Friday, April 10, 2009
IN Bioparque, Poas and Arenal Volcanoes
We got down to the lobby at 7 am, dropped of our bags and headed off to breakfast in an outdoor terraced area. Breakfast consisted of rice with beans, scrambled eggs, toast with pineapple jam, fresh fruit, coffee and juice. Some students are going to have to adjust to eating beans with rice as it is served with almost every meal. After breakfast we got on the bus and after about 20 minutes we were at IN Bioparque which is a former coffee plantation that has been converted into an educational facility. Their purpose is to educate the people about Costa Rica's biodiversity and protected areas. We watched a multimedia presentation and then walked through the park with a guide who pointed out the different plant and animal species in the park. We ended our visit with a 10 minute video about Costa Rica's natural history. This visit was an excellent introduction to our time in CR.
After leaving Bioparque we had a two hour bus ride from San Jose, out into the countryside and up a long winding road, through rural villages and farmland, up to the Poas volcano. At the volcano we hiked up to the viewpoint and arrived just in time to see the multiple craters before the clouds rolled in and obscured the view. It is difficult to visualize how big the region is that you are looking at. From the lookout to the far side of the crater region is about 1.3 km.
Our tour guide, Pablo Yee is very knowledgeable, has degrees in biology and volcanology, and is a government certified guide. He gave a short course on the formation of CR and explained how volcanologists monitor volcanic activity to ensure the safety of area residents and tourists. After our time at Poas, we loaded up onto the bus to go for lunch.
For lunch we stopped at a family owned place that served a traditional CR meal. We had a choice of chicken or beef with rice and beans, fried plantain, yuca (a deep fried root vegetable), shredded cabbage salad, potato skillet and a delicious beverage made from strawberry juice and milk. The meal was very delicious.
After lunch we had a 3 hour bus ride from Poas to the Arenal Region of CR. The countryside is absolutely gorgeous. We drove through several different regions that have a variety of vegetation and climate. We got to our hotel located in the heart of the little tourist town of La Fortuna and after having a bit of free time we ate a nice meal of fish, mashed potatoes and cole slaw. The evening was very warm and clear, so Pablo decided we should drive to the Arenal volcano. By the time we got to Arenal it was very dark and the clouds had rolled in a little bit. We got out of the bus and sat down to watch the volcano. The volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is erupting almost constantly, throwing large boulders up into the air, which crash down the side of the mountain, breaking apart and leaving a trail of glowing lava. We were watching from a safe distance of 3 km away, so it was difficult to get good photographs. After much trial and error I did manage to get three that I thought were keepers. Our entire groups sat and watched the volcano for over an hour before we decided to head back to the hotel and go to bed.