Tag Archives: Alajuela

Returning to Volcan Poas

Most of the morning I spent sleeping and relaxing. I was still tired after the long drive 2 days ago, but for the afternoon I had scheduled to meet a friend and visit the Poas Volcano.

I met Mario at 1 AM by Pops at the Central Park in Heredia. From there we drove to his grandparents house to greet them and also to ask his grandfather how we should drive to get to volcan Poas.

We took off and mostly we felt quite sure about the way. However at one point there were no signs to let us know where to go on further. Mario thought we may have to take to the right so we went with his intuition (despite of what 3 of his couchsurfers have posted in the references that he is the worst co-pilot in Costa Rica – Im probably NOT the best driver here though). We found the signs further on and felt sure that we were on the right track again :D From there on it was really easy – however there were lots of heavy transports driving up the mountain hills and they were NOT particularly fast so we didn’t get there fast. However we had time to explore the beautiful nature driving up the mountain and watch the change of scenery.

The first time I visited Volcan Poas was back in 1993 with my mom and grandma that came to see me during my High School exchange year. Both the Crater and the lagoon were covered by clouds and todays luck was no better. A huge cloud (nope – not mist) had covered the crater and today I had no greater luck. However I had great company and lots of fun and now I just have a reason to come back – to see the crater and the lagoon on my third try :D

Volcan Poas is a stratovolcano and it lies within two vast calderas at the height of 2,708 meter over sea level. The southernmost of two summit crater lakes, Botos, is cold and clear, and last erupted about 7,500 years ago. The other is warm and acidic and has been the site of frequent eruptions since the first was reported in 1828. Eruptions often feature geyserlike ejections of lake water.

One of the rangers told us that it had had a 50 meter high geysirlike erruption just today !!! Awesome ! And we missed it :(

Do not descend to the crater.

Beautiful nature. Hidden in clouds.

My company and team mate from Couchsurfing MDST Mario. The view is hidden in a cloud.

Me with a poor mans umbrella

At 4 pm the rangers started making sure the visitors started moving towards the exits and we did as well, but while enjoying the beautiful nature. On our way down we drove with calm and made several stops along the way to buy queso de Palmito and strawberries (not so easy to find in the hotter lowlands).

However, today I had my first encounter with the law.
I was driving and took a wrong turn into a one-way street just in front of a local police officer. He honked his horn and I stopped and he came over. In the mirror he looked angry, but when he came over and saw me his face lit up in a smile and then he asked me; Are you lost my love? I heard Mario laugh beside me while I, of course, played the lost card to its full and asked for directions and explanations and then explaining how we had gotten lost and this and that. Awesome !
Then he directed me while I backed up to the cross and could turn in the right way :D Then he saw us off with; Have a nice day my love :D
I love Costa Rica !

We moved on and stopped to take pictures of the beautiful sunset.

Then we got lost again and just as we were most lost I decide to turn on the radio and the first 2 lines that streams are:

Que nos paso? ¿Porqué nos perdimos?
Meaning: What happened? How did we get lost? And of course… We both burst into laughter. It was soooo perfectly timed. Hehehe

However, finally we found Alajuela and with that also Heredia and finally it was time to have lunch (and dinner). We went to a restaurant in Heredia with traditional food and had a lovely meal before I went home to my family and Mario moved on back to Rohrmoser.

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Night Hike in the Jungle at Santa Maria Refugio de vida Silvestre

We were pickced up from Pension Santa Elena in Monteverde by Bernald, our guide, for the Night Hike. We were 10 people all together and we were then taken to Santa Maria Refugio de vida Silvestre where we all recieved a flash light and instructions. If we feel anything climbing our legs – warn guide immediately because it could be a scorpion or snake. Yikes. Hehehe.

We set off and the first thing we saw was a giant Tarantula (and yes it was big).

and then we found a Two-Toed Sloth. They are a bit bigger than the Three-Toed Sloth and they move a bit faster. This one wasn’t moving at all though.

