The saga continues…

We woke up and peeked outside at the fire god mountain to see if our deaths were imminent. They didn’t seem to be, but we did notice that the staff were all outside on the restaurant patio looking at the volcano and taking pictures. Kind of odd for people that work there and see it every day, right? The volcano had some pyroclastic flow going on, which was apparently a big deal. Scientists were called, seismographs were checked, trails were closed, etc.

This was what the flow looked like:

Arenal

We ate breakfast (delicious) and went on the morning hike with one of the guides, Eduardo. The first part of the hke was through the forest around the lodge. Ed told us more about the history of the volcano during the morning hike. I found it all fascinating, so I am going to share some. Go read a forum thread about banana holders if you don’t want to hear about science and history for a little while.

Ed had been living in the area all his life, and was 3 when the volcano originally erupted. He remembers running away from the volcano with his brothers, with car and house sized volcanic boulders smashing down around them. There were no scientists in the area back then (1968), so there was no official warning to the people in the area. The only warning they had was from a cowboy that noticed strange animals running away from the volcano through his ranch. Of course, the townspeople dismissed him as crazy when he told them that the mountain was actually a volcano. Ed said that people would climb up to the top and camp out in the crater, using the water heated by magma to take hot baths. I guess they thought the water was solar heated…

The government bought the town and farms after the eruption and moved them to another area for their safety. That lasted about five years until they bought the new town and farm again so they could build a damn for Lake Arenal, which with another dam, provides the majority of Costa Rica with electricity. I think I would move away from the area at that point (the beach areas were awfully nice).

The hike also took us down to a secluded waterfall on the lodge’s property. Waterfalls and rapids cover Costa Rica, so if you like to see moving water, that is definitely the place to go. I got a few pics and headed back up to the group.

Arenal

After the hike, Ed told us that he would also be leading a guided night hike up the lava field from 1968. This one was not free like the morning hike, but how many times are we going to be in Costa Rica with someone that was around during all of Arenal’s recent active history? We took a nap after the morning hike, then got up and wandered around the grounds for a while before the night hike.

Arenal

Arenal

Arenal

Arenal

On the van ride to the night hike, Ed would have driver stop while we were flying along dirt roads at a good 40 mph. Ed would hop out of the van, get us out of the back, and set up his tripod. Speaking of his tripod, all of the guides we had had surprisingly nice equipment that they personally owned. He had a very nice Nikon scope with a carbon fiber tripod. Anyway, he would point the scope at something that was easily 100 meters away in a forest. Every time, it would be some little bird or monkey sitting in a tree. I asked him how on earth he could spot a green bird in a green tree in a green forest while going 40 mph down the bumpy road. His response was “I listen, then I look.” Indeed.

The night hike was in the Arenal Park, and the lava flows were over where part of the city had originally been. There was ~100 meters of rock covering the old buildings, so we could not exactly see any of the original structures. The hike up the lava field was actually kind of strenuous, especially for old fat guys like me that are horribly out of shape. We got some more good history out of Ed, so the hike was definitely worth it.

Ed mentioned that there was an eruption in 1998 that killed a tour group that could not get out of the way of the flow. His best friend was the tour guide, so it was not a happy story for Ed. Two weeks after the eruption, a group of tourists were in a plane, and one tourist got the pilot to try to fly over the top of the crater so he could get some shots. Arenal does not have very good visibility on a normal day and this day was apparently even worse. The plane hit the side of the mountain and everyone died. Ed is heavily involved in SAR in the area, so he was a part of the SAR mission to get to the wreckage. He pointed out the location of the wreck near the top of the volcano where you could still see some shininess from the plane’s metal during the rare sunny moments.

We watched the sunset from the park, got some more good stories, then headed back to the lodge. There is a spot on the road to the lodge that is probably the best place in the area to view the lava flow. It is on a bridge, and a good 100 people were there jostling for a good spot when we drove by. Our driver went another 1/10 mile up the road and parked. Same view, no people. Smart guy.

Arenal

After we got back to the lodge, we had dinner in the lodge restaurant with the two couples that had done the morning and night hikes with us. After dinner, it was more pictures for me, plus a really crappy video.

Arenal

Man, if I take a week between each part of these trip reports, I’ll have enough material for the rest of the year!

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