Ever prepares our breakfast, and we eat scrambled eggs and fresh fruit whilst looking out over the forest, trying to commit every detail of our beautiful surroundings to our ageing memory banks, to recall once more on a freezing Monday afternoon back in miserable Blighty.
We put some bananas on the bird table and coax the toucans from the trees, Andy hand-feeding them in his usual gung-ho manner. They have to tilt their huge bills to look at this strange creature before them, keeping their beady black eyes fixed on him nervously as they grab huge chunks of banana and toss them right to the back of their throats, then gulp them down without chewing. Which, funnily enough, is exactly how Andy eats too.
As usual, he goes just one step too far and attempts to stroke the colourful birds, who scatter in disgust at his audacity, so he turns his attention to the troop of howler monkeys who are watching curiously from the trees above instead...all except the baby, who swings happily upside down by his tail, oblivious to us standing a few feet below.
Their desire to grab the food is outweighed by scepticism, and no amount of cajoling by Andy brings them lower, which is a good thing as wild animals should obviously remain wild. I think back to my time as a backpacker, and how the fearless monkeys behaved when too tame in Cambodia. What at first seemed cute swiftly became a a nuisance when they were stealing sunglasses from tourists' heads and guzzling the dregs from Coke cans before discarding them over their shoulders around the temples of Angkor Wat.
Our motorboat arrives to take us back to La Pavona, and we point out the various birds and animals whose names pop into our heads in Roberto's thick Jamaican accent, thanks to his informative tours.
Leo the taxi driver is waiting on the riverbank when we arrive, ready to take us on our onward journey to the Zona Norte, specifically the Arenal volcano region. I wonder if this would be a good time to tell him that the owner of the villa has recently emailed me to warn how treacherous the roads are, but my thoughts are interrupted by the sputters coming from the direction of De Mama, who is unconscious within minutes of setting off. Leo goes to pull over, assuming we must have accidentally brought an animal back from the jungle amongst our ton of luggage, but then realises, no, it's just one of his passengers dozing off...
After a few hours Leo takes us to Ranchero for lunch. As we can't decipher the menu, we all wait for Leo to order then to his amusement gesticulate to say we'll have whatever he's having. After 5 hours in his Hyundai, which thankfully is a 4x4, we finally approach the last leg of the journey: the treacherous climb up the mountain dirt road to the villa.
Our teeth are rattling in our heads, Leo's suspension is taking a hammering, and the GPS has long since given up trying to work out where we are, or even why we'd attempt to get here in the first place.
Luckily I'd screen-shot Nita's back-up directions, which are about twenty pages long. Anyone who knows me knows that despite my love of travelling, I have absolutely zero sense of direction, can't work out which way up maps go, and that this guide may as well be in Cantonese.
Eventually, with the car at an eighty degree angle against the mountain, we spot a little orange casita through the darkening sky, perched atop the cloud-covered peak. Leo bids us farewell and begins the difficult 5 hour journey back to San Jose, possibly regretting the moment he offered to be our driver for the entire trip.
Juan the housekeeper arrives to welcome us and give us the lowdown on the house and the Arenal Volcano which stands majestically before us. First things first Juan mate, "what's the wifi code?" Anyone who's backpacked will know that the Internet is a lifeline for which you'd rather lose a limb than forgo....sod the ginormous active volcano in front of us, how else are we gonna keep up with the latest cat videos trending on Facebook?
Once our thirst for communication via the World Wide Web has been satiated, we admire the breath-taking scenery of the volcano, lakes and forests from the villa's fantastic 360 degree vantage point before cobbling together some dinner and hitting the hay, for tomorrow we have an action-packed day : trekking, skytram, and then the activity that is giving Mum serious palpitations...zip-lining high, high above the rainforest canopy...
Sweet dreams, De Mama!
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