The Two-Toed Sloth is a bit brownish in the color compared to the Three-Toed Sloth that is more grayish in color.

We were also lucky enough to see our first snake today. This one lives high up in the branches so that it can keep warm from the sun. This one is a Green Vine Snake.

Thankfully, not all crawling on the ground are scorpions and this a grasshopper.

5 years ago I bought Jack Ewings book Monkeys are made of Chocolate. In that book the story: There is a Fungus Among us was. This is a very informative story about the Leaf-cutter ants (Atta cephalotes is the most common Leaf-Cutter Ant).

Did you know they walk up to 2kms away from their home to collect new leaves and up trees as high as a 10 story building?
Did you know that only the queen is fertile and that the colony dies with her? She lives for about 20 years though.
Did you know that the leaf-cutter ants don’t eat the leafs, but that they grow a fungus on it?

All the members of the colony contribute directly or indirectly to the cultivation of the fungus. The most obvious of the seven distinct castes of Atta cephalotes are the leaf carriers marching through the forest with their green parasol-like cargo. When they arrive at the colony and deposit their leaf crescents, another caste takes over — the cleaners. Each leaf fragment is meticulously scraped and licked until clean. Later it is cut into smaller pieces, chewed, mixed with saliva and formed into a soft wad. The ants then place some fungus starter material, called mycelia on the medium and place it beside other newly planted fungus in a suitable chamber.
From that point another caste, the fungus caretakers, step in and take over the process. These ants are responsible for keeping the fungus clean and free from impurities and infection. They do this partially by physically removing any foreign life form that tries to grow on either the medium or the bread-like fungus.

A bacterium that lives in a patch on the ant’s skin produces an antibiotic that controls the mold. Beyond that, they have learned how to handle technologies more skillfully than the bumbling civilization above their heads. They can grow a monoculture and they have also learned how to deploy an antibiotic without the target pest’s becoming resistant to it.”

Another thing about leaf-cutter ants. Their homes are HUGE:

And this one is just a small part of it !

Read Jack Ewings “There is a Fungus Among us

We saw lots of other animals as well during this hike like the Woolly opossum, the Northern Raccoon, the White-nosed Coati, A few Red Tailed Squirrels, Bats, 2 Frogs (of a species I don’t remember), several species of fireflies and firebeetles.

It was a lovely trip and I had a great time!

After the Hike we went for dinner at Amigos Restaurant. The bar was full with Gringos as the Superbowl was on. However they had good food and once Superbowl was over all the Gringos left. We had an early night.

Monteverde to Fortuna de San Carlos – Arenal Volcano.

partlycloudy.gifNice day. Around +20C and not that much wind.

I woke up at 6 am and then spent the next 2,5 hours online to update my blog and write e-mails. Then I spent a couple of hours in the hammock outside the hostel reading the new book I just bought. Or. well its not exactly new as I have read it before, but this time I acquired a copy in spanish to improve my skills. Oh How Nice to just relax in the hammock.

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At noon Barbara came back from the cloud forest and we met up with Tim, Christian and Bryan from the party at 3C yesterday. They were gonna give us a ride to Fortuna de San Carlos and the Arenal Volcano.

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We started off at 12:30pm and spent 3 hours driving in 20kms/hour on the bumpy, curvy, unpaved road from Monteverde to Tilaran. When arriving Tilaran the good road began and we could finally drive faster. We were a little insecure about the road and took the wrong road and ended up in a small village before getting back on the main road again. We had a stop to look at the view over the Arenal Lake with Arenal Volcano in the background.

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We also made a lunch stop around 3pm at the small village Nuevo Arenal before driving the last 2 hours in to Fortuna. When we reached the Arenal Lake dem, we made another stop to see if we could see the volcano errupt. There were some smaller sightings of rocks and moist and the toxic fumes, but no bigger erruptions to spot. The sad thing was that the whole mountain was covered in clouds.

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Arriving Fortuna we checked out 2 hostels but decided for Arenal backpackers resort that even had a swimmingpool. At only US 11$ for a dormroom, all 5 of us checked in together and about 7pm we decided to go to check out one of the many Hot springs in the area.

