Ride Across a Manmade Lake

La Fortuna. Costa Rica
Jan 16, 2020
This part of the world has many a lake formed by seismic activities eons ago and most have a startling beauty. But Lago Arenal, the largest lake in Costa Rica has quite a different history. It owes its birth to the creation of hydroelectric dams and has been in existence a mere forty years or so. I imagined a vast expanse of indigo-blue waters nestled at the edge of sloping hillocks; I wanted a ride on it. Instead of my usual mode of transport via public buses, I opted for the shuttle that combines vans and boats.
Costa Rica’s commendable commitment to green energy is also evident in the windmills rotating slowly atop hills as we climb down from Monteverde. This is largely farm country with nary a town in sight. Farmhouses surrounded by fields and paddocks dotted with cows lie on either side of the winding dirt road. Four-wheel drives mix in with four-hoofed transport in these parts.

The somnolence changes rapidly as we approach the water’s edge. Packed with vans disgorging passengers and crowded with people disembarking from boats, it strikes a discordant note in this rural backwater. This is not the usual backpacking crowd but package tourists complete with designer luggage.

We get into one of he boats and putter off. The old village of Arenal lies underwater with the new village perched on the lakeshore. In the distance sits an enormous sprawling villa – rumor is, it is the country house of the head of the banks in Costa Rica.

And up ahead is the cone that is Volcan Arenal. It is partially sunny and we can see almost all of the volcano, a rare sight in the past few weeks, or so say other recent travelers.

Climbing aboard vans again, we get on the road to La Fortuna. The paved road skirts the Arenal National Park and we have a surprise in store. Traffic stopped both ways is explained when a troop of coaties peer out of the forest edge, look both ways like conscientious pedestrians and lope off to the other side. They look like a cross between a skunk and an anteater as they move off with their tails in the air.

The brief glimmer of sunshine disappeared like a magician’s trick and the clouds had moved in by the time I got to La Fortuna. Only the lower slopes of Arenal were visible from town.

The next day, it was impossible to tell if there was a volcano behind thick cloud cover. Soon it started pouring rain and stayed that way. So much for hiking the volcano or taking pretty pictures.

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