Hey, whattya know…a DRY day, for a change! And by that, I mean reeeaallly 180-degrees-from-rainforest conditions. It was another field trip day, with the whole 6:30 wake-up/7:30 departure drill. This time, however, our transportation portion was markedly (mercifully) different. I don’t know if it was because our driver did NOT seem like he could be auditioning for whatever the equivalent of Costa Rican Nascar would be…or due to the fact that we were traveling to a spot much closer, over roads slightly less teeth-rattling. Along the way, our personable, informative guide finally, definitively explained to us what Pura Vida actually means. According to him, it’s a way of looking at things, taking whatever life throws your way, and accepting it with the philosophy “It is what it is”. Oh, my goodness...Central American Zen…is it any wonder I like this place so much?
Other fascinating tidbits: Costa Rica is known as one of the most eco-friendly and environmentally-protective nations in the world. As of right now, 91% of their power is produced in a sustainable manner. Ninety…one…percent. WOW. Furthermore, their goal is to make it a cool 100% by the year 2020. In the capital of San Jose, residents are assigned one day per week (based on their license plate number) in which they’re not allowed to operate their vehicle in the city. All of this is especially important in light of the current climate situation. While this is supposed to be the rainy season, where it is typical to get downpours in both the morning and afternoon hours, they’ve been experiencing a drought for several years now. (I can personally attest to this much: not a drop has descended from the sky since we’ve been here…not even a threat…)
After our mobile class (it’s an excursion…it’s school…I love this stuff!), we pulled into the park. Rincon de la Vieja is considered an active volcano—so, geothermal sights to behold--but hasn’t actually erupted in the whole “spitting lava and flinging ash and rock into the atmosphere” since 2006 (because yeah, I asked). After a quick stop for our fearless leader to grab his snake hook (ooh, this is gonna be FUN) we set off on the rocky trail. I can admit this now, because of what happened next: probably the only thing that disappointed me about our rainforest trek was the lack of...monkeys. Well, we hadn’t ventured 50 yards (or whatever that means in “meters”, since they use those here) into the trees before we heard…then spotted….howlers up above us. Score! Hey, since that goal was met so quickly and easily, let’s up the ante…now I want to meet up with…a snake! Or…a tarantula! (And by “meet up with” I of course mean “view from a safe, sane distance, preferably with our highly trained guide standing between me and them to run interference if necessary”. Mm-kay? Make it happen…Mother Nature…pretty please?)
Already happy practically before we began, we continued on our merry path. I feel I must mention here, that we passed families and couples on their own, and I was sooooo glad we had an Encyclopedia of Knowledge—ahem,“Tour Professional”—along with us. The things he pointed out that we would never have noticed, the background information he shared about the flora and fauna—these were worth much more than what we actually paid the company that employed him and lent him to us for the day. Here are leaf-cutter ants! See how much bigger the “soldiers” are, in order to protect the nest? Over there’s a ficus tree that completely surrounds and strangles its host, so that eventually only the invader remains! Note the bubbling hot springs...right, we probably wouldn’t have missed those, given the pools of thick, popping mud oozing up from underground…and the unmistakable…unbearable…unavoidable sulfuric stench of rotten eggs. (But otherwise, he was absolutely invaluable, I tell ya!)
And then, when we were just a few minutes from the end of our hike, it happened. Serpiente! Okay, okay, it was a teeny tiny little non-venomous critter. But it totally counts! Check that baby off the list! Our guide very helpfully held it still so those of us with cameras could capture photographic evidence of our close encounter of the…reptilian kind. Well (making the satisfied “brushing hands together” gesture) that does it for me…point me toward lunch! (Seriously, all of this fresh air and education and exercise and...whatnot...really gives one an appetite, I’m discovering…) So in summary: an extremely successful day at the volcano. Now there’s nothing left to accomplish but…wash off the bug spray…and sunscreen…and sweat…and, oh yeah, I think it’s time for dinner!