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Poás Volcano—Emerging Splendor
Arrival in Costa Rica
One of the exciting aspects of this trip was sharing the adventure with Ben’s mom Jo Ann and her husband David. Here they are at the airport with Genevieve and Sebastian, after our red-eye flight:
With three different generations traveling together, things flowed remarkably well. Costa Rica provided a glorious adventure for all of us—smooth and easy.
The only hiccup occurred at the beginning, when the car rental company tried to pull a fast one on us. In the end, everything was resolved with calm negotiations and repeated reference to the text of our printed reservation and confirming emails. Two and a half (very long) hours later, we finally drove away in an older-model vehicle that had a few quirks but otherwise served us well. The long delay meant that we missed our planned butterfly garden tour, but we were all so grateful to finally reach our oasis of a hotel.
We had reserved rooms at a modestly priced local hotel, La Rosa de America, located about 20 minutes from the airport. Here is the outside of our room with the kids:
The expansive grounds were beautifully maintained, with a wide variety of plants and flowers:
And there was even a large pool that the children enjoyed despite the nip in the air:
For lunch, we walked a few blocks to a local restaurant called Delicias de mi Tierra, which served us one of the best meals that we had on this trip. We ordered “tacos” and received a heaping plate of tender meat, accompanied by one small tortilla, fresh salsa, beans, and (my favorite) fried plantains. Yum.
Here are David and the kids on our walk from the hotel to the restaurant:
Delicias de mi Tierra:
Ben and the kids:
Back at the hotel, we celebrated our arrival:
After a good night’s sleep, we were ready for our first adventure. We set off for the nearby Poás volcano, which has one of the world’s largest active craters, about a mile wide. A narrow, winding road leads almost to the top, where you can park and walk another .3 miles to a viewing terrace on the edge of the caldera.
We had read that clouds form over the crater mid-morning, so the best chance for a clear view is an early arrival. From our hotel this morning, we could see that the volcano top was already shrouded in clouds, but we remained optimistic!
The roads in Costa Rica are generally 2 lanes, even much of the freeway system. However, they are paved and generally in very good condition.
The twisty roads were a favorite for bicyclists, all decked out in spandex:
The drive to the volcano took over an hour, but we enjoyed looking at the houses, small towns, and farm land.
Most of the homes that we passed were modest in size and neatly maintained:
Occasional signs let us know that we were heading the right way:
A pretty church:
In the upper elevations, we came across some crops covered in black plastic:
Along with crops, there were grazing cattle:
As we approached the volcano entrance, the clouds became more dense.
The hope of a clear view took a nose dive. But we were still happy to be here!
The volcano is part of a national park, with an entrance fee ($10 per adult, free for children 12 and under, and a vehicle fee of $3). We waited in a long line of cars to pay.
The man at the gate advised us that the crater was covered in clouds and asked if we wanted to enter the park anyway. Of course we did! We were here for the experience—clouds or no clouds!
We continued our curvy drive to the top parking lot, and then made a beeline for the crater. The wide, paved trail passed by the visitor’s center:
Sebastian and Jo Ann shared a nice chat:
Genevieve led the way. Here she is next to a rhubard-related plant with humongous leaves, commonly known as the “poor man’s umbrella.”
The viewing area had a brisk wind and an elevation of 8444 feet—no wonder we felt short of breath!
And looking over the edge into the caldera, we saw . . . nothing:
At the top!
We lingered on the viewing platform for at least half an hour, hoping that the sun would break fully through the clouds:
Occasionally, the wind would reveal some of the barren landscape on the sides of the caldera.
But the center lake remained shrouded.
We finally pulled ourselves away and ventured off to hike the Botos Trail, an approximately 1 mile loop that started near the main caldera viewing platform and climbed past another lake-filled crater called Laguna Botos.
Here is a map of the general caldera area, showing the Botos Trail loop:
The path was paved and twisted through dense vegetation that was dripping with moisture.
With her grandma, Jo Ann:
When we reached the viewing platform for Laguna Botos, the clouds once again obscured the lake--another view of "nothing." However, there was a large photo to show us what we would have seen on a clear day:
Continuing on the path:
On the sides of the trail were many fallen leaves; one our favorites was a rigid leaf with many channels in the surface:
The larger tree trunks were often wrapped in vines or roots of other plants:
A bold jungle flower:
Moss flourished in the damp, sun-deprived environment:
Although the trees may grow tall, their root system is very shallow. Sebastian checked out the roots of a fallen tree next to the trail:
The end of Botos Trail left us next to the visitor’s center:
Inside were a number of exhibits about animal life within the park, the various climatic regions in Costa Rica, and a small-scale model of Poás Volcano, showing the main caldera with its small aqua-colored lake and the larger dark-blue Botos Laguna:
As we headed back to the parking lot, large patches of blue sky started appearing overhead. Ben was checking out the sky and looking over toward the main caldera area (about 1/3 mile away). Just as we were climbing into the car, he announced, “I think that the clouds are clearing. I’m going to run back and see!” I looked at my watch and hesitated. We had a pineapple tour scheduled for early afternoon, and we still had to drive over the mountains and find a lunch spot. Ben said, “I’m going!” And off he went. Genevieve was already running ahead of him. And then David took off after them. Hey, uh, wait for me!
Huffing and puffing, we arrived at the caldera. Were the clouds clearing? Yes! We could barely see the edge of the crater lake, but there it was below:
As we stood there with our eyes glued to the crater, it was suddenly revealed in most of its glory:
Steam was constantly billowing out of the lake, so we never got a completely clear view. Although the photos we had seen of the crater always showed a brilliant turquoise lake, today we were treated to a lake that was milky white, reflecting the cloudy sky.
We were ecstatic! And so were the people around us (lest you think we were enjoying a serene moment all to ourselves!):
In less than 10 minutes, the caldera was once again filled with thick white clouds, and the lake was hidden from view.
Ben and David, running back to the car (we're late!):
With high fives and big smiles all around (“We saw it! We saw it!”), we piled into the car and started the long drive to the pineapple farm.
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