Costa Rica has some of the most active volcanoes in the world, a fact that popped into my mind while we prepared to paddle out onto Lake Arenal (which is conveniently located right beneath the Arenal Volcano). Our group donned life jackets, picked up paddles, and jumped into the least-flooded kayaks that were available. We paddled several football fields of length across the glassy surface and finally made it to the other side of the lake. After tumbling out of our kayaks, we bobbed by the shore in the cool water before exploring the rocky edge barefoot.
Twenty minutes into the return journey, the booming volcano overhead made me stop paddling mid-stroke. I unconsciously started reciting Shakespeare, notably the part about “fire burn and cauldron bubble.” I looked at my roommate, Erica, and an unspoken decision was made to start paddling faster. Though the guide promised eruptions were too small to matter, the sound—louder than thunder—didn’t do much for my confidence. It was then that I noticed that the rest of the group had already made it to the shore, yet Erica and I were still at least half a mile away. Another deafening boom came along with faint gray smoke puffing out the top, and before the rumbling ended, sheets of rain came down and started stinging my bare arms and face.
The lifejackets restricted our arm movements to those of a penguin, and watching ourselves flail our arms trying to paddle suddenly struck me as funny. What started out as a few giggles quickly escalated into laughing, which turned into hysterics as we paddled towards anything but the shore. Soon our kayak was filled with water, and our plastic transportation was soon level with the water itself. I sniggered as I rocked slowly to the side and dumped us into the lake, leaving my bewildered roommate and me bobbing in the wake. With the lifejackets now up to our ears, we strangely resembled disgruntled turtles sticking out of the shells. In addition to the sodden lifejackets, we were still having a rough time swimming back due to dragging the half sunken kayak and an inability to stop laughing.