Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Costa Rica Part III: Baldi Hot Springs & Jeep-Boat-Jeep to Monteverde

Baldi Hot Springs


What better way to recover from a 10 hour, two volcano hike in the pouring rain? 

We thought doing it in this order was a no brainer. Hike first, hot springs after. The weather complied. It was a nice, overcast, cloudy day. We spent the morning waking up leisurely, made breakfast, and hung out with Sonia, our tour guide extraordinaire at Red Lava Tours, planning the trip to Monteverde on the "Jeep-Boat-Jeep" tour.

The tickets we had for Baldi were good for staying there all day, but Sonia suggested waiting until 3 or 4 to head over, since, as she put it, how long can you stay in the hot tubs? She was right. We got there at 4, and by 7 we had hung out in all (25) pools, and were thoroughly wrung out and ready to hang out dry. Not to mention hungry, and boy did that buffet look good! We paid $35 for entry fee and all-you-can eat. They charged $6 for use of a day locker, and a refundable deposit of $20 for a towel. Click here for the TripAdvisor review. Trip Advisor seems to be the ultimate in helping figure out your trip in Costa Rica. Almost every place we went to asked us to leave a TripAdvisor review for them. So we did! It's a good way to suss out options for yourself, although it can drive you crazy, sorting through all the b***s***.

This was the room we ate in. Swanky. Somehow I didn't get a picture of the dee-licious buffet!
Swim up bar, or walk up bar. Your choice! Could be dangerous...

We didn't bring the camera with us during the day, so we walked around after dinner to get a few shots.

The colors here changed every few seconds, and the football game was on tv. Here is Oz, doing a beautiful job modeling how AWESOME this place is!

Hot water pools, with hot waterfalls... Does it get any better than this? Look at those green leaves!

When can we go back?

This was a true tropical paradise... Way better than Disneyland...

The next day was the Jeep-Boat-Jeep "tour" to Monteverde. I would call it "Shuttle-Boat-Shuttle" as there was no jeep. The shuttle picked us up right on time in front of the hotel, and took us with a full house of other backpackers to the side of the lake. We "hiked" down a walkway to the boat and got ready for the ride. It was beautiful, in a cold and rainy sort of way.

Once on the other side, similar shuttles picked us up and ferried us all to our respective hotels and backpacker hostel resorts. We went to Savegre Inn, a place recommended by Sonia at Red Lava. It was the perfect sanctuary from the blustery winds. Teresa met us at the door with perfect English, and lo and behold, our room was like a treehouse, with amazing an view onto windy treetops. We had our own bathroom, and the shower, oh the shower with hot water and good water pressure! (It's the little things, I tell ya.) Cozied up in our room, with the winds howling outside, we were hesitant to leave, but the day was still young and we had things to do. Places to go. We only had this afternoon and tomorrow morning in Monteverde, so it was go-time.

Our cozy, cozy room.
We bundled up against the weather.
Braynor, the hotel manager, is young and motivated. He is SO EXCITED to share Monteverde with us. The rain does not bother him at all. We asked about a good place to eat, and he said he'd walk with us there, even though the weather was (to us) wretched and unpleasant. Good thing, because we might never have found it! The place was pretty good, and we ran into a couple there we had seen earlier in the day on the boat. We had been advised by Andres from the 2 Volcano hike to check out the Ficus in Monteverde, and Braynor said he would take us there.

So off we go for the infamous ficus. To get here it was quite a hike, up more hills, in a steady pouring rain, and off the road onto an unmarked trail. When I say, "quite a hike" I mean, it only took about 40 minutes, but we were kind of tired of walking in the rain! While initially doubtful about the cost-benefit to such a trek, we nonetheless followed the stalwart Braynor as he happily kept babbling on about volcanoes and wind, and how great Monteverde is... And what we found far surpassed any of our expectations!

View from the top! Some 100 meters up.
What you see here is that  the ficus grew up around another tree, that then died and disintegrated, leaving a hollow, tree-shaped column in the middle. Up into this column we squeezed and climbed, and this is the view from the top!  
Here we are, inside the bowels of the tree. You cannot be scared of heights or small spaces to climb up in here! And just as we started climbing, Braynor tells us that snakes like to hide in crevices, so if we see one, freeze! If they see movement, they will attack!
Totally worth it. The wind, the rain, the uphill trek.

On the way home we stock up at the grocery store, as we can cook in the kitchen. It seems that we are the only guests in the place. Kind of eerie... and peaceful.

Fabulous view from the dining room.

Oz as chef, cooking on this enormous oversized gas cooktop.

Backpacker special: Hambuergette with Monteverde cheese.
The next day we love the fresh fruit, coffee and toast provided, and take off for the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. We get a round trip taxi ride plus entry fee deal. All the hotels around Costa Rica seem to operate on some kind of deal with the various contractors, from taxi drivers, tour guides, equipment rental places, restaurants, etc. They must get a kick-back here and there, if they send their customers to a partner. I am used to this from travel in many other places in the world, and it's not offensive to me. I just make sure I ask around, read reviews, look at the guidebook, and take everything with a grain of salt. And if I'm not 100% satisfied, it's not the end of the world. We came here for the experience, and for that, we got what we came for!

Ok, I'm off the soapbox. The cloud forest was beautiful, quiet and relaxing. The hike was pleasant, and surprisingly well-maintained. A walk in the park, compared to the 2 volcano hike in La Fortuna. You could do this hike with flip flops if you felt like it. We used our Keens. Paved the whole way, with railings for the stairs, and signs that more or less pointed in the right direction. There were various options for self-guided hiking on well-marked trails. We took the 4.2k route, which is about 2.5 miles. The entry fee was $18 per person, including the taxi round trip. Overall, a nice budget option which doesn't have to take up the whole day. We were aiming to gt back to Savegre Inn by 2:00, and walk over to the bus station by 2:30 for the 3:00 bus to Puntarenas. We were to stay in Puntarenas for one night then leave for Manuel Antonio the next day, but... Check the next blog post for that story!

On our way out of town! (You can pretty much see the whole entire town in this pic, it's that small!)

All smiles at Savegre Inn! Oz, me, Teresa and Braynor
Overall, we had a good experience in Monteverde, despite the weather. It is such a tiny town, you can walk through it in half an hour. Then main attractions lie in the adventure tours that are touted every 10 feet, and shouted from the door of every store. Like La Fortuna, Monteverde has zip lining, canopy tours, horseback and ATV rides, etc etc. Go if you have the time! And ask around about the ficus...

We bought tickets for the bus out of town, and off we went! Adios Monteverde, it was a rad and rainy 24 hours! Next stop: Manuel Antonio.

Do you have questions? Comments? Please leave your message down below, I love to hear from you!

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