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Published: June 24th 2018
In 2015 while exploring a small town in central Costa Rica called Monteverde, I stumbled into a tour guide establishment and grabbed several of the brochures that were advertising some of the most popular excursions in the country. In 2015 I was a newly graduated professional and in search of new adventures. One of the brochures was on the Volcan Irazu crater which looked amazing. This volcano crater was something new which I had to discover for myself. During a study abroad trip with University of South Florida in 2014 we visited Arenal Volcano which was amazing, although Irazu national park provided the opportunity for observers to hike up the face of the mountain and observe the volcano crater. Inside the Volcan Irazu crater there is a lake that changes color from aqua blue to blood red depending on the frequency of fumeroles and the acid alkaline balance in the water.
In late 2017 my mom helped us seize an opportunity to go on a family vacation/adventure, in which I was the guide/translator. There were many things on our “wishful” itinerary like La Paz waterfall and cloud forest for example, yet Irazu was at the top of
When we first arrived for our ten days in Costa Rica we were met with immediate disappointment; Volcan Irazu National Park was closed due to frequent and significant seismic activity. Due to the fumeroles and earthquakes no visitors were permitted to enter the park.
Three days into our trip the park opened for half days in the morning during the safest time of the day for visitors. With an altitude of 3,432 M, SNM at the summit, and despite being in Central America just 10 d North of the equator an environment that high in altitude is very cold at the peak usually around 35 d F for example.
On our final day in the tropical country we attempted the Irazu Volcano adventure everyone had been dreaming of. In San Jose the capital city of Costa Rica; the center square is called Plaza de Cultura. This is where the bus leaves from at 8:00am to visit Irazu Monday through Friday. After a quick breakfast and a crazi taxi ride into the city center through morning rush hour we finally arrived at the city center
at 8:15am. We raced off to find the bus (which we thought was at every hour) come to find out was at 8:00am only. We missed the bus.
Since it was still very early we all tried to shake off the sting of disappointment and move on with an enjoyable day. I remember sitting on the bench at Plaza de Cultura thinking “ it’s 8:30am downtown San Jose and I can get a nice breakfast and a coffee then do the city tour all day, maybe the Gold Museum.” Then I recalled a taxi driver from a few days earlier asking me about excursions and prices. I thought to myself “man, maybe I can convince one of these taxi drivers to take us up the mountain to Volcan Irazu”?
We strolled around the entrance of the Gold Museum for a minute, then I saw a taxi driver across the street who seemed relaxed, he came up and asked me if I needed a ride. I said to him in Spanish; I have a question for you. My parents and I are Americans and we hope to visit Volcan Irazu today. We will
give you $100 for a ride there and back. Do you want to visit the countryside and the volcano today? Is $100 sufficient? He said “para mi si.”
Clearly the Spanish lessons from Estudio Sampere paid off. Joey the taxi driver that agreed to take us spoke no English. We drove through San Jose and then Cartago where we saw a statue of Jesus. In Costa Rica the people there are predominately Catholic and very passionate about they’re religion. We drove up the mountain along steep winding roads with no railings. Looking over the edge was a bit uncomfortable. On the road up to the park we passed through agricultural fields and saw fields of broccoli, potatoes, carrots, corn, and many other crops. One driver had his truck completely stuffed Tico style as he headed to the market in the city. After a quick stop we made it to the entrance of Parque Nacional Volcan Irazu. Joey drove right through the guard station at the entrance to the park. The guards yelled and waved at us and we had to pay $10 each to enter the area.
From the summit we
were able to observe the entire park. The path to the peak was filled with exotic plants and Jurassic vegetation everywhere which thrived in the environment due to the intense sunlight, cool temperatures, and rich volcanic soil. The environment as a whole was very strange. There were huge clouds that would pass beneath us and at our level which decreased and increased visibility at a moment’s notice. On clear days visitors at the summit can view the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea from one single high point in the atmosphere. Here the breeze is freezing and the air temperatures are usually around 35F. Ash fields and large boulders spread out around the park showed evidence of previous eruptions.
After hiking and checking out the peak we descended to the lower levels of the park which were closer to the craters of the active volcano. As I stopped to look at the ash field and secondary crater I realized the scale of this geological wonder. All the science classes from my past barely scratched the surface of what I was leaning on this day.
Another small hike around the corner of
the first crater, a stroll through the ash field and there it was: the main crater. We spent the remainder of our excursion hiking and exploring the rim of the main crater and taking all kinds of photos around the volcano. We achieved our goals and then some. The day we flew home I looked at the website for Parque Nacional Volcan Irazu, the park closed that day for preservation purposes during prime tourist season. We made it in a small window of opportunity and had an amazing time that was very much a fulfilling and euphoric adventure.
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