I lay awake at night pondering how we were going to see more critters. As it turned out, we didn’t even have to leave the hotel.
Tilajari Resort sits right on the bank of the San Carlos River. We woke up to the chattering sounds of birds. As we ambled to breakfast we could see the brown river glimmering just beyond a gently sloping lawn. The fruit section at breakfast was par excellence. It consisted of freshly squeezed tamarind and passion fruit juice, watermelon, pineapple, papaya, and an unidentified fruit. The unknown fruit was in a thick rind with a hard, brownish orange outer shell and a fleshy inner part. The fruit looked like clumps of gooey fish or frog eggs. The seeds were crunchy and slightly bitter. I’m a fan of trying everything at least once. However, when it came to this mystery fruit, once was enough. The rest of breakfast was decidedly less exotic, though I found out that 1) I still had a taste for fried plaintains and 2) Lizano went well with everything.
I soon caught on to the fact that we were not alone. The dining hall has no walls and opens right onto the lawn. The management had wisely staked long bamboo sticks just beyond the open side, onto which they hung remnants of the fruit we were having for breakfast. Needless to say the birds had a field day, and so did I. However, there was something else. Long gray-brown shapes were moving on the lawn. Soon they crept right up to us. Despite acting like semi-tame house cats, these iguanas looked downright prehistoric. Our waiter tossed one some papaya chunks and it tried to get its mouth around them, exposing a thick, fleshy pink tongue.
We ran into the Coopers at breakfast. Looked like they got the same package we did. Mr. Cooper complained about the drive up, which took them 5-6 hours.
Again I was completely preoccupied with the birds and iguanas, until I was gently reminded that we still had a volcano to explore. Volcán Arenal is Costa Rica’s best known volcano, with the classic and immediately identifiable conical shape. The drive to took us through La Fortuna, which was teeming with tourist traps. We scampered right through it and made a beeline for the Arenal Hanging Bridges. The steel-cabled suspension bridges let you walk among the tree tops. Needless to say, the view of the wildlife and landscape from above was spectacular. There was some steep sections, so the refreshing cascades at around the mid-way point was particularly welcome. Along the way we encountered lizards, a couple of poison dart frogs and quite a few birds. We saw some kind of finch bouncing around in the bushes like a maniac, all the while making a loud clucking sound. A local worker pointed out to us an eyelash viper, which we would never have discovered by ourselves. Last time I was here, we even saw a sloth.
For lunch we decided to skip La Fortuna and head for Nuevo Arenal, a village which was formed when the original village was submerged during the creation of Lake Arenal in 1973. The drive along the lake was quite pleasant, with the water one one side and an alternating landscape of jungle and hilly pastureland on other. The guide book recommended the German Bakery. We didn’t even bothered with the GPS, as there were giant road signs reminding us about the place every 5km. The place was as advertised; i.e., mostly Teutonic. We had bratwurst, goulash and apfelstrudel for dessert. The last time I had goulash was in Vienna. While this incarnation was better, it was …still goulash. I guess I’m not yet a fan of Central European cuisine. Across the street was a convenience store whose proprietor claimed to speak English, Spanish, German and Persian. How convenient! We picked up a very good knife at the supermarket for $1.
Finally some relaxation after two travel-heavy days. For dinner we came back to the Tilajari Resort, because it was still the best we’ve had until that point. Grass-fed beef, it’s what’s for dinner.