Sister-in-law Michelle and I decided to take a tour to the Costa Rican volcano Poás. Our driver’s name was Stalin (the “good one,” he said). He was from Peru. His father, a professor, is also Stalin. I’m guessing his grandfather was a communist.
The tour left Jacó early in the morning and stopped for a traditional Tico breakfast of rice, beans, chicken and papaya. It was a buffet, so I could have chosen scrambled eggs and another meat, but when in Costa Rica…
Spanish explorers found a spiked plant on the mountainsides. The Spanish word for such spikes is púas which became corrupted into Poás. We enjoyed seeing the yellow-flowered plant that gave the volcano its name. We also saw “poor man’s umbrella,” the largest leafed plant in Costa Rica.
The very existence of the park is significant. A student in the 1960s visited Great Smokey National Park in the United States and decided he wanted to do the same for Poás. He wrote his master’s thesis on the subject, and it became an integral part of the development of Costa Rica’s national park system.
A nice visitors’ center (funded in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development) has a cafe, souvenir shop, restrooms and small museum. From there, the crater is about a fifteen minute walk up a fairly steep wide paved trail with descriptive signs funded by Hewlett-Packard.
The volcano is 8875 feet high and near the center of the country. It is cold (for Costa Rica) that high, and the mountain catches the moist winds. Therefore, it
was not a surprise that it is often surrounded in mist and rain. Had we been able to see anything, we were told (and signs showed) there were two crater lakes, one more than a mile wide, over 900 feet deep, warmed by the volcano and very acidic. The other, in a crater within the crater formed in 7500 B.C., is cold and clear.
Stalin had his “assistant/trainee” with him. We think it was his girlfriend. Like many of the tourists around us, they took pictures of each other with nothing but the fog behind them.
There was little to see at Poas, but the mountainside is covered with farms, often with netting over the fields to protect strawberry and ornamental plants from the sun — it must shine sometime. We passed many a farmer by the side of the road selling his or her strawberries. And when we stopped for a fairly nice lunch, the restaurant served very good strawberry smoothies. We had Stalin stop after lunch so we could buy some berries to take back to Jacó where oddly enough, they aren’t found in stores.
Breakfast, fog and lunch, do not make a winner of a tour. The day was saved, however, by a tour of a coffee plantation, the subject of next week’s post.
If you choose to visit Poás, try to go early in the morning before the cloud cover forms.