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We went to a resort called Baldi Hot springs that has 16 Hot Springs of various tempuratures surrounded by beautiful tropical gardens. Facillities include 2 swim up bars, Spa services & resturant. It was FANTASTIC !!!

Where do you else find hot water swimmingpool with bars? The waters had temperatures from +70C (naturally noone was in that one) to +27C and is located about 5 km outside Fortuna downtown.

The entrance fee for tourists is US 25$ but as I tried to pay with my Banco Nacional debet card I realized that I am going to continue doing that. They asked me if I had my cedula (identification card) with me and I said “no, but I do have my passport”. Whereas the receptionist asked whether I lived in CR and since I concider myself living in this country due to my long stay I said yes and were charged locals fee of US 17$. WOOOOOHOOOO. This country is great.

We stayed in the pools for about 3 hours till closing time and during that time we heard the volcano having a huge Gas explosion. It was fantastic and went on for about 3-4 minutes. No lava to be seen on this side of the mountain though.

At the pools we also met 3 girls (Marcelle, Michigan and Kiwi), that had stayed at Pension Santa Elena in Monteverde the night before, and The Israeli, Kobe. We hung out with them and gave them a ride back to the pension as it turned out that they were our room neighbours.

At the pension we all were hungry and went out for a bite and some more drinks and at one of the bars there was live music. However the guys considering it practically was their last day in Costa Rica as they are leaving Monday for the US they wanted to party and decided to go to Fortunas only disco. They took a cab up there with Michigan and Kiwi.

Barbara, Michelle and I took a cab up to El Mirador de Arenal and stayed there for 1 hour watching one after another fantastic erruption from the Volcano. It was marvelous.. The sightings of red lava flowing down the hillside at midnight was so exiting and emotional that I am still breathtaken. God must like me.

He also made sure that the clouds ALMOST dissappeard completely from the moment during some of the explotions.

The cab driver waited with us.. (Anyway. Its not like it is expensive. US 20$ for an hours use. hehe.) He also explained a lot about the volcano to us. About its erruptions, best sighting season etc. And about stupid tourists getting to close so that they would be killed by toxic fumes more than a +1000C degrees hot. It burns up the lounges. But people still wanna walk in te national park that is very very close to the foot of the volcano. There are signs anywhere telling that this is a high risk volcanic area and that you enter under you own responsability.

At 2am the volcano was done showing off and calmed down for a moment where we went home to sleep. The guys came in about 10 minutes later and decided to get up at 4 in the morning to see the volcano in action. Must I add they did not make it hehe…

Amazing Sky trek & Sky walk at Santa Elena cloudforest

partlycloudy.gifToday we had nice weather. Very windy conditions and it was partly clouded. Temperatures can not have been higher than +18C.

The Sky Trek
Barbara and I with about 5 others were picked up at 7:30am and taken up close to Santa Helena cloudforest reserve to the Sky Trek main offices. I still felt so tired from getting up early in the morning every day and walking more than 5 hours a day for a week. Arriving at the Sky Trek offices we handed in our bags and got the safety equipment we needed. Helmet, gloves and harnesses that supports up to 5000 kgs. That should be enough.

Our 2 guides took us up a very thin stair tower and we passed a hanging bridge that felt like it was moving bad due to the wind. The stairs were horrible and this was the moment I remembered that I actually am a little afraid of heights. Especially when hanging from a cable. Hehe. We had to walk up a pretty steep hill before reaching the first bridge and when we got there Michael the guide explained how to use the equipment and safety precaussions.
We were a group of 2 israeli guys, one spanish dude and a german dude, Barbara and I and not to forget our two guides.

