Mid-week we decided to make an overnight trip north to the vicinity of Arenal, famous for its active volcano. Guidebooks spoke of lava flows visible at night, and of molten rocks bounding down the slopes. It sounded exciting.
En route we stopped at a town called Zarcero, noted for the topiary in a park in front of its church.
The most elaborate was a monkey on a motorbike.
Even where the hedges had not been clipped into shapes, designs had been cut into the foliage.
The topiary was certainly more skilled than the sculpture of a local dignitary at the park entrance.
For me this little park turned out to be one of the highlights of our holiday.
The volcano at Arenal, however, turned out to be dormant - no molten rocks or lava trails for us.
We were not impressed with the noisy, dusty town of La Fortuna, at the base of the volcano, and chose to move on to the hamlet of El Castillo across the adjoining lake. After bumping down an impossibly rutted and potholed road, we found suitable lodging for the night.
The little cabins were definitely no-frills, but clean and quiet, which is all we require.
True to the advertisement, they had a great view of the volcano, although the cone was shrouded in clouds almost all the time.
Despite that, it certainly dominated the landscape. You found yourself ever watchful for one of the brief moments when the clouds parted and you could catch a glimpse of the very top. Michael sat outside and sketched,
while I sprawled on the bed, reading our guidebook, camera ready at my hand. The clouds swirled constantly so getting a clear shot was a challenge. This is the best I could manage.
Later, we took a walk up the steep hill on which our cabins were perched, and found a sign pointing to one of the last remaining kapok trees in the region. I remember having a pillow filled with kapok when I was a child, but I guess that market has been taken over by synthetics. The Costa Ricans moved on to bananas and coffee, and are now switching to African palms for palm oil.
Apart from one other couple, our accommodations were deserted, but that didn't stop the restaurant from serving up a delicious meal. They also had the best - and most powerful - margaritas that we sampled on the entire trip. We sat and sipped before dinner, watching hummingbirds among the flowering shrubs outside. I tried to catch one on film, a fairly futile endeavour. If you look very closely, just to the right of the bottommost yellow flower, you can see a scrap of iridescent green plumage.