Under the Volcano

I have been off the ‘Net while I vacationed with the family in Costa Rica. CR is a great place to vacation, even for us aging Boomers. The activities there (e.g., white water rafting, horseback riding, the ZIP line through the cloud forest) are still attainable for those of us who were born before 1960. And the local distilled spirit, Guaro, is to die for when mixed with a simple sugar sirup and lime juice. 

My most spectacular experience in CR was watching the eruption of the Arenal volcano, CR’s youngest and most active volcano. It was considered extinct until 1968, when it erupted rather violently (killing almost 100 people unfortunately located on its slopes), and it has been in continuous eruption ever since. Arenal is a stratovolcano (meaning it forms a distinct cone, among other things), and is more similar to Mt. Doom in Mordor (but less gloomy, as there are trees on the slopes of Arenal and no sign of orcs) than it is to the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii.

An expatriate acquaintance of my sister’s, who now lives in CR, found a wonderful lodging for us on the edge of the volcano. It took almost all day to travel there from San Jose, but it was well worth it. When we reached the end of the one-lane gravel road, we found a warm welcome and an unsurpassed view.

Following dinner on the hotel’s deck (which allowed continual eruption-watching), we retired with freshened Guaro sours to the decks of our rooms, facing the volcano’s flank. It was not quite dark and the local Howler Monkeys were in great voice. An entire family of the Howlers was nesting in a tree just down the slope from our rooms, and we could hear and see all their late evening activity. (Their howls sound like a mixture of dog barks and masculine screams. Think about that…)

Arenal is high enough (5,435 feet) that it is often shrouded in clouds during the rainy season, which is now. But we were lucky in that the clouds dissipated after a rather spectacular thunder storm and we were able to see the streams of lava flowing down the mountainside. Occasionally, we could hear the explosions coming from Arenal – a scary sound when one considers that the next explosion could signal the ultimate eruption. Fortunately for us, Arenal remained relatively calm.

arenal.jpg

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