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The first and second cable were very short. Just to get used to using them, the equiment and the breaking system. It was kinda scary but off we went.
After the 3rd cable it was much more fun until the 6th cable. The wind was blowing tremendously and we had to get up on a huge tower again. The cable was 450 meters long and looked sooo far away. I had to go last and I felt scared. I even considered quiting and walking back to head quarter but decided to follow the flow when I asked Michael (the guide) if many people were afraid and wanted to quit. Yes he said many quit. We even have a chicken trail for those who does not want to continue.
Chicken trail. Fantastic. I am no chicken!. And by that moment I decided I was going to fulfill this no matter how scared I might be. Michael connected me and off I went.
From that point on I started liking it and by the 9th cable I was enjoying big time. Wind was breaking really hard and at the 770meters cable we had to start going in couples to have enough weight for the wind.

I went first with Michael, then the israelis, then the spanish/german and Barbara went last with the other guide. The 770 got me hooked and remembering how freaking scared I was at the beginning…. I just wanted to go straight back and do it all over and over again. Though standing on the bridge we got in at was more scary than doing the skytrek cables. hehe. We also had to do the last cable in couples due to the wind, and the fantastic tour was over.
At base camp we handed in the safety issues and went to have something to drink. I bought with me home a picture they took of me doing the sky trek. COOOL. hehe.

The Sky Walk
After lunch Barbara and I headed for the Sky Walk.
We had to go up the same horrible stairs as earlier this morning to get to the bridges. Up there we went the other direction from the Sky Trek trail and entered the Sky Walk trails. This was another amazing experience. The forest was not dripping from the rain and mist like in Santa Elena, but there was still the amazing primary and secondary forest with a wonderful birdlife sighting.

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The most amazing part was walking amongst the tree tops instead of on ground level. Watching the plants growing on the trees, the birds and the variation between the different forest types was great. We did not get to see any monkeys but then again… at that time of the day with that many tourist groups out walking … no way that we could even hope to spot the animals. It was still great and before going back to the base office we stopped at the hummingbird garden.

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Those small creatures are so cute. And they whirl around your ears with such a precision and noise that you can only laugh of amazement.

The bus took us back to Santa Elena at 12:30pm and at this hour I was so tired I hardly managed to keep my eyes up. I slept a couple of hours before finally feeling better.
Barbara and I went out to peek around in the city we are in and I bought some souvenirs to take home. After that I tried keeping up my blog, but half done the town of Santa Elena and Monteverde had an internet breakdown and noone could enter for the rest of the night. I sat down and chatted with people in the reception area and got to know new people instead.

Party at night.
As sitting there talking with a Canadian dude suddenly we got invited to this party in apartment 3C. They had a drinking competition and the bet was going to bring in more and more people. We celebrated Aussie day and Tim, Christian and Bryan (from Tenessee, USA) were hosting and buying drinks. We went out to have something to eat at KaKos Pizzeria around 9pm and as the biggest group went to a bar to continue drinking Some of us stayed back at the hostel and went early to bed. Tired as H***

Amazing Monteverde Cloudforest

cloudy.gifI have been up in the clouds so it has been cloudy and misty rain all day. Temperatures has been down to +16C and we have had wind.

I have spent my first night at a hostel at Pension Santa Elena in Santa Elena close to Monteverde. It was actually a pretty great experience and I might continue doing this a while.

Entering the Cloud forest
I got up at 5:30 and got ready to go to Monteverde Cloud forest reserve with the bus at 6am. I am SOOOO happy I made the sandwitches yesterday and that all I had to do today was taking them out of the fridge. Tired? yes ! But.. the whole idea about going at this hour is to possibly see the animals that most probably will be seen in the morning due to high visits that kinda scare them away.
Barbara could not go today so I went up and got the bus by myself. Well, not entirely by myself. There was always the busdriver and a lady with a kid and Simon and Kate from England that I got to know.

