Hitchhiking Guanacaste: Part 2, The Way of the Volcano

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It’s peanut butter jelly time!

That’s what I thought as I ruffled through my bag on the way to Rincón De La Vieja. It was a hot day. Every day is pretty hot in Costa Rica. Colin and I were tired and hungry. Rain clouds were in the distance, and we still had about 18 kilometers to go before we got to the park. Again, no one was pulling over for two lonely gringos with our thumbs out. It wasn’t as miserable this time because of the giant volcano in the background, but it wasn’t promising.

And then there was Jorge.

The cobalt blue sedan came speeding up the road, but screeched to a halt after passing us. Again, just like the eighteen-wheeler, we were amazed! And again, we started running to the car. I took the back seat which was a little messy, Colin took the front. He did most of the talking.

Our driver’s name was Jorge, a guy who seemed to be in his early 20s or so. He worked at the national park and he was speeding to work. “Pura vida” is a unique phrase of national pride in Costa Rica, meaning the pure life, the tranquil life, no stress, and take it easy. It’s just that “pura vida” doesn’t apply behind the wheel of a car. That meant we would get to our destination pretty fast.

Jorge was familiar with the school Colin and I teach at. He’s not a student there, but we convinced him it would be a good idea. Some benefits of hitch-hiking include advertising your work.

I had a difficult time understanding Jorge, but he was able to take us for a free tour of the projects at Rincón. After we paid the 700 colones ($1) to enter, he drove us around the deserted roads of the park and we came upon a big engineering project involving volcanic water. I’m no engineer, and I’m not that smart when it comes to scientific projects, and I couldn’t really hear what Jorge was saying, but it was damn impressive. At least I’m honest! I should have taken notes, but I was too busy writing about the previous events of the day so I could write this blog. I’d like to go back and learn more about it when I’m not in the back of a stranger’s car.

Regardless, we were finally at the entrance to Rincon. “Rincón De La Vieja” means “corner of the old woman” or “the old woman’s corner”. It’s a popular destination in Guanacaste, but not in September! That meant more for us. Jorge dropped us off at the very top, the entrance to the park, so it was really easy for us to find our way. If you see this Jorge, thanks a lot man!! You might see us again!

Colin and I then walked into a coffee shop at the base of the trails. Enter Victor, the man behind the counter. Colin told him about our day while I filled up our water bottles right outside the bathroom. Then we both sat down for coffee and talked about teaching English and learning Spanish. Victor told us that he once paid an obscene amount of money to learn to speak English, yet he never learned a lot because the teacher wasn’t helpful. That wasn’t right, so of course, we once again recommended the school we teach at. “I know students who managed to learn fluency within three years and it’s even possible within two”. He was impressed, and anxious to practice. Everything we said in English he repeated. You could see the desire to learn in his eyes! Talk about motivation! Victor, if you’re reading this, you’re a good guy man! I hope we see you at the school sometime.

During the conversation we asked Victor which was the best trail to take. He named a few. Colin really wanted the hot springs but I wanted the hiking trail to the waterfall and mud pots. I didn’t know what mud pots were but they had to be interesting! Anything is interesting when you’re on the side of a volcano. Since the hot springs were down below us, we agreed to take the high road first and go for a somewhat short hike through the rainforest.

We’re both glad we made that decision.

The first things we saw on the trail were ants. You may be thinking of how boring that is, but have you ever seen ants work in a rain forest? They create a line of work which stretches for as far as the eye can see, carrying mostly cut leaves to their colony. Careful not to disrupt the labor, I stepped over them after getting a few pictures.


The next encounter involved a horrible bird which sounded like an ambulance. As we passed by, the bird would screech from the tops of the trees, alerting the other members of its species that two gringos were on their way. The other bird would respond with the same deafening alarm. We couldn’t see the bird, it was hidden pretty well. That gave an aura of mysteriousness to the entire trek. It’s also as if he was trying his best to annoy us, and that was the worst part.

Have you ever seen trees in a rain forest? The big ones look really old and the smaller ones try to strangle the big ones with their branches, just like a snake would. This is to stop them from growing and to give the smaller ones some space.

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Then there was the giant spider. I almost walked directly into it on the bridge shown below. Colin and I actually left the normal trail so we could go explore this area. It was apparent that not many people do because there was a giant web. I saw it just in time. “Shit, man! That’s the scariest spider I’ve ever seen! I don’t know if it’s venomous and I sure as hell don’t want to find out!” If you hate big spiders, it’ll be a slight problem in Costa Rica. I’m just glad it wasn’t hairy. That’s always a bad combination: spiders with hair growing out of them. I don’t call them spiders, to me they’re simply beasts.

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I tried to take a picture of it but my camera couldn’t focus, so I’ll show a picture of a spider that resembled the one we saw. Green spiders are scary. I don’t recommend ever having anything to do with them. And definitely don’t walk into their webs if you value your life.


After the bridge with the spider I’ll never forget, we kept walking and came upon a giant waterfall. It was beautiful until a few Ticos ruined the scene. I’ll write about that next time.

Stay tuned for more! Thanks for reading!

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