December 18, 2010 - The Arenal volcano !
We hiked the gruelling Cerro Chato hike followed by the trail down to the La Fortuna waterfall & up.
After a rice-and-beans traditional breakfast, we started the hike at 8am sharp and we were dropped off at our hotel at 5pm, completely beat & dead/dying/lifeless. Skipped lunch, skipped dinner. Took 5-6 tylenols each, had a bunch of guavas, hit the bed & woke up a half hour ago at 7am. Quadriceps in no position to walk, very, very tired.
About the hike itself : it is the toughest hike we've done so far in our life. And that's saying something. We've scaled Mt. Marcy, Mt. Algonquin, Mt. Katahdin, done the Canyonlands trail, so many other brutal ones. Cerro Chato is on a whole different plane.
It starts out quite flat & benign with lots of birdwatching opps. Then suddenly the hike takes a 45-60 incline through the rainforest. Its not really a hike, more like a climb. You need both your hands & you land on your palms & butt most of the time. Its very slippery due to the rainswept rocks & terrain. And of course its the tropics, so you can step on a camourflaged reptile curled up along the path & not know it.
Yes, we spotted a fer-de-lance!!! Will post a picture soon. They are the most venomous snakes in Costa Rica. Cause the most snake fatalities in the country. I'd have been okay if we spotted it far away on a tree or something. It was literally curled up on our trail, so we were less than 1 feet from it. And I'd have stepped on it if I hadn't been paying attention! Close call. We took pictures so we could show other hikers on our trail so they are careful not to step on it.
Cerro Chato is a dormant volcano & the hike takes up right up and into the crater of the volcano. From here, we can look straight at the Arenal volcano, which is an active volcano & right across you. This is possibly the closest you can get to Arenal. One could climb the Arenal itself, though that's illegal & off limits, but our guide claimed to have done that.
Once you are on top of Cerro Chato, you get the best view of Arenal, and the hike down is what kills you. The upward hike is all climb. The downward hike is mostly jumps. You jump through muddy swamps & through tree roots. At 3pm we finally arrived at La Fortuna waterfall, and had a sandwich, before starting off yet again, down the 94 steps to the La Fortuna waterfall. The waterfall was absolutely spectacular, gorgeous blue. Got drenched. Spotted a 3-toed sloth on our way back. By now our quads were in no shape to continue, yet we somehow pushed our way through.
All in all, it was fun!
Here are a few more colorful accounts of Cerro Chato from fellow travellers.