Did Somebody Say Volcano?

The sun had barely cracked the horizon, its warm glow moving down the adjacent slope of the Rio Quebrada Honda valley as we rolled out of bed. While rubbing my eyes and peering out the hazy window at the early morning spectacle I begin to wonder, "Why did we sign up for this again? Oh yeah... volcano." It seems as though the very word was designed to suck the interest of anyone who dared glance at a Lonely Planet Guide. We stumbled into some CouchSurfing friends the night before and as soon as the word was mentioned, it sounded good to us and we agreed to meet up and go together. Luckily our bags were pre-packed and limited clothing makes for limited selection time. We rouse Michal, the Czech CouchSurfer staying in the room next door.  Out the door and down the road.  

Hoping to find something wonderful and tasty for breakfast at the Super Mercado, we are met with solid disappointment. Closed. Moving on... ATM. Quick head math, withdraw just enough cash and hurry to catch the bus.

Downtown San Jose feels different in the early morning. It actually feels like people work here. With 18 minutes till bus departure and both breakfast and lunch as our mandatory priorities, we walk briskly down the broken sidewalks, staring in disgust at the serpentine lines winding their ways out of every bakery in sight. This won't be easy. 13 minutes. More brisk walking and confusion lead us to believe that a super market will be the best option for both breakfast and securing a packed lunch for the afternoon. The clock is ticking... 8 minutes to go and finally we men take Meisha's pleading advice. Michal asks for directions. We put the broken pieces of our Spanish understanding together, deliberate and more brisk walking follows. Success... beans, tortillas, Ritz crackers and we're off. With only moments to spare, we arrive at the terminal and find Rose, our travel partner for the day who we'd just met the night before.

The bus ferries us 2 hours north of San Jose up winding mountain roads. Coffee, strawberry and other various farms cover the hillsides of the passing towns and villages and eventually the entrance to Parque Nacional Volcán Poás is in view. We pay the $10 per person (ouch!) entrance fee and in we go.

"Hello tourists..." I think to myself while simultaneously wondering if I must look the same. These polyesterish pants must go. But they're soooo easy to keep clean. Oh well, maybe another day. We follow a rather uninspiring paved trail for 10 minutes or so and arrive at what appears to be the top. Clouds, fog, that's it. Seriously? We'd read about this in the guide books... some days you won't see the volcano at all. It's all a game of chance. Some tourists get the crazy idea that if they all wave their arms in unison, they might actually clear the mass of clouds and fog. Madness within the collective unconscious ensues and suddenly an immense group cheer fills the air. Wait, what? It's working!? The cheering suddenly halts and is replaced by a rather large group sigh of disappointment. Mother nature=1. Collective unconscious=0. Perhaps someone skimped on their yogic meditation this morning.

We get over it and follow a trail through the cloud forest instead. Winding, craggily, moss-covered trees are in abundance and I'm reminded of Old Man's Cave in Ohio. Nice, but it's no volcano. We come to the next view point and.... clouds, fog. Ok, moving on. As we complete our loop, we realize we still have a good 2.5 hours to kill. Might as well go stare at the clouds again.

We wind back up the trail and to our surprise, blue sky (and significantly less tourists) beckon from the viewpoint. We race to the top as if the clouds may return any minute. Yep. It's a big crater. Cool... but $20 and a 2 hour bus ride cool? You be the judge:

As we make our way down from the crater I begin to ready our money for the bus ride home. Shit balls. We don't have enough. I really didn't want to face the embarrassment of asking our new friend for money because I miscalculated while half-sleeping in front of the ATM. After asking the cashier "¿Es possible para usar mi tarjeta por Colones.... uhhhhmmm.... back?" she shook her head with a very disappointing "No". Spanish skills=0.3. Preparedness=0. Demoralized, I report the news to our friend and she offers to spot us. We were, however, clinging to the hope that our $7 paid to get to the volcano also covered the ride back. The time comes to board the bus and we slip in quietly past the driver. No money exchanged. He jumps into his seat, fires up the bus and down we go. Score! Yeah, I totally new that was gonna happen. Josh=1. ATM=0. I win.

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