Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Frogs, butterflies and card games, oh my.
We had a lot of question marks when we woke up this morning. Where were we going to stay in Arenal? What were we going to do our last day in Monteverde? How much money was everything going to cost? I had no luck with my email enquiries so I kept looking. And when that got boring Adrian made the executive decision that we were going to visit the Ranario, or Frog Pond. Not only was it just up the hill and around the corner, it was one of the cheaper things to do that Ronnie highly recommended.
The Ranario was a mini zoo that had both a frog exhibit as well as a butterfly garden. We opted to see both starting with the butterfly garden. Our own personal tour guide led us through the 5 different butterfly enclosures. He was super knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the butterflies which made it very interesting. The enclosures were set in beautiful gardens and woods which the guide explained were only there to provide a steady stream of plants for the enclosures. Apparently, the caterpillars are such voracious eaters that all the plants have to be replaced every three months. And we saw some of that destruction in action as the guide pointed out hundreds of caterpillars munching on banana leaves, as well as multiple pupae, and of course butterflies of many different species. My favourites were the vivid big blue morphos (photo above).
The guide took us back to the main building and introduced us to another guide who took us through the frog exhibits. His English wasn’t as good as the butterfly guide’s so the information was limited. But he was great at finding the tiny frogs amongst the vegetation. Considering most were miniscule and very good at hiding that made him worthwhile. However, we were there during the day and most of the frogs were nocturnal so we didn’t see many. Good thing the entry price allowed us to come back in the evening to search again.
We headed back to the hostel just before it started to pour rain. Safely inside we set to work trying to find that elusive reasonably priced place to stay in La Fortuna/Arenal. Ronnie tried to convince us to take the tourist shuttle called the jeep boat jeep for $25 each but if our room was going to cost $50 that didn’t leave much money for sightseeing. Two American girls, Terri and Hina were similarly struggling. As I was searching I found one place that seemed almost too good to be true – it was only $20 a night for a room with a private bath. I told them about it and they immeditately booked it. I kept searching and discovered a super nice place near town on the lava side of the volcano, El Castillo. It would take a bit longer to get there but it looks awesome. There’s a fireplace, small pool and hot tub and all that for only $30 a night. It called itself a backpackers spa. Sold. Using the super slow internet, it took an hour to get the booking completed. But I finally got an email confirmation. I told Hina and Terri and they joked that I had been holding out on them. Well, after three days of searching I was just happy to have found something.
Now we had to figure out how to get to El Castillo. It was closer to Monteverde but we’d still have to go the long way around to La Fortuna, then take another hour bus to El Castillo. Tomorrow was going to be a long travel day regardless so we decided to just stick with the public bus even when Ronnie dropped the shuttle price to $20. Hina and Terri said they’d join us at 6am on the public bus. They were two high school science teachers and incredibly friendly that having them with us would definitely help pass the time. Unless, of course, the rain washed out the roads. As it continued to pour this seemed like a possibility, especially when the hillside across from Sleepers came tumbling down into the road.
When the rain let up slightly we headed into town for dinner and then back to Ranario to see the frogs in action at night. This time we were each handed a torch and told to go searching. Adrian and I surprisingly remembered all the different places each species preferred to hang out in and were able to find even more than our day trip. We felt like kids on a school trip but it was surprisingly fun. Who doesn’t like to runaround in a dark zoo with flashlights? Unfortunately, the dark meant it was very hard to take any photos but I gave it a good try.
Back at the hostel, Hina and Terri had managed to organize a bunch of folks from nearby hostels to come over and play cards. The plan was to meet at another hostel but apparently Ronnie was the only owner that allowed guests. So crowded around the kitchen tables were 5 Swedes, 2 guys from Northern Ireland, Hina and Terri, English Marie and I (Adrian was playing his PSP in the room). We played a round of Sh*thead otherwise known as A*shole, and something called Horseracing before it was lights out at the hostel. It was only 10pm but since Hina, Terri, Adrian and I had to catch the 7am bus to Tilaran, and the Irish guys were catching the 4:30 bus to San Jose, 10pm lights out was probably a very good thing indeed.