In the jungle

Wednesday, September 20th 2000

It was a spectacular run through misty mountain forests and small villages, with an awesome thunderstorm erupting overhead as we passed through Ciudad Quesada. We arrived at Fortuna late in the evening, and found a place to stay. We noticed for the first time how quickly night falls in the tropics when we walked outside 20 minutes later to find it was completely dark. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and we could see no sign of Volcán Arenal, which was the reason we'd come here.

Volcán Arenal had caused no-one any bother until 1968, when it suddenly erupted violently, destroying a village and killing 78 people. Ever since then, though, it has been erupting constantly, with lava flowing out of its crater. Occasionally larger eruptions take place - just three weeks before we arrived, three people had been killed by an unexpected explosion. We were pretty much certain of seeing eruptions here, if only the weather would clear up.

The next morning was cloudy, though, so we hung around in town for a while, then went for a walk towards the volcano. No sign of eruptions, though, and we had not yet even seen the summit. We turned back as the afternoon rains began, and hoped for better weather the next day.

It was sunny the next morning, but still the volcano's summit was covered in cloud. Eruption watching was clearly out, so we decided to hike to a nearby waterfall. We set off early in the day, but it was still phenomenally hot, and it was an exhausting walk up a rough track for a couple of hours. Then thankfully the path went into the forest, where it was a lot cooler, and half an hour later we emerged from the jungle to find a cascade of water plunging into a blue pool. We cooled our feet for a while before wandering off down river. It was amazing to be right in the jungle, and the noise of all the cicadas was fantastic. After a few hours exploring, we decided to head back to Fortuna. When we emerged from the jungle, the clouds had lifted and the top of the volcano was visible, a plume of steam rising from the top.

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