¡Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!

For the next month I'll be living in and traveling around Costa Rica. This is partly just to travel, but also partly to study Spanish and brush up my fluency for work. The kids are also with me and will be going to school in Costa Rica while we are here. 

Our first stop after landing in San José was Volcán Poás, which is 8,884 feet high (and hiking to the top will prove it to your lungs — at least for people who are typically sea-level dwellers like we are!). We are staying at the Poás Lodge, which, when the clouds clear, offers an incredible view of almost the entire Central Valley of Costa Rica, including San José and even the Pacific Ocean.

It is often cloudy, though, or at least we have chubascos, which is the Spanish words for a fast-moving mix of sun and clouds, especially when the sun is filtered through the clouds. It's like this:

This is the garden of the lodge, where hummingbirds flit about and children are nice to each other. Poasito is the town up near the entrance to the Poás Volcano National Park, and it is quite rural. We are surrounded by coffee plantations and dairy farms, and can see them all from our room: 

Because of the high elevation, the temperatures are much cooler than you might expect when you think of Central America — we needed our fleeces and sweaters to hike the volcano. Because of those temperatures, we see some familiar flowers in the local gardens:

Hydrangeas abound, and the blue color shows us that the volcanic soils here acidic. The gigantic size of the flower heads hints at the excellent fertility here as well. 

The ecosystem and climate at the top of the volcano is known as a cloud forest, which means that the clouds cover is near constant, and there is often drizzle and mist. The clouds aren't just rain, though, but also frozen sulfuric acid from the (active!) volcano. You can smell this when the wind blows just right, and it can even sting your eyes at the crater:

We couldn't see much of the crater because of those clouds, but we still enjoyed the otherworldly hike through the native cloud forest plants:

The kids' favorite plant was the sombrilla de pobres:

That's Spanish for a Poor Man's Umbrella, which they demonstrate here. The plants look an awful lot like a giant, mutant rhubarb with spines on their stalks (which are also red). 

Further down in the valley we visited a small town called Grecia, which is warmer. There they can mix more noticeably tropical plants with all those hydrangeas:

They also have many large Bird-of-Paradise plants growing outdoors. This one is nearly perfect, although the photo doesn't do justice to the bright blue part of the "head" of the bird:

So far we've enjoyed our stay our in the cool, fresh country air. It's hard to get enough of our view of the Valley. Even though it wasn't always sunny, the chubascos treated us to this:

¡Pura vida!


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