Vulcan on the volcan?
Trip Start Apr 08, 2012
10Trip End Apr 13, 2012
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The volcano is an active composite volcano (built up over time with layers), which has spewed ash and gas during large eruptions in the 1950s. Now it has releases steam and gases on a regular basis. It is 8,860 feet above sea level. You can visit two calderas, which are depressions at the top of the volcano. One is active, the other has a lagoon and is surrounded by forest. It is like going from a moonscape to a landscape!
Our travels began on a local bus to Alajuela, which we caught just across the highway from our hotel. Poor Emily, who speaks Spanish best, always gets pushed forward to pay the bus driver or ask for directions
The land itself changes to agricultural as you ascend - coffee plantations, cattle farms, flower plantations, and strawberry growers are all visible as the bus chugs and swerves towards the top. Often, there are eroded banks along the road, and towards the top a smattering of tourist shops. There was definately something to see out the window at all times! The bus driver only seemed to know the English phrases he needed to communicate at each important point in the process. He actually made a volcano by putting his index fingers into a mountain shape while saying "Volcan" to let us know we had the right bus. If you ever take the bus, I'd suggest sitting in a window seat on the side which is not directly behind the driver, making sure to be in a spot where the open window will be in your space - good for the breeze and for photo opportunities out the window! We had a stop on the way up at a souvenir shop/fruit stand where we bought fresas fresca (fresh strawberries)l met a friendly dog, and watched the neighbor across the street lead his cow on a rope.
The day was picture-perfect: sunny and breezy
Our first view of the active caldera was amazing - although it often gets obscured by clouds combined with its own steamy emissions, it was totally clear and in the sun. The landscape inside the crater is without vegetation, but the colors and textures are varied. There are reds, dark greys, touches of yellow, white and red. The pool of water is a unique turquoise blue, and the steam coming from its side is snowy white. Textures range from the puffy steam cloud and smooth water surface to eroded areas that look like the sand tray experiments in our classroom. It is as amazing a piece of earth as I have ever seen!
We climbed the steep, concrete path up to the lagoon, passing through our first bit of trail through a forested area. Here we began to see epiphytes - plants that grow on other plants, taking advantage of sunny spots. There is lots of moss, and all kinds of ferns and delicate plants. It actually gets quite dark on the trail in spots where the non-leafy branches of the trees close in over you.
The lagoon itself is a bit of a tease - after a hot walk up the trail, it looks like such an inviting place to swim, but, of course, is off limits. Instead we found a spot for a picnic lunch (who knew how much the kids like corn tortillas?), where some very persistent and pesky squirrels got bolder the longer our food seemed to be available
We saw some interesting birds (none cooperative enough to pose for my camera) including hummingbirds along the loop trail back to the visitor's center. I fell in love with individual trees and small patches of vegetation which would be the envy of many a gardener. I really did take too many pictures to post here, but I will upload some. I'm a bit sad about the ones of epiphyte-laden trees that appeared wherever there was an opening in the forest - the tropical sun was just too bright for my camera.
Speaking of the sun, we were happy to notice that even the sun tells us that we are not at home. Since we are much closer to the equator here, the sun is just about directly overhead at noon. We took some photos of our very small shadows to show what it is like where the sun is closer to a 90 degree angle in the sky.
Today is the 85th birthday of a very special man. I'm pretty sure your day wasn't as spectacular as ours, Dad, but we're glad to have seen you so close to your special day.
Tomorrow? Off to the rainforest, this time in a taxi-bus-taxi travel extravaganza!