28. April: Today is Annewien's 33rd Birthday! I'm sad and embarrassed that I don't have a gift for her. There was just nothing appropriate I could find on the way. We're picked up in our hotel in Liberia (Hotel Liberia) by a red jeep, there is another couple (who turns out to be Dutch) along with us.
The long road to Rinconcito is dusty and bumpy. We get a large room (this seems to be the only one with an attached bath, the other two have a shared one). Annewien doesn't like it too much, says it's not too clean, but I can't find anyone who could clean it up a bit. It is a bit dusty (it doesn't seem to have been used for awhile) but not dirty, so it's a pass for me.
The son of the owner (who also drove us here from Liberia) comes to the room and explains the Lodge essentials to us and is then surprised to hear that we've booked the horseback tour today, he thought it was tomorrow. He's not ready. So he goes about arranging it while we hang around. We do leave at 10:00, the horses belong to the lodge, as does the cowboy (who doesn't speak English as agreed in Liberia) and all they actually needed to do was to prepare some sandwiches, which were part of the package.
The horses don't walk or gallop but trot, which is quite a pain in the balls. I have to keep pulling back so that mine would walk but they were so used to the trail and at what speed they would move that it was somewhat difficult to do so. At the end of the trip I would be in pain and holding on as a cushion.
We ride for about 2-1/2 hours (we stop in between to pay the park entrance fee of 6$ at the ranger's station at 'Santa Maria') and then set off on foot for a tour of the 2nd zone of the park. We see hot springs, mud holes, an Iguana, a mini volcano called Volcancito, the smell of sulphur, strangely coloured mud everywhere, it was really wonderful and highly recommended. We stop on the way for our boxed lunch, which by this time was nearing pulp-condition by being transported in my rucksack.
We hadn't taken along enough water, and I was tired from the long and shaky horse-ride, overheated by the hot sun AND the hot clouds of steam coming out of the ground, exceedingly dehydrated and generally tired from the long day. Moreover I had lost my sunglasses somewhere along the way, even though they were held around my neck by a strap. Probably some furious part of the ride had caused the strap to hook to a branch and pulled them off. So during the walk in the bright sun I was without sunglasses which was an additional stress factor. Annewien told the cowboy that I'd lost my glasses and, strangely enough, at some part of the ride back he whistled us and held up the glasses, which he had found! Wonderful!
By the time we are back at the lodge I'm unendingly thankful to be down on the ground again from the horse and am nearly dead from heat, dehydration and exhaustion. We go for a drink in the restaurant and I find a tick firmly lodged into my forearm. I point it out to Annewien and the wife of the owner sees me, comes over to our table and just plucks it out with her finger. The tick is alive and she crushes it with her nail. I find three more on my arm and she picks them all out easily. It seems to be a very common occurrence here to have ticks.
We quickly go back to our room and do a complete and detailed body search of both of us. Annewien finds a total of eight ticks on me and I find one on her. I shake out all our clothes and shoes outside. I believe the ticks were on the horses and they jumped over to us while we were riding them. This was the only way how I could explain that I had so many more of them than Annewien.
We have dinner at the lodge which is good value for 5$, being served a tasty chicken schnitzel, rice, salad and dessert. The Dutch couple (about 25 to 30 years old) are there for dinner too and they want us to come along with them the next day on the tour they have booked to Miravalles. We agree since the tour is cheap enough, has some good attractions and I'm not too keen on returning to the forest after that tick-attack.
The walk back to our room is about 50 meters over a grassy stretch of land and at night the region is in total darkness since there are hardly any people here. We have a flashlight and we see some frogs in the grass.