All the time we were travelling around the lake the brooding presence of the Arenal Volcano loomed over us shrouded in clouds. The closer we got the more magnificent it appeared and we hoped that we would be able to get a clearer view as we got closer.
As ML and I neared the eastern end of the lake and the dam we were very surprised to find a group of food stalls just before the dam. These were packed with people who had just parked their cars all across the dam on the left hand side. Not to feel left out we found a gap and parked up.
There were people wandering about all over the road, some looking up towards the volcano, others photographing the lake behind the dam. We had stopped about halfway across so were in a perfect spot to look straight up the length of the lake. There were some boats on the water, we could see a structure rearing out of the lake we think it was something to do with the production of hydroelectricity. More strangely there were a number of people sat on the asphalt road in front of their cars having a picnic. It was very surreal.
We couldn’t see anyone fishing which is surprising because apparently it is well known for its rainbow bass and I know that you can go on fishing trips to catch them. Off to our left a fairly large crowd had collected to watch someone flyboarding, I’m not sure that they were very proficient but they did manage to rise above the water and move about before sinking back down but no acrobatics or high flying on this occasion.
We decided to head closer to the volcano and so we headed of onto the unpaved road which led into the Arenal Volcano National Park we drove through the park for a while on extremely bumpy roads (thank goodness for 4x 4). There were lots of places for visitors to stop to pick up trails within the park, but we kept going as we were heading for the Sky Adventure Park. This is just outside the National Park and offer the very adventurous the opportunity to go down zip wires, drift into rivers, you can trek through the rainforest, walk over hanging bridges. For hard core BMX riders you can ride down through the rainforest, jumping obstacles and racing over bridges.
For all of these adventures you start at ground zero better known as the Sky Tram, every adventure starts by taking the Sky Tram up to the top. There is a good viewing platform at the bottom as you are about 700m (2300 ft) above sea level so we were able to get some photographs of the volcano although the top was still shrouded in cloud.
You have a timed ticket for your ride in one of the open meshed metal gondola, the time of your ride depends on the adventure you are taking part in. All of those on our trip were taking the gondola both ways. It was a good job nobody was going to take the zip wire down as when the gondolas arrived at the platform a very upset girl got off wearing all the equipment for a zip line descent. She was as white as a sheet and clearly very distraught, I think it may have made some people think twice.
ML and I were going to sedately go up and come back down in the gondola, once upon a time ML would have launched himself down the zipline but now he’s happy taking photographs than being a daredevil. We were lucky to be in a gondola on our own so were able stand either side to get a clear view.
The guide told us about the plants and the trees that we could see and explained about how the rainforest changed and adapted. Every now and again we stopped where there was something interesting or unusual to look at. At one point we stopped by a tree, high up looking down at us and extremely cross that we were invading his territory was a Howler Monkey. He made his presence and displeasure known as he howled very loudly at us.
When we got to the viewing platform at the top we could see the beginning of the slope that the BMX riders descend and when we peered over the railings we could see the start of the zip line run. At Arenal from the top to the bottom there is a series of seven ziplines, the longest line is 760m (2493 feet) and the highest a person is off the ground when they are on a zip line is 200m (656 feet).
We watched the guides check the equipment, hook the person onto the line and send them on their way. Some of the zipliners were very quiet, others whoop and shouted as they set off. Lots of them had GoPro video cameras fitted to their helmets. I guess if you’re going to do something that spectacular then it’s a good idea to record it.
From the platform there were spectacular views of the lake and although the cloud and mist were returning I was able to get a couple of good shots. Unfortunately because of the clouds we could only see the base of the volcano, but you could make out the path of some of the lava flows down its sides. I’m sure that on a clear day the view must be spectacular. ML and I were just pleased to have been able to see it and have the opportunity to photograph it.
The return journey was quieter and due to a sudden shower not very conducive to photographing so we just sat and admired the rainforest. Looking down the line it felt as if we were in the set of a post-apocalyptic film, or TV programmes, everything was covered with plants except for the concrete towers that held the lines. You could imagine Will Smith in I Am Legend, appearing or the characters from the TV programme Revolution fighting their way through the landscape.
We found out after we got to the bottom that there wasn’t a road that would complete the trip around the lake and that we would have to turn back and go home the same way we had come. We got to see the large wind farm Tierras Morenas on the hills above the lake with its huge turbines turning in the breeze as well as one of the huge red and white striped air vents for the one of the hydroelectric plants.
We stopped off at the Tres Hermanas about an hour from home and had a very late lunch or an early dinner, it is one of ML’s favourite restaurants and if you are a meat lover it is worth a visit. For those of us who don’t want a plate full of meat there are alternatives and it’s always fun to see the ginormous statue of a cow and a monkey at the front of the restaurant. (They also have spectacularly clean toilets)
We were both shattered by the time we did get home and for once it was the alarm that woke us up the next day not the Howler Monkeys.