Interview with Canoe & Kayak Magazine

So I should be posting about Europe, as that’s where I am right now, but instead I bring you my Costa Rica paddling film!

Here is an interview I did with Canoe & Kayak Magazine about the film, as well as paddling in Costa Rica

http://www.canoekayak.com/whitewater-kayak/before-they-disappear/

And here is the video itself

 

 

La Fortuna Travel Guide

OK, so this will be the start of what I hope will be many travel guides, but I think La Fortuna is an important start, because much of the information is geared towards travelers staying at all inclusive resorts and doing guided tours. Information for independent, solo travelers is much more scarce.

Getting There

There are lots of ways to get to La Fortuna, including renting a car (expensive) or taking a taxi (very expensive). But if you are willing to put up with some minor inconveniences for a taste of local flavor, the public bus is the way to go.

There are direct buses to Fortuna that originate from San Jose and stop in Alajuela. Remember that, because most places try to send you to San Jose first. You can get on a bus about a kilometer from the airport that goes directly to Fortuna. The one I got departed from Alajuela at around 12:15PM. Alternatively, you can get a bus in Alajuela that goes to Ciudad Quesada, and from there get on a bus to Fortuna. You’ll know you’re in Fortuna when you see a bunch of tourist traps and the bus driver stops at an actual station and says “Fortuna”. The public bus costs about six bucks, takes from 3-5 hours depending on traffic and what not, and is first come first serve, so expect that you might stand for part of the trip. Watch your bags. Seriously, watch them, anything that goes into the luggage bins below has a habit of walking off at busy stops.

Hostels

There are a number of hostels and backpacker lodgings in Fortuna. I stayed at Arenal Backpackers resort, which is one of the most expensive hostels at 15 bucks a night. But, it was the only one with lots of people, so that’s where I went. If you go at a busier time, or if you enjoy being solo all the time, you can go to the cheaper locations.

Arenal Backpackers is on the main road, if you turn left heading up from the bus station. It’s uphill at any rate, walking towards the Arenal Volcano. You’ll know you’re getting close when you see the Burger King sign on the right side of the road, about 100 meters up the road on the same side is Arenal Backpackers. The 15 dollars buys you sheets and a bed, but that’s about it. They have lockers you can lock yourself, an expensive bar and restaurant and a pool.

Food

Food runs the gamut here. For those looking for cheap local food, there are some pretty solid Sodas that sell good food cheap. My favorite was Soda Vazquez, where for about 2500 Colones (5 bucks) I got rice, beans, chicken, vegetables, fried plantains, and some kind of beets in cream sauce that were excellent, and I hate beets. I also split pizza with some friends at Latin Pizza, it’s the cheapest pizza joint in town. But don’t get the cheesy crust, it’s not worth it. For drinks, you can drink at the bar in the hostel, which is expensive, or if you’re willing to hoof it, you can go to one of the mini supers and get a liter bottle of Imperial or Pilsen for 1500 Colones plus a small refundable deposit. So I was drinking the equivalent of three beers at a slightly lesser price than one hostel beer. Math winning.

Stuff To Do

Fortuna has nearly limitless adventure and ecotourism options for any and all wanderer. The trick is doing it cheap. If you have the resources, you can jet off every day on fully guided excursions to go rafting, hiking, canyoneering, or what have you. But if you are on a more shoestring budget, here are some options:

Fortuna Swimming Hole – This is a pool after a small waterfall about a kilometer from the town center. Go to the bus station and look for the only road leading out of town that direction. Walk down the road and you will see a sign for the Fortuna Waterfall and a road heading right, towards the Volcano. Stay on the paved road you were on and shortly you’ll see a bridge. The river it crosses is the swimming pool, so hike down and jump in, or use the rope swing. Keep an eye on your stuff and be forewarned, the locals can be assertive in striking up a conversation with someone they fancy – this goes for guys too, I got two phone numbers the first day in town. But, they are all harmless and are probably more amused to flirt with gringos than anything. Also, be careful jumping into the pool and try not to swim over the waterfall.

