Laguna de Hule and some near death experiences…..

For our second day in the Poás area, we decided to visit Laguna de Hule, a caldera lake.

We’ve worked out that privately-owned tourist attractions in Costa Rica are not at all cheap, particularly in £ terms with £/$ currently down in the low 1.20s (tourist attractions and hotels are priced in US Dollars rather than Costa Rican Colones, which you need for smaller purchases – food etc). We’d considered visiting the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, but $42 each seemed a bit steep ($84 is currently about £68), particularly as it didn’t seem to have anything completely unique. We’ll have to pay up at some point to do various things – guided night walks and the like – but we’ve got 6 weeks so we can afford to pace ourselves a bit. Laguna de Hule got great reviews from a couple of online blogs that mentioned it, and best of all it was free….

First things first, though…. I should mention Mark’s breakfast experience. At this hotel we got a served breakfast (a plate of fruit then scrambled egg plus other items that changed daily) rather than a buffet; on this our second morning, Mark’s breakfast included  some soft white cheese (which I didn’t get, being allergic to cows’ milk). Mark decided that this cheese was very good, and that he would ask Mucho Gusto (as he’d taken to calling him – see previous post for an explanation) what it was so that if he saw it on a menu anywhere he’d know to get it. Mucho Gusto explained that he has to do a lot of different things around the place, and that includes making the cheese…. We’d seen a cow and a calf in the garden; presumably he milks the cow as well between reception, waiting-on and cheese-making duties……

Back to Laguna de Hule…. it was very quiet…. no tours go here as it’s 6km along a bumpy track. We parked at a restaurant at the top of the caldera as recommended online (which cost us a couple of quid; no money-making opportunity seems to be missed here) and walked down to the laguna. We’d seen that there were some silly videos on YouTube showing folk struggling in 4WD vehicles; luckily this turned out to be exclusively the parts we walked down so we had no problems at all in Ronnie (Mark named the car Ronnie the RAV4 in honour of the Thorntons Ronnie the Reindeer he bought from Alcampo last winter for the princely sum of €1: with hindsight perhaps he should’ve named it after something with a slightly longer expiry date…..). We only saw one other group of visitors: as we approached the laguna a group of 4 ladies was heading back uphill with towels over their shoulders having been for a swim.

Mark on the walk down:

Crossing a small stream (he was supposed to be turning round to have his photo taken but got distracted by a huge blue butterfly that fluttered past):

At the laguna:

We saw lots of different butterflies, an egret, a kingfisher, and some small brown lizards with bright green stripes down their backs…. On the drive back we did also see a group of coati by the side of the road:

All trips have their challenges, and this was the point at which Mark decided that he was ill…. He’d asked if my legs were OK when we’d got back to the top of the caldera, and on my answering Yes, had said that his had gone all wobbly. At first I thought that maybe the heat had got to him a bit…. I realised that he was properly unwell when we got back to the hotel and I handed him the room key and told him to head on in; I’d bring all the stuff out of the car. He disappeared without a murmur of protest…. By the time I got to the room he was already huddled under a blanket and looking a shadow of his usual self:

Mark was dead to the World until mid-evening, when he decided that a coffee might do him good. I trotted up the the restaurant to fetch one and found Mucho Gusto not really acting himself. Indeed, the next morning he was missing. Was this a coincidence or was he too going down with the mystery (possibly cheese-related?) lurgy?  Mark definitely wasn’t well…. he turned down any food and (horror of horrors, for the first time EVER) decided that he couldn’t manage any beer either….. As you can no doubt imagine, I was then very surprised / relieved that he did manage to survive the night, declaring himself much better the following morning (but not wanting to risk any breakfast).

We packed up and set off towards our next base, the touristy little town of La Fortuna near the Arenal volcano. Mark seemed OK during the journey, but half-way there, as we trundled downhill through the decidedly non-touristy town of Aguas Zarcas, Ronnie died. The brakes started to feel very spongy all of a sudden…. By the time I’d pointed out to Mark that all didn’t seem well and we pulled into a restaurant car park, they were as good as not working at all….. I wasn’t surprised when Mark jumped out and reported brake fluid dripping happily onto the floor under Ronnie (I did very nearly ram my car into a gatepost at home a couple of years ago when I came back from a trip, jumped in, and set off, unaware that in my absence, the brake fluid had all leaked out onto the drive meaning that my usual speedy manoevre out onto the road no longer had any braking component between accelerating out of parking space and turning through the gates…. a very scary half second or so as many pound signs flashed before my eyes……). We were lucky that Ronnie’s demise happened when it did as we’d been down some pretty steep gradients / hairpin bends earlier in the morning… that could’ve ended very messily indeed……

Europcar were fine. We rang them at around 11am and the guy we spoke to said he’d talk to his supervisor and they’d ring us back to let us know what they were doing. They rang back at 11.30 to say they were sending out a replacement car, the mechanic was already on his way, and he’d be with us in 3 hours. Sure enough, just over 3 hours later, two guys from Europcar showed up and swapped cars with us. No pressure then – they had to fix Ronnie in the restaurant car park before they were going anywhere…. and presumably they may then have had a 3 hour drive to get back to base…. They wasted no time at all in unloading their gear and getting to work….

We’ve now got a silver RAV4 that Mark has christened Reggie…

Ronnie the Rav4 lasted 4 days. We’re hoping that Reggie the RAV4 will do better……

We arrived at La Fortuna without further incident. It’s very very touristy, especially compared to our forced stop at Aguas Zarcas where we were definitely the only tourists in town. Mark has come over all hot and cold again, but he was hunting down empanadas in Aguas Zarcas and has had a meal this evening / is on his third beer of the evening, so I’m feeling reasonably confident that he might survive…… We haven’t decided yet in which order to tackle our planned activities in this area. The top of the volcano was shrouded in cloud when we arrived so the plan is to wait until tomorrow morning and see what the weather brings before deciding whether to head for the National Park or some caves….