Volcano trip with a 4-year old in Costa Rica: couchsurfing, hiking and long bus rides

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It´s getting time to go back home in Brazil. Before we leave, however, I still had to go and see a volcano with Luísa. I have a thing about volcanoes. We went to La fortuna to see the Arenal volcano for 3 days.

The secret to traveling nicely with children is to travel slowly. I took the first bus ride of 5 hours to San Jose and another 1-hour bus to a friend´s house for the night. The next morning, another 4,5 bus ride to our destination.

I had a couchsurfing friend to host us. When I was on my way, I called our tico host and he told me he wouldn´t be there till later at night, so there was a key for me.

Yeah, couchsurfing is that cool. Someone you have never met before might leave the keys to his house for you and then you find a room with clean sheets with a view to the volcano.

My host, that I met later at night, also worked at tour agency and I had couchsurfers´s discounted prices on every tour.

The next day, at 7.30, Luísa and I were on our way to see the Blue River (Rio Celeste). It´s where two volcanic rivers meet and they make this beauty happen:

Rio Celeste´s waterfall

Luísa walked 3 hours of our 4-hour hike. And I carried her for 1 hour on a piggy back ride – we are both fit!

The next morning, Luísa just wanted to hang out at our host´s garden. She called it ¨her secret place¨ and she almost didn´t want to leave it.

There was a lot of wisdom in her choice, she was playing in a circle of healing trees (noni, graviola, lime and orange).

Then, she agreed on going on another hike, this time around the Arenal volcano. She walked the whole easy 2-hour hike. For that second trail we went to see another waterfall, watch the sunset with the volcano and lake view and finish at natural hot springs at night.

We made friends in that hiking group too. At first, Luísa was tired and winy and didn´t want to walk, so she accepted when a French guy in our group offered to carry her (usually she won´t let people touch her like that, but it was a nice change).

Then she made friends with a Spanish guy and the rest of the hike, she was running up and down with her new found friend. At night, Luísa went straight to bed and I stayed talking with two other couchsurfers and our sweet host, who told us lots of stories about the tourism in town.

TV – I love you I hate you

On the way back to Puerto Viejo, we stopped for the night at a friend´s house. He had a nice couch with cable TV and WIFI. Him, me and our other friend would connect to our laptops while Luísa had unlimited TV time.

For a while, I was watching the 2012 Tsunami in Japan and recent volcano explosions in Italy with my friend, but then I would look at Luísa and I would watch her watching TV. It´s really spectacular to watch, how she won´t move her body, exept for her fingers. No kidding, that was more interesting to me than the Etna volcano spitting fire two weeks ago.

She watched TV for about 3 hours on Saturday and on Sunday another 4 hours before we took our 4,5 hour bus from San Jose to Puerto Viejo. And maybe I´m seeing what I want to see, but I think those hours in front of the TV made her mentally accelerated during the trip.

It was the first time that she didn´t nap on a bus ride. I, on the other hand, fell asleep a few times and she woke me up every single time, which made me mad at her.

Maybe she was mad at me for being mad at her waking me up, maybe it was the TV time, but she didn´t sit down and relax for more than 2 minutes straight. She was mostly standing up and for 1,5 hours straight she sang the same song that only has 4 verses.

I loved having the TV on for a little while, but still, I couldn´t accept my friend´s invitation to hang out for another night, because I couldn´t handle her watching more TV. She needed to play with kids, it had been one whole week among adults.

TV really sucks. Even if the cartoon or program is nice, like Steve Irvin´s documentaries, than you have all the Barbie butterfly or Barby Mermaid and shitty cereal commercials that the kid will nag about next time at the grocery store.

Thank goodness I live in small towns where we don´t get the Barbie Butterfly.

And the cereal shit… I had to say something about it. ¨Luísa, TV lies to you and gives you nonsense cravings. This cereal is actually really bad for you.¨

No fear of traveling with my young girl anymore

I used to be a bit terrified of being alone with her for too long, on trips or at home, but not now, but especially traveling alone which would make me scared shitless every single time.

The biggest disadvantage of traveling with a small child is never having a conversation with another adult without any pressure of time.

I´m so comfortable with Luísa now. It´s still super tiring to travel alone, I can´t ever read a book or relax for too long (10 minutes could be a high standard mark). Short trips are good like that though, when you are about to regret having taken off (like I had a sore throat the first night and thought it could be hell to go on a hike 10 hours away from home), you are soon back home and imagining how you would have spent another day in that place.

My 4-year old (she´s 5 in 4 days) is a professional traveler by now. She endures long bus rides, hikes, can sleep at anyone´s house and doesn´t miss home.

Before we go back to Brazil, we still want to go and check Poás volcano out. You only hike 1 hour from where the cars stop and it´s 1 hour near San Jose. So, we should do that right before taking our flight sometime during the Summer.

The French dude carrying Luísa.

This trip also made me promise to myself I´ll visit more of Brazil when I´m back there. It´s really crazy that I´ve been almost all over Costa Rica. And now I want to make other short trips like that near my home in Brazil.

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on April 19, 2012. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.

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