Getting up really early and hiking is one the best things I can think to do. Granted, I am usually a lounge around in my robe waiting for the coffee to kick in sort of gal, but being someplace nature-full always inspires me to get up and get out. Having the trail to myself is also a good motivator.
Which was great- not only did we have a tight schedule, but this part of the Park was actually pretty crowded and well-hiked compared to the sector we had hiked the day before. Even though they two park entrances were only 7 km apart, they offered completely different, yet equally crazy landscapes.
So the trail we had really wanted to do was a peak hike to the cone of the volcano. That was closed when we were there- a couple people have died and the volcano is unpredictably active and spewing lava and ash from time to time. We settled for the more traveled loop trail that took you past some eerie and weird sights.
There was some really lovely tropical rainforest to hike through. We saw groups of howler monkeys in the treetops. The forest here is so dense, you could walk around all day without seeing much of anything, but if you pause and you are quiet, the forest will come alive around you.
We reached a spot where hot sulfiric steam was wafting out of the ground. It turned the forest into a misty, enchanted place. While it took a lot of effort to keep my camera lens from fogging up constantly, I think I captured the other-worldliness of the place. When the breeze kicked up and blew the clouds of steam in your direction, you could barely see your hand in front of you. When the breeze died down, the light filters through in a magical sort of way.
A dead tarantula was spotted, along with a giant predatory wasp nearby. The wasp lays its eggs in a live tarantula, which then use the spider as sustenance. They literally eat their way out of the host. Nature is horrifying sometimes.
There were fumeroles and boiling mud pots and sulfuric ooze seeping from cracks in the ground. All around this turmoil and inhospitable land wast beautiful and resilient flora.
The trail turns out of the rainforest and into what they are calling a dry forest. This is what years of re-growth looks like after the land has been clear cut:
Dry scrubland. Once you cut down a rainforest, is is loathe to grow back. This was once pastureland that they are letting revert back to a natural space.
There were boiling mud pots though. Too hot to sit in. Maybe close to 200 degrees F.
It was nice to have one last swim (really, it was my bath for the day) in a waterfall pool. Sigh, Costa Rica. You are a lovely and strange and beautiful place. I spent a lot of time rescuing (catch and release!) large moths out of my cabinia when I would have normally killed them, and brushing away large beetles when I certainly would squash them, and becoming oddly fascinated with grasshoppers half the size of my arm. It makes you feel a bit more part of the food chain when there are leopards running about.
I guess the only thing I continued to swat at with no mercy were mosquitoes and other biting blackflies. They are truly terrible creatures, and my skin looked like a relief map of the Alps with all the bug bites that I was trying really hard not to scratch.
I did enjoy that swim muchly, as the next couple weeks would be spent in the charmless Land of the Polar Vortex.