Arriving in Costa Rica and being only 10 minutes from Hotel 1915 is an excellent way to brush off plane dust and suck in a huge gulp of mountain air.
01.02.2010 30 °C
Costa Rica Itinerary - November 15, 2009
Afraid to Go - December 1, 2009
Chicago - December 4 - 7, 2009
Alajuela - Volcan Poas - December 9, 2009
Cahuita - Cahuita NP - December 17, 2009
Guapiles - Arial Tram - December 29, 2009
Punta Uva - Blooms and Beaches - January 2, 2010
Punta Uva - Roots, Bugs and Buddies - January 6, 2010
The town of Alajuela is not the place you would settle into for any great length of time, unless you need to see, Butterfly farms, the absolute best view of a simmering volcano, grand views of the central valley including a sprawling San Jose, and a slightly humid temperature (30C+). This not a place to mingle with other travellers as the town itself does not attract the tourist, save for a great Mexican restaurant, Jalapeno Central and a cool placid park with huge trees for day long shade. We usually move along after a couple of days of aclimating and return at the end of our tour for our return flight north.
This panoramic view from the observation deck of Volcan Poas was taken with a inexpensive($200) Fuji camera. Its' main claim to fame is this seamless combination of 3 full resolution images.
The simmering gusts of sulphured mist have been part of an inrease in Volcanic activity for the past several years. A 6.1 earthquake rattled this area in January of 2009 and was responsible for at least a dozen deaths in towns close by. The day after we travelled through the mountains last year, about 10km from here, the earthqake erupted and destroyed the road we had been on and the restaurant we had eaten in only 24 hours before. The young boy who served me was killed with his father in the collapse of their small restaurant which was a regular stop for the buses running between Alajuela and Puerto Veijo de Sarapiqui.
On our trip to the summit
Our Knowlegable guide Jerome, partner to Ana and her mother who run the hotel 1915, took us by car up the mountain (45 minutes) to the entrance to the park. This is a very popular park with Ticos and this being the Holiday season we shared our space with people from San Jose who were as much the tourist as us. There is about a 2km walk up to the observation deck and as I was on my first expedition of the trip I was a step or two behind the others but fortunate to get some good shots. (a) The contrast in size with the humungous leaf and the tiny characters ahead makes it look almost animated. These large leaves are common at this elevation and are called the Costa Rican sombrero. You could actually make a complete raincoat out of one of these suckers.
(b) The view of crater is much more spectacular than the neighbouring Irazu and much more accessible than the famous Arenal and having most recent internal activity makes Poas a must see.
(c) Just in behind the observation deck is another spectacular vista of a crater lake.
Carolyn and I, (a) along with a fellow traveller Duncan, finished our first day of adventure at the renowned Jalpeno Central http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurants-g309223-c29-Province_of_Alajuela.html from Tripadvisor.com, which is owned and run by a most amiable New Yorker who moved here 8 years ago from Queens to present mountainous platters of excellent Mexican fare for the most reasonable prices. No booze (too close to the school) so bring your own bag of beer.
(c) Wonderful smiling people in the small villages along the way to the Vocan Poas were always ready to pose for a shot. It wouldn't matter matter where you were you would always get a wave and a smile. (b) I had stopped here to photograph the rolling hills of coffee trees on the other side of the river.
Coffee was and still is the largest export from Costa Rica from the early colonial years but has been equalled in recent years with the growth of Banana and Pineapple production.
Everywhere throughout the central valley, at about the same elevation as the city of San Jose, there are row upon rows of coffee trees stertching for miles up around and over every hill and valley from house to farm and back again.
Each grove of trees has been interspersed in recent years with a high growing shade tree which improves the red bean flavor and value competing with the natural mountain grown varieties which have for several years brought higher prices to the shade tree harvester. In 1992 on a visit to the coffee co-operative in San Marcos, the Tarrazu brand of bean which was selling in Ontario Canada for $13.00 a pound was bringing the coffee farmer a paltry 8 to 13 cents a pound for red berries.
The Fair Trade initiative of the last decade has managed to guarantee the farmer a $1.21 per pond for his beans, still a meagre return for the efforts.
At the farm of the owners of Hotel 1915 in Alajuela the Family is undertaking a breeding program that crosses the Brahma cows of the central and southern hemisphere with the Angus, originally from Scotland to produce a 7/8ths Brangus cross that will give a strong full meat carcass and the skin breathability so necessary in the tropics.
To nuture the dozen or so in the herd is the nutrition garnered from the 14 acres of Asparagus that is harvested 3 times a year and cut in full growth from the 4th cycle, ground up and fed to the animals. This rich high protein feed has a sweet taste and smell and is sufficient in all elements to fully sustain the development of the herd, along with free ranging several acres of tall grassland.
I have never passed a Bird of Paradise without singing its' praises. This variety was found on the Family farm and is representaive of a breeding program from decades past.
Our return to Hotel 1915 (b) was heralded with several frosty pints of Pilsen.We hooked up to our mail to see what we had been missing for the last few days and retired quickly to the room to rest our weary gams. We would have to get more stamina before to many more hills came into view. (a) We had a great breakfast the next morning, (c) went through the park once more and grabbed a bus to the ocean!