The park did not open until 7am though and we had to wait on a bench up there. It was really misty and everything was wet. Wonderful sounds of the wildlife already at this point at the ranger station. Lots of strange birds to be spotted and as we got closer to 7am a lot of tourists as well. We went to hire a guide and pay the entrances to the park and the tour did not start until 7:30. We were a small group of 8 and we were shown a small video of the forest before we started our tour. Our first visit was at the Hummingbird garden close by. The hummingbirds are amazing creatures and they sound like small jet planes sirkeling around your head. Or small motorbikes. Also, the smallest hummingbird is the one that makes most sound.

mv308.jpgEntering the forest trails we noticed the sensation of the sounds of the forest. GOD that is amazing. Birds singing and Howler monkeys doing their howling and the dripping of the constant rain. The guide told us that it is normal to have 10 METERS of rain a year in Monteverde area.

Monteverde also has 4000 plant/tree species within its tiny areas while in comparison ALL of Europe has 12 000 species. The first 10 minutes of the path we walked in secondary forest before entering the primary forest also known as virgin forest.
We managed to spot the famous Quetzal (Guatemalas national bird) and the Orange-bellied Trogon that is a very close relative. We also spotted a lot of other birds and even a sloth.

The misty sensation of the constant dripping was amazing, but the guided tour ended around 10 am. Kate, Simon, an english lady living in spain and I had lunch and then we headed into another trail in the forest, El Camino.
It is, apparently, the oldest trail they have and also the most open one.
During our walk we headed into another trail, the Wilford Guindon Trail, to enter a hanging bridge in the forest. Amazing.

At this point the english lady went back to the ranger station and Simon, Kate and I continued by ourself. We did not exactly walk fast because there was too much to see and explore. The Wilford Guindon Trail meets up with El Camino Path after about 1 km and we continued on our orignial path leading us to the Penas Blancas Valley that is also the continental divide point.
IF it would have been a clear day we could have seen both the caribbean and the pacific coast from there. The vegetation at this point was called “bosque enano” – dwarf forest – because of all the wind the trees dont grow tall like in more protected areas. There was a sign explaining that the velocity of the winds often reaches between 80-150 kms/hour. THAT is fast.

Heading back we chose the “bosque nuboso” (the cloudforest) trail. It was about 2,5 km long and amazing. We were all just SOOO impressed by the dripping sensation from the forest and beeing in the clouds that we walked around taking pictures of everything and trying to capture our every little memory.
See the trail map here

When we got back to the ranger station we had something more to eat and then suddenly a Coati shows up and starts begging food. He even seemed to like to being taken pictures of. He went up on to legs and even jumped up on the lunch table at a point. The guards told us he had stolen a purse last week and taken it high up in a tree and one of the rangers had to climb up in the tree to get it back for the lady. hehe. I would have liked to see that !!

The bus back to the hostel left at 3:50pm and we had time to visit the hummingbird garden before we left. At the hostel I met up with Barbara and we ordered a guided nightwalk tour for the night.

The Twilight walk at The Childrens eternal rainforest
At 5p, we were picked up by a minibus to go to The Childrens Eternal Rainforest to do a Twilight Night walk.
Man that was amazing. The bus left us at the entrance and the group had to hike about 5 minutes before getting to the ranger station where we were divided in smaller groups and given a tour guide and the proper equipment for a night walk. Flash lights !

We stayed at the ranger station to watch the sunset and then entered the “Bajo del Tigre trails” trying to be very quiet. The forest was coming alive. Man, what a beautiful choir !
The light disappeared very quick and the flashlights were very necessary. It was almost impossible to see anything. Good thing our guide knew what to look for. We saw tiny frogs not even the size of the thumbnail on a 10 year old, Tarantulas, sleeping toucans, funnelweb spiders, bats and lots of other big and small insects. Though we did not see the snakes (luckily) nor monkeys, sloths or cats. One of the other groups spotted sloths.

It was an amazing experience to walk through the forest at night. But I must admit I would have been scared to do it by myself… hehe.

We were taken back to the hostel at 7:45pm and barely managed to get into the foodstore that closed at 8pm to get more food to make the sandwitches for tomorrows lunch. I was so tired I had 2 cans of Tuna for dinner and then headed for the room and went to bed before 10pm.

Listen to sounds from the Cloud Forest in this link