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Jungle zip lining, river safaris and more – it’s Costa Rica Adventure week two!

by Lucy Bartlett

After a week sweating it out on the west coast, this week would be spent entirely inland in Bijagua de Upala where it was much cooler in temperature.

Once we arrived, we were taken uphill in a taxi to where we would be spending the next two nights at the Heliconias lodge. We were so high up, we were practically above the clouds. The lodges were based on 4 sharing and were fairly spacious. Ruth and Ishah spotted a sloth in a nearby tree not long after we arrived, but I’ll be honest, I couldn’t see it. Seeing a sloth was on my ‘to-do’ list, so I was gutted I couldn’t see it. However, there was plenty of time left to spot one so I wasn’t too disappointed.

The next morning, we walked down the very steep road into the village to grab some snacks from the supermarket. Even though we were thousands of miles away from home, I still managed to get a Dairy Milk bar, which despite being slightly melted, went down a treat.

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In the afternoon, some of the girls went horse riding while the rest of us got a taxi back up to the lodge. Not wanting to sit around, I went with Pricilla around the nearest rainforest trail. Half way through the walk, a massive tree obstructed the path, but we managed to sneak around it. It was sunny but also rainy. Although, the tall trees kept most of the heavy rainfall out so we stayed relatively dry. I actually got more wet getting back to the lodge than I did on the actual trail! We went to bed early as we had a 4:30am wake up call, as the bus would be early that morning.

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Our next destination was La Fortuna. We hopped off the bus outside a convenience store, which is where we were picked up by a private taxi to go to our accommodation. The place we were staying at for 4 nights was called the Essence Arenal hostel. It is around 40 minutes away from the town centre and you have to drive on rocky roads to get there, so prepare for the bumpy ride. It’s worth it though as the views are pretty epic. It didn’t take long until we jumped into the Jacuzzi, which overlooks the Arenal Volcano and Pueblo Nuevo Lake. I also spotted the most colourful parrot imaginable eating nuts outside the main building, which is even cooler when it’s flying.

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The owners of Essence are extremely welcoming and friendly. It’s worth me mentioning about the food briefly. All food is vegetarian, so meat lovers just have to get their fix elsewhere. They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner at a small cost, but it is worth the price. Their little but cosy kitchen also works out as a restaurant and was very popular with others staying at the hostel. As part of your stay, you are invited to help chip in on making the dinner. Don’t worry; you don’t cook all of it but help make a part of it. We also had the chance to get our washing done for us here, which we all made the most of. It was ready for us the following day and I don’t think any of us girls had ever been so excited for clean clothes as we were right then.

In the morning, we decided to explore the local area. The hostel actually considers itself a farm stay and there is a lot of open land to walk though. We even found a natural pool and a clearer man-made one. That afternoon, we were picked up to go to our safari float experience. We had 2 floats between all of us and the guides who told us all about the animals in the area, spotted them out for us and of course, guided us through the river safely. On our float experience we managed to get fairly close to both the howler monkeys and white-faced monkeys. The float experience was actually pretty therapeutic and is a great way of checking out the nature that inhabits Costa Rica. Do remember to put on some sun cream before you go, as most of us looked pretty red afterwards.

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20150813_142305The Friday was the most perfect chilled day. The morning was spent walking around the national park, which was a great opportunity to see the Arenal Volcano from a safe distant. Then, we went for lunch at a place called La Choza de Laurel. As I mentioned, the food was completely vegetarian back at the hostel, so I went straight for the burger option!

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There are many hot spring spas in the area, we headed to Eco Termales Hot Springs in the afternoon. The spa, which was very luxurious and modern, is made up of several outdoor swimming pools, naturally heated from the volcano. The water descends from one pool to the next. There is one tiny pool which is cold, so it is perfect to cool off in. The hottest pool is around the same size, but at 40 degrees, you don’t want to spend all day there! It so relaxing and I can’t really think of a better way to spend a Friday afternoon. We were booked in between 1-5pm, which was the perfect amount of time. They also serve really awesome drinks at the bar (the bartender even came to us for the first drinks so we didn’t have to get out. Amazing!) I do have to say, that the mojitos were especially good here.

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IMG_0270After the chilled afternoon, we headed back into La Fortuna to look around the shops. If you are planning to buy souvenirs, this is the place to buy them.

The following day, I had a little bit of a lie in as nothing was planned for the day. I spent most of the day lounging around, snoozing and reading my book. That evening, I went into town with some of the girls to look around the shops and get some food. After looking round the shops and collecting souvenirs, we ate at a place called Lava Lounge. Topped off with a mojito it is right up there as one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. If you ever find yourself in La Fortuna, I definitely recommend that you eat here.

The next day we left La Fortuna to travel to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. Once we arrived we were picked up in a taxi to head to our accommodation for the night, which was called Hacienda Pozo Azul. The place is made up of many tents, so we shared a tent in pairs. Each tent had two double beds inside them. The tents are fully protected from letting any bugs making an unexpected appearance and each tent has a toilet and shower, which is attached to the side of the tent. We quickly dropped off our backpacks ready for the zip lining!

We took a short taxi drive to the canopy, which is where we got suited for the activity. The zip lining is made up of several wires, which gets you from one side of the rainforest to the other. You go one by one, but one of the guys working there is always around to keep sure you are secured to the wire and that you finish each go safely. You are pretty high up, but when you are hurtling from one tree to the next, you really will be in awe of the views. On the final go, you zip line across the river and it is so much fun! Doing my first zip lining experience in the rainforest is something I’ll never forget.

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One word of warning: the trees do have bullet ants on them and you shouldn’t touch them as their sting is extremely painful, hence the name. Another word of warning: the lines are oily so don’t go wearing your finest clothes, as you’ll soon find yourself covered in black splashes and it doesn’t smell that great either!

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That night, we ate a buffet in the communal area before heading to our tents for the night. Even through my earplugs I could hear the chirping of the insects outside, but it was a really cool experience to spend a night in the jungle. In the morning, we were ready and excited to see what the Caribbean Coast had to offer on our final week!

Coming up, chilling on the Caribbean Coast, checking out the animal rescue centre and saying goodbye to Costa Rica. Check out the Costa Rica Adventure for more information on this awesome trip!

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