Fortuna Waterfall – This is a nearby attraction, within walking distance of town. To get there, walk up the main road towards the Volcano until you get to a blue supermarket labeled Christian Super No 2 (I believe). Then turn left and walk down that road, staying to the left when it hits a Y intersection, crossing a small stream, and then you will come to the end of that road on a T intersection. Turn right and walk uphill, wherein you will find the entrance for the waterfall. It’s 10 dollars to hike down, and worth it. The river pools above and then bursts through what appeared to be a basalt fracture of sorts, falling about 210 feet straight down into another pool, where you can swim and lounge about. There is a trail across the river that allegedly goes back to Fortuna, but I couldn’t confirm this. The walk to the trailhead takes about 1.5 hours and from there it’s about 15 minutes to the base of the falls. Worth it.

From the waterfall, you can also hike to the top of Cerro Chato, a small volcanic crater lake about 700 meters above the trailhead for the waterfall. The hike is long and difficult, – it took about two hours of slogging to get to the top – and the view from the top wasn’t that great. So while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the whole hike, you can walk up part way onto exposed, deforested slopes and get great views of Arenal and Fortuna. I think you were supposed to pay another 10 bucks for Cerro Chato, but there was no one at the pay station, so…I accidentally… the whole thing.

Hot springs – I’ve never been to a hot springs before, so I have nothing to compare it to. I went to Baldi for about 30 bucks, which included dinner. Split a cab with six others there for a dollar a person. If you like hot springs, water parks for adults, swim up bars and such nonsense, you’ll like Baldi. If you like natural hot springs, more seclusion, and less drunk gringos doing the water slide over and over again, there is one called Tapicon which is natural and more expensive. There’s also a free one, which had I known about, I would have gone there. Protip: Drinks are expensive at Baldi, but they neither check your bags nor seem to care if you discreetly drink from the bottle of rum you smuggled in.

Zip Line – This was the real super touristy thing I did. I went with Sky Trek/Sky Adventures and it seemed like the extra 20 bucks was worth it. Miser Mistake: I took the pubic bus to the Arenal Park entrance for a dollar (smart) but then tried to walk the 8km to Sky Trek (not so smart) it was a bit of a slog and it rained, and I found out later the Fortuna shuttle is 6 bucks. So I took the shuttle back, having walked the entire way there. Upside: Either the fences were broken, or cows can walk with impunity on Costa Rican roads because they were rambling all over the place.

So there you go, La Fortuna. I’m going to put up pictures when I get back to faster interwebs – San Salvador is lacking in this regard – and I’ll add more thoughts later, but the main point is: If you take public buses, walk places, eat at Sodas and stay in hostels, Fortuna is more than manageable. Just don’t expect the Volcano to erupt, because it no longer does, despite what “reputable” tour agencies say

Super Bowl Sunday in San Jose

It’s the largest unofficial holiday in the United States, Super Bowl Sunday. Roughly a third of Americans, and about half the televisions will be tuned into the game tonight to see the Ravens and the 49ers.

But in San Jose, the largest city in Costa Rica and one of the largest in Latin America, no one seems to care. There was a football game last night – the real football, the one with the goalies and diving – and that has been the dominant topic of sports discussion. Those who know about American football and who know about the Super Bowl might tune in, but more likely, they’ll be getting a good night’s sleep, because being hungover isn’t as legitimate an excuse here than it would be in the States tomorrow.

So I’ll head to Alajuela tonight, grab a hostel for one last night before flying back to the Northeast tomorrow morning. And maybe, if the game is on, I’ll check in and watch

 

Costa Rica: Gettin’ Funky in La Fortuna

Well it is Day 3 of my two week trip to CR, and I have spent all of it save for a bus ride in the beautiful town of La Fortuna. A quick rundown feels in order, in case anyone ever needs tips or tricks getting to La Fortuna

I got off the plane in SJO (San Jose) at around 10:00 local time. Now, if you’re trying to get to La Fortuna, most hotels/hostels will tell you to go a bus station in San Jose to get a bus to La Fortuna. I found that this was unnecessary. The city the airport is in – Alajuela - has a bus station with a direct bus to La Fortuna. The bus leaves San Jose at 11:30AM and gets to Alajuela at around 12:15PM. From there it was about 4 hours to La Fortuna, with a few minutes to get out and stretch legs at San Carlos

Upon arriving in La Fortuna you will be beset on all sides by kids and adults hawking tours. Do research to know what a good rate is, and understand that there is a Tica price and a Gringo Price – usually twice or more than the local rate.

