Last year on Becci’s birthday we had cheeseburgers with friends, and went to the record store. This year, we celebrated Becci’s cumpleaños by kayaking to a volcano.
As with all canoeing and kayaking trips, this journey started by loading the watercraft onto a truck and traversing some un-drivable roads to reach the “put in”. We were accompanied by guides Jonathan and Emmanuel for this segment of the journey, and when we reached the beach, Emmanuel took one kayak while Bex and I took the other (Jonathan drove the truck back). We three set off across Lake Arenal, toward the volcano that shares her name. The temperature was cool and the skies were overcast. Perfect boating weather.
Once we got out into the lake a bit, I asked Emmanuel what sort of creatures lived in the lake. Tilapia. Coupla other delicious fish. Crocodiles of 5 meters in length. Screetching brake sound…rewind and hit me again with that last bit? Crocodiles he says. Maybe twice the size of the kayak you are in, he says.
Ruh roh. I don’t do crocodiles. Maybe this was just a little bit of lake humor, but I had my head on a swivel from that point forward.
Emmanuel is actually a pretty good guy. When you are kayaking a few kilometers across a lake, you have time to get to know a person. I asked Emmanuel how he learned English, and he explained to us that he loved the music of Bob Marley, and that he had learned to speak English just from listening to Bob Marley records and looking stuff up. “English is the language for reggae music, the same as Spanish is the language for merengue. I had to learn to sing in English”. He then went a capella for a few verses of “One Love”, in perfect English and including Bob’s Jamaican accent. The song soared across the vast green lake that the three of us seemingly had to ourselves.
After about an hour of vigorous rowing, we reached the volcano side of the lake. The volcano, very active from 1968 through 2010, has been quiet for the last 4 years. However, evidence of volcanic activity is apparent on the side of the mountain, where trees of different ages appear in different spaces that have experienced lava at different times. The top of the mountain is craggy, carved by lava and rain. The lower reaches of the mountain, including the beach, were formed by the same 1968 eruption that destroyed three villages to our west.
I suggested that we land on and explore this side of the lake. Becci grumbled. We paddled on. As we reached the “beach”, it became clear that there is no beach at all. There is a swampy marsh, and we were at that point surrounded by its thick reeds. I pushed my oar down into the water and learned that the water was about 1 meter deep. About this time, Becci suggested that this was precisely the sort of environment that was enjoyed and inhabited by crocodiles. I started paddling backwards. No need to see any more of that side.Emmanuel and I approach the croc-infested swamp.
The paddle back was uneventful. No crocs or even cayman were encountered. It was a beautiful day and I had great company.
Back at Rancho Margot, it was lunchtime. Every day there is a wonderful buffet of locally grown and prepared food. It usually includes some sort of roast pork or chicken, sautéed vegetables, the ubiquitous beans and / or rice, and occasionally pasta. There is always cheese pizza for the kiddees. Although the food is always delicious, we had in a jaded way grown slightly tired of the routine, but we got creative and made ourselves some pork-topped pizzas. We ate like kings, and wandered back to our bungalow.
Before long, there began the sort of torrential rainstorm that one might anticipate during “green” season in a rainforest. It might have rained one inch per hour for about 5 hours, and the rain was accompanied at times by intense thunder and lightning. Becci tried but was unable to catch a shot of a lightning strike. I continued to read The Stand. I’ve read more this week than I have in the last five years. Reading is fun y’all!
Over beers after dinner, I discovered that my legs are sunburned. Something about not putting on sunscreen whilst exposing my legs to the equatorial sun. Apparently, you can get sunburned even when its cloudy. Who knew?