to treat myself to a Sangria and some tacos. Almost immediately, as soon as I sat down and made my order, the heavens opened up and it teemed down with rain. It was the kind of rain similar to that of someone standing over your head, pouring a bucket of water on you.

The streets were flooding. The rain was pounding the pavement with such aggressive force, and I just sat back… sipping on my Sangria... and wondering if it might stop before I had to get back into my vehicle.

For a very, very brief time, the rain held off, allowing me to scurry back to the Bird and head back to my jungle oasis. I had a bit of a headache, developed from the stress of wanting to throw every single piece of electronical equipment I had, into the river.

If it could collapse or crumble or muddle or mess... it did. Cord, charger, computer, wifi, phone, app, document ... you name it. I could no longer deal with the burden, the confusion or the complexity... so I turned it all off. There was really nothing else left to do, but lie down in the middle of the afternoon and let the rain put me to sleep.

And that is exactly what I did.

Remember the article I wrote about inviting stress along on my vacations?

I take that back.

All of it.

The next morning, I packed up and left my wee bunglow haven. I had decided to head in the direction of up... like a true Costa Rican now! Up, I shall go... and then up some more.

Up... but more as in up/north. I was on my way to a place called the Vocaré Finca Agroecoturística, just outside Upala. Long word... looked kinda cool in the pictures, and it seemed a perfect location for a stop over on my way north.

I wanted to see the volcano. All I'd had heard was "... gotta go see the volcano!" The most popular volcano in all of Costa Rica? Damn straight I had to go to this famed attraction.

Well, off I went.

I had done a little looking around at different hikes in the area, with particular emphasis on viewing the volcano... and I found 'Arenal 1968 Volcano View and Lava Trails' hike.

What they promised?

"Whether hiking through the Lava Flow trail from 1968´s eruption, traversing into the rainforest and deep nature or celebrating your special occasion, enjoy a remarkable occasion filled with scenic beauty in our 360° viewpoints of the Arenal Volcano, accompanied by the breathtaking Arenal Lake."

What did I get?


A lot of clouds.

*if you don't believe me... I have included photo evidence.

And yes, of course I had to pay. This one was only $17US and it was 2 hours. So if you convert that into Canadian, it works out to 18¢ per minute.

I'm going to get home, broke, and people are going to wonder why I'm so broke.

"Spent all my money on hiking, man."

Guess I better have the buff legs to match my debt.

The sun was out for about 80% of the hike... and beside the fact I couldn't actually see the volcano... one single bit,.. everything else was top-notch, fabulous… including the panoramic view of Arenal lake. I don't think I have ever walked on a lava trail, so that was a new thing for me. In the entire 2 hour trek, I only ran into two other couples on the trail, so I pretty much had the entire hike to myself.

There went any anticipation of buffers. My cunning plan of having others eaten or bitten before me, was tossed out the window.

The cheese stood alone.

So... no volcano... but perhaps it gives me something to look forward to NEXT TIME I'm in the area? Positive thinking...

I realize it gets a little monotonous with the never-ending rainforest photos... but I assure you, there is no possible way to escape an attempt of capturing every possible moment! Being submerged in such a lush and vibrant atmosphere, is so incredibly breathtaking. You just want to wrap it all up and take it home, so you can relive it all, time and time again.

The other 20% of the hike... well, the weather was torrential rain... again. When they tell you it's rainy season, believe them. It started with such strength and dominance, that before I even had a moment to consider pulling my jacket out of my backpack, I was thoroughly drowned.

There was nothing to do but keep putting one foot in front of the other... in all its muddy, slippery glory.

Once I was safely in the comfort of my Bird, I did my best to dry off and then I pulled back out into the road to continue my day's adventure. I followed the lake for quite a while, and then decided to make my own path. Waze, the phone map app, was having none of it... for reasons I would soon discover... As much as the app kept trying to turn me around and take me back to a primary (or secondary) road, I insisted to cutting my own path!

I took the scenic route... which could better be described as the boulder road, in the middle of nowhere.

This was not a Waze recommended route.

How do I get myself into these situations?

I kept reminding myself that I was brave... and capable... and independent... and an adventure seeker... and quite stupid, if you wanna get down and dirty.

Here I was, thrashing along a back 40 gravel track... in my rental... alone... zero to no four-wheeling experience... no wifi... gas getting low… and only a downloaded phone map app to keep me on course.

Fog and potholes, be damned.

I got this.

Very rarely, for almost 2 hours, did someone pass me. They would slow down and give me a little wave, probably thinking, "where the fuck is she going???"


Well, I was headed to Vocaré Finca Agroecoturística... and that was down another remote road altogether.

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