I’m staying at Arenal Backpackers Resort, one of the more expensive hostels but still a relatively cheap 15 bucks a night (Gringo Pete’s is about 5 a night) I went there after finding no one at my first choice, La Fortuna Backpackers. Arenal Backpackers is a bit of a party scene, but it’s not too bad, nothing like the straight party hostels I’ve stayed at.

Yesterday I went to La Fortuna Waterfall. It was about an hour and a half walk from town, up the road towards the volcano and then left at the big blue supermarket. Cost to get in was ten bucks, and it was totally worth it. You get to the bottom and swim around in a pool as a 210 foot waterfall thunders in from above.

Fortuna Cascada

Today I stopped in at a local watering hole, which was really a ten foot waterfall with a big deep pool and a rope swing. After getting my swing on and swimming for a bit, I headed back to the hostel to dump the camera card and get ready for this evening’s festivities, going to a hot spring. I’ve never been to one, mostly because I never thought they would appeal to me. But I decided to give them a try, so we’ll see. Tomorrow, I may be an über-tourist and do the zip line.

That’s all for now, I’ll have more pictures and video later. Cheers

 

Outline for the year ahead

So I’ve been doing the blog thing for six months now, and have had good months with lots of posts, and light months with few posts. I’d like to settle into a groove, but with a transient lifestyle and unreliable sources of the interwebs, it’s hard to keep to a schedule. But it is a New Year’s resolution of sorts.

Immediate plans: Right now, I’m in Flagstaff, AZ with some of my favorite people, guys and gals I met here in July and August during my Grand Canyon river trip. I’ll be here for about a week, and then after a few days to pack, I’ll be heading south to Costa Rica for a two week backpacking trip. When I get back from that, I’ll be heading to the southeast for five weeks of paddling, to get it out of my system for a while, because in the middle of March, I’m jetting off to Europe for three months to backpack.

So those are my travel plans. I’m hoping to continue to make videos and post on the blog, and I’m going to try and turn it into more of a resource for would be nomads and vagrants, and try and post more useful stuff up here. When I get back from Costa Rica, I’ll do an in-depth post or two on living in your truck.

Anyways, that’s what’s in store for the first part of 2013, and I’m hoping to make it the best year yet.

Making Cents

Somewhere in life, they stop telling you do what you love and the money will follow, and start telling you to follow the money, and you’ll love what you do. I’ve never really been comfortable with this.
Is our consumer-based, desire-driven society so repugnant that we can’t bear to tell a child to embrace it, for fear or rejection? Or do we hope they can live outside it initially, only to gradually crumble in the face of reality?
I don’t know, but I do know that my first job was working at a miniature golf course, and the owner – my neighbor – is singlehandedly one of the happiest people I’ve met in terms of his career, he loves the job.
Another friend started a canoe company and now makes the best whitewater canoes on the market. Pretty good for a business that was started three years ago. In a van. By a kayaker.
So maybe the first axiom isn’t a lie, it’s a warning. You face hard choices, from as soon as you gain control over your destiny. If you want to break the circle, leave the rat race, well than you better start kicking and screaming. You’ll have to compromise, mitigate, make mistakes, and prioritize so that the choices you make are the choices that are most beneficial to your happiness. Because when driving a BMW becomes less important than being able to look in the mirror and smile, we’re doing something right. And it reminds me of a story my mom tells me about my dad. He had just gotten a big promotion at work, and was spending more and more time at work. For his birthday, my mom got him a framed picture of my brother and I, goofing off on a vacation to Acadia National Park. On the back she wrote. “When they come and ask you for your soul, look at these two and fight like hell”.

Viper 11 For Sale

I’m selling my old Viper 11. She treated me well for two years, as I stepped into the realm of Class IV+ creeking. But now, I’ve got a plastic boat and don’t need the old girl, so I’d like to sell her. Fully outfitted with airbags and a bulkhead. The bow and stern had cracks, but were repaired with thickened G-Flex and patched with skidplates, so she should have plenty of life left.

Let me know if you’re interested, and I promise I won’t turn my blog into a classifieds