Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Good Time to Visit the Poás Volcano in Rainy Season

When we moved to San Isidro de Grecia from Atenas, we were excited about living in a somewhat cooler climate, but hesitant about living so close to a Cloud Forest and on the back side of Volcan Poás. We have traveled through a few cloud forests in Costa Rica and all share a few qualities: cloudy (duh), cold, rainy, and a bit dark. We didn't move to Costa Rica to be in the dark, so as a mother of 3 small children, I asked many questions about the weather at our new home. According to our landlords and neighbors, it is quite sunny in San Isidro the majority of the time, and during the rainy season it is not much different than Atenas, with daily afternoon rains although Winters (November and December) are a bit chilly, near freezing. OK, I thought, I can deal with that. We have been here for 5 months and the weather has been beautiful with chilly nights and mornings. When we look up at our mountain, we can literally see the clouds hovering over the peak, and we know how close we are to the gloom. With this being said, we planned a day to visit the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Poás area in attempts to sell our Beef Jerky to some tourist hot spots.
We set off just after Max, our 5 year old got out of school, at 10:30 sharp one morning. The clouds were heavily hanging out on the mountain, so we were not optimistic about actually seeing the crater, but we needed to see for ourselves. We were smart enough to bring jackets this time, since we made a huge mistake at the last volcano we visited, Irazu. It was freezing and windy and we were not prepared at all.  This time we wore warm clothing and we were so excited to take a trip in less than 1 hour, since most of our destinations tend to take several. So as we approached Poasito, we noticed the air around us was becoming dark and thick. There were several street vendors every few hundred meters selling fresh, ruby red strawberries. There were also strawberry farms as far as the eye could see, which was not very far considering the fog was thick. As we arrived at La Paz, we were surprised to see the parking lot was full and the busloads were arriving. I thought this was slow season...not at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. We ventured inside to see the store to inquire about selling our Beef Jerky. After visiting with the attendants, we learned it was managed by Cafe Britt, so we looked around and plan to set an interview. La Paz itself is grand with lush furnishings, exotic woods and the sound of the jungle echoed through the thick air. A few of the tourists told us it was the best place they visited while in Costa Rica and the animals were incredible. I can't wait to go back one day when we have more visibility and more time to explore, not to mention, more money to spend since the day pass would have set us back about $70 US since we are residents. It would have been $120 US as tourists. I do not doubt it is well worth the price of admission after visiting with a few of the patrons that day.

We decided to try our luck in a beautiful country store called La Esquina del Sabor. The store reminded me of some of the country stores back in Texas with a log cabin feel and the smell of fresh coffee. It features fresh and prepared groceries along with souvenirs and a small cafe with the best cappuccino I have had since living in Costa Rica and possibly, the best cappuccino I have EVER had. We inquired with the staff about possible selling our product in their store. They explained that the owner (dueño) was on his way, so we were eager to discuss it with him. While we were waiting, though the kids noses were turning purple due to the chill in the air, Max and Sara still begged for ice cream, so we appeased. While we sipped our cappuccinos and munched a delicious home made chocolate chip muffin, we admired the plethora of artisan products and variety of choices from the local farmers market. The owner arrived and to our pleasure, he has made several trips to the States and he not only understood our product, but loved our Beef Jerky. We highly recommend a visit to La Esquina del Sabor when in the Poás area, not only to buy some of our smoky, delicious beef jerky, but also to enjoy some incredible coffee and ambiance.

We arrived at the Poás National Park about 15 minutes later not knowing what to expect. The attendants told us the visibility was poor, but, being residents, the entrance fee was so low that we decided to check it out anyway. The kids were pumped and ready to explore. The walk from the parking lot to the crater seems to be about 500 meters, full of jaw-dropping vegetation and constant dew. There is even a small waterfall along the way.

The crater was engulfed with clouds, but we were still reminded that there was a volcano present because we could smell the sulfur. After some rock climbing, we decided to take the trail up to the Lago Vista (lake view).

The trail seemed like something out of a creepy fairy tale like Sleepy Hollow as it tunneled through the Arbol de Pelos (hair trees), we expected the headless horseman to jump out from the darkness. The moss was alive, the mist was spooky and our words echoed as we tried to scare the kids with goofy howling, to no avail, as the kids enjoyed it all with laughter.

As we approached the Lagoon, someone in the distance called out "Max!" and we were reminded that everyone in Costa Rica knows Max. There was a family from Atenas that he knew from his old school, and they welcomed him into their pictures, adoringly.

Apparently people are not enough for our little socialite, as we caught him engaging in high 5's with a squirrel. 

Even though there was no visibility, it was a great trip. We bought the best, sweetest, most succulent strawberries on our way home, straight off the farm. The kids were tired and the short drive home made the adventure complete. Pura Vida!

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