Costa Rica: Zip Ya Down, Poas Volcano

After 13 or so hours of travel, and one five-hour layover in the Panama airport, Jon and I finally made it to Costa Rica! We are joining our families for Ali´s beach wedding in Guanacaste, but are doing some traveling first. After the plane ride I was exhausted and definitely coming down with some sort of flu. We rented our Toyota Rav 4 from the Budget Rental Car near the airport, and finally plopped ourselves down in our hotel airport beds for a bit of shu t-eye. I was tired. My eyes closed before my head hit the pillow.

The next day we rose at an early hour since Costa Rica is nearly two time zones behind Santiago. San Jose airport is north of the city, closer to the mountain town of Alajuela, so we never even really saw the bright lights of the capital. The most we experienced of San Jose was a long line of English speaking tourists in the customs department of the airport. Even though the best coffee tours in the country are around Alajuela, we opted instead to drive up to Poas Volcano and peer into “the coolest volcano” in the country.

Well, on the way to the volcano, Jon and I had a bit of a kerfuffle over directions. He wanted to plug an address into the GPS system he bought while I wanted to rely on my maps and the Guide Book that I had read cover to cover. I knew there was a faster road to Poas Volcano, but Jon was intent on taking the slower country road with potholes because the GPS told him to do so. I was upset, but since my New Years resolution was to care less about the little things and not try to have so much control, I chose not to say anything. However I was infuriated to have machine directions chosen over my carefully researched ones, and my displeasure could not be contained. All the way up the twisty, potholed mountain road the two of us went at it. Obviously, by the time we reached the tope, we were no longer just fighting about directions. As we reached the GPS destination, which was clearly NOT Poas Volcano National Park, Jon finally admitted that we had been on a back road up the mountain. It was clear that the newly built road was merging onto our road from the right. There was a steady line of cars and tour vans summiting from that direction.

Jon and I made up, and then joined the line of cars headed into the National Park. They were charging 15 US dollars a person to enter. We paid the fee, walked about two kilometers down an easy road and took the most expensive picture known to man. You could have walked around the volcano and taken pictures as you went, but since we had our shot (and about twenty others) we really felt no need. After our thirty-dollar picture we went to the gift shop where I purchased not one, but TWO eight-dollar magnets and a bottle of water. We headed back to the car where Jon correctly proclaimed Poas Volcano to be a “zip ´ya down, twenty five cent”* visit. I put my head back and fell to pieces laughing, because Jon rarely gets that phrase right.

*Zip ya down, twenty five cents” is a Deidrick family phrase uttered in reference to a much too short, yet expensive tourist visit. Apparently, Mom and her siblings were given a quarter and expected to use the funds for an entire night´s worth of entertainment in Cedar Park. My mom used the quarter on just one ride, and after the slide down realized that the money had not been used wisely or correctly. Basically, she was paying for nothing.

I had read about some hummingbird/butterfly gardens in the national park, which I thought would make the thirty dollar fee worth it. We asked the guide, on the way out, how to get to La Paz Waterfall Gardens and he told us 12 km down this dirt road. So we took it. Luckily it was a beautiful drive, and we did not get stuck behind any large trucks or busses that were barely moving. When we arrived at the butterfly gardens we saw immediately that it was a tourist trap. But we had come so far, that we dare not turn around now. Jon and I exited the car, and he waited in line with all the other suckers (I mean tourists…). The La Paz Waterfall Lodge was very similar to Bird land and Monkey Land in South Africa, in that it was a Wildlife Refuge Center that saved animals from the illegal wildlife trade. It also was enclosed on a very steep hill below the main lodge. It also was not included on the original National Park ticket and cost an additional arm and a leg.

The ways that it wasn´t the same were pretty much everything else. There was something inauthentic about the way the animals were separated and sometimes caged off, from the others. Although some animals roamed free like a few bird species, and some tree frogs, the rest seemed trapped somehow, like in a zoo for exotic Costa Rican creatures. We did see our fare share of monkeys, colorful birds, snakes, and butterflies, but it wasn´t quite like the parks we saw in South Africa. I left feeling pretty bad for the animals, but Jon got some good pictures, and the place was immaculately landscaped.

When we got to the bottom of the hill and looked up, all we saw were crisscrossing slopes, stairs, and pathways all the way up to the lodge. I had read that there was a shuttle to take passengers back up instead of making them trek all the way back up the hill. Well, when we saw the shuttle map, we realized that the transportation was 2 km away, by the waterfall, and that there was no way we would make it to our next hotel in the daytime if we took the shuttle. I looked up the hill again and wanted to cry. I am not so good at slopes. I whined and sighed like a pathetic puppy dog, took a running stance up the hill and did the best I could. Jon supported me by waiting with me at shady rest stops and pushing me up flights of stairs that I thought I might not have the strength for. After a bit, though- we made it and I didn´t fall. I did, however, take a fatty nap in the car on the three-hour drive to Arenal Observatory, where we were spending the next four nights.

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