Views and Volcanoes

This week, we hosted our first outside visitor of the season. My roommate and fellow field assistant, Sruti’s, dad arrived on Friday via rental car from San José. He arrived bearing gifts of nutella, spare batteries, field equipment, coco butter lotion, and costco-size packs of peanut butter. To celebrate this, we decided to eat out in the neighboring town of La Cruz. La Cruz is just north of us and sits in the hills, revealing gorgeous views of the Pacific. Our dinner destination, Hacienda Quebrada de Agua, was even further up in the hills and offered spectacular views as opposed to the ho-hum gorgeous ones (I know, it’s all relative right?).

Hacienda Quebrada de Agua is nestled on a hillside at the end of an old dirt road. We climbed up, up, up until the car turned and we could see a clearing over the canopy with a straight shot to the ocean. The sun was already hanging low in the sky, and we decided to walk the nearby nature path while we still had daylight. Immediately, we were greeted by capuchins and spider monkeys swinging in the canopy above. We wandered some more, and found a pool at the end of the path tucked away in the hillside. It turns out, visitors have the option to swim and eat here at the same time. Sadly, we did not think to bring our swimsuits to dinner (lesson learned), but we’ll be back for a pool day in the near future.

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Restaurante Hacienda Quebrada de Agua – HIGHLY recommend! They offer a large menu with beef, chicken, and fish selections and vegetarian upon request. Be sure to order una bebida! I recommend the pineapple juice.

 

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La piscina (the pool) at the end of our walk

 

After our walk, we made it just in time to catch one of the prettiest sunsets I’ve ever seen. I’ll let the pics speak for themselves.

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The view from our table.

 

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Along the rock wall bordering the restaurant.

 

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Shot from under the trees, featuring Sruti’s dad!

 

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Last shot of the sun just before disappearing behind the horizon.

 

The next day, Sruti and her dad offered to let me tag along to Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park. As this would be my third time leaving the park since arriving in January, I already had my hiking boots on before Sruti even finished the sentence. Rincón is about an hour drive from Santa Rosa, half along the Pan American and the other half on winding back country roads. Here in Santa Rosa, there is an overlook that offers perfect views of the 3 volcanoes in Rincón,  so it was cool to actually be there, and step foot on a site I’ve seen several times since arriving in the park.

There are a couple of trails in Rincón, but the paths leading to the craters have been closed since 2014 due to increased volcanic activity. The other is a 4 hour hike to the waterfall, and another trail offers a 2 hour walk along mud pits and hot springs. We did the 2 hour walk as we were pressed for time, but Sruti and I hope to go back and try the waterfall hike sometime this year. In addition to the hot springs and mud pits, we saw spider monkeys, iguanas, and an anteater. Unfortunately, I was unable to get any photos of the wildlife, but the following are some pictures of the geological features we saw along the way.

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Views from the dry forest side of the hill.

 

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Mud pits! The ones further down the trail were bubbling and boiling like mad.

 

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One of the many hot springs seen along the path.

 

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Views of the steam coming from the springs – this area looked like a scene out of Jurassic Park.

 

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More steam views.

 

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The forest was littered with these massive fig trees. We have these in Santa Rosa, but nothing this big. I couldn’t get the whole tree in one shot even if I tried.

 

Another cool feature of the park is the terrain transition between the tropical dry forest and cloud forest found closer to the crater of the volcanoes. The pages I’ve linked can give you more detailed information (props to Wikipedia), but I’ll try my best to explain the difference. Essentially, dry tropical forests are located in tropical environments, but receive less rainfall throughout the year than say the Amazon. As a result, it’s hot and the vegetation tends to be dry, viney, low to the ground and experiences drastic changes between a “dry” season and a “wet” season. A cloud forest exists in the same tropical/sub tropical environment as a dry forest, but the climate is different as a result of higher elevation. These forests are found at the tops of mountains and volcanoes, and have tall green canopies that are often cooler, and blanketed in a thick fog or even low level clouds the higher up you go. At Rincón, there is a point in the trail where you can literally see the divide where the dry forest ends and the cloud forest begins. I tried to take a photo of this with my Iphone, but it’s an Iphone camera so, you know, bear with me.

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On the right is the dry forest, left is the beginning of the cloud. You can see the difference in the vegetation color and thickness. I have a video that shows the transition really well, but apparently you can’t upload videos to WordPress without updating to premium? Seriously what is up with that? Guess you’ll just have to visit and come see the divide for yourself.

 

After our hike, we ate lunch in a nearby town, and arrived home by one that afternoon. Sruti’s dad stayed a bit longer, then said goodbye around three to catch his flight back in San José. It was a short visit, but we had fun meeting, hosting, and exploring with someone new while showing off our little pocket of Costa Rica. Hopefully, this won’t be the last of our spontaneous visitor adventures as we have several family and friends planning to stop by in the months to come. If you are a family member and/or friend reading this, message me and we can chat about adding you to this exclusive list! Come on, you know you want to bring us more peanut but- I mean…see that gorgeous sunset in person. Until next post!

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