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La vida loca! Wished you were there? We did, so here we are on our big adventure! A year in central America, to make sense of this vida loca...

Old Man Volcan

COSTA RICA | Tuesday, 4 November 2008 | Views [2431]

Geothermal mud pool, Volcan Rincon

Geothermal mud pool, Volcan Rincon

We exited Monteverde and headed on the bus for Liberia, Costa Rica´s main northern town and centre for the cattle-ranching Guanacaste region.  As I explained before, this was a slow journey.  Still, we started early, so arrived in good time in Liberia to be diddled by both a taxi driver and a hotel.  We asked for the hostel we wanted – to be told it had changed its name – so we were dropped off at said different hostel.  Asked Hotel manager about name change, who confirmed it, and then tried to flog us a rather expensive room – although we managed to negotiate a slightly cheaper one without air-con.  I thought it was iffy at the time, and so it was – on our first reccie of the town centre, there was our original choice, where it should have been.  Eh well – you live and learn – although its hard to get out of that sort of situation, as you can´t exactly call the taxi-driver a liar…

Anyway – we found Liberia to be a really nice town.  Its friendly and not too big, it is a town in its own right, and not one formulated around tourism, and for the first time in Costa Rica – it still has some of its original colonial architecture, which seems to be have been swept aside in most of the country to be replaced by amorphous block-work buildings.

The Coati at the Ranger´s station, in two minds as to whether I´m a tasty grub or not...

Our only adventure here was to take a tour to the Volcan Rincon de la Vieja National Park.  This is an active volcano surrounded by rainforest 20km to the north-east of the town.  A new geo-thermal power station is being constructed at its foot - a great way to generate electricity in central america (until the volcano blows, of course...).  We got there early, and negotiated our way around the rather tame Coati near the ranger station (what is it with tame animals at National Parks?  There´ll be a Jaguar at the next one wanting its tummy tickled…).

In the morning we walked around a trail that brought us round numerous bubbling mud pools and eggy-smelling vapour clouds issuing from the multi-coloured rocks, covered in mineral salts.  The forest here was much different from that we´d encountered elsewhere – darker and more forbidding, and seemingly dominated by strangler vines – ficuses that wrap around a host tree, before eventually out-competing and killing it, leaving a hollow tree with a knot-work trunk, with the rotting remains of its host spilling out….  Paths were covered in twisting, thick roots, undergrowth sometimes dominated by vicious spiky succulents – and what with the volcanic vents, surrounded by barren rocks, the experience really did seem like something out of a fairy-tale, or maybe some dark fantasy novel.   We also saw another Coati foraging for grubs and insects, and had a good near view of a red-furred Agouti (rodent-like critters, about the size of a small dog).

Steaming pools of scalding water abound.

The forest also contained a fantastic waterfall, full of water – a definite place for water-nymphs.  In the afternoon, I dragged Rachel up the mountain slope to visit two more big waterfalls – they were only supposed to be 5km away, but after two hours, we´d only got half way, so I think their distance measuring was a bit off! – we turned back, needing to catch our taxi.  The forest we walked through was again dark, and rather quiet – Rachel surprised me by taking off her shoes and wading across a fiercely flowing stream without coaxing (obviously good practice was had at Mastatal!).  Shortly afterward the path passed a deep pool (probably 15ft), which was totally clear to the bottom – with trees growing right out of it – obviously seasonal, and utterly magical.  Once we turned back, we saw Capuchins, and then surprised a group of spider monkeys – the first we´d seen in the wild – we were suddenly surrounded by guttural howls and screams in the canopy – quite unworldly and nearly frightening – the large males swung gracefully through the canopy, making full use of their prehensile tails, quite unlike the branch jumps of Capuchins and Howlers.  They weren´t happy to see us – so we moved on.

Here be water spirits...

We made good time back to our pick up – where we were attacked by horrible little biting flies – swarms of ´em – we quickly decided to find our driver and get out!  The large blue and white magpie-jays, with their dashing crests laughed at us as we left.It was funny – the forest here had a distinct primevality to it – a presence, or a memory that Rachel found unpleasant – forest with a dark undercurrent.  I found it fascinating and quite other-wordly – this is the sort of place where story and myth originate.

What if the roots come alive?

Tags: dishonest taxi drivers and hotels, liberia, volcan rincon de la vieja


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Argh!  Well, maybe not pirates this time, but dig the colour-coordinated bandanas!

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