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Rincón de la Vieja

On the weekend of 24th-25th March 2007, I had the opportunity to visit a national park in the north fo Costa Rica called 'Rincón de la Vieja' (meaning, 'Corner of the old lady'), a name taken from local legend. I went with fellow Latin Link Strider Sarah Baker.

See my photos on and videos at the end of this blog.

Rincón de la Vieja is volcano from which the park takes its name. We visited just a small, but very diverse section of the park, straddling between rain forest and dry forest, with many volcanic features and diverse wildlife.

Volcanic activity

We didn't get the opportunity to visit the volcano summit (clouds cover over the crater very early in the day, so you have to be up really early to make the trip worthwhile). However, on the second day we followed a 3 kilometer trail called Las Pailas which took us through the foothills of the volcano revealing for me a suprising number volcanic features and wildlife for such a short walk.

El Volcancito

The main volcanic attraction was 'El Volcancito' ('The Little Volcano') which sits on the edge of the forest. As we followed the trail, I couldn't believe that we were going to approach a volcano, as we were in thick relatively low-ground forest. However, as we got near walking through the forest vegetation, a strong rotten egg smell began to fill the air, caused by escaping hydrogen sulfide gases. This was often sickening if you caught a gasp as the wind blew in your direction.

The forest opening to the volcano was quite dramatic, as lush forest land gave way almost suddently to a dead-wood area surrounding the vocano mouth, with only more durable vegetation (such as hard-leafed plants) in bloom. We approached the mouth of the volcano, and indeed it could be described a as a mini volcano, with it's orange crater mouth surrounded by iron-rich rocks. Inside the volcano was, from as far as I could tell, boiling mud-water letting off the nauscious foul-smelling gas. The surround temperature was also very hot. The moment was quite atmospheric and eerie, with photos on Flickr and the moment of approach captured on the video 'El Volcancito' below.

Plopping mud and the volcanic lagoon

Crossing from the rain forest to the dry forest was equally dramatic. As we walked through high rise trees, we came to an opening marked by a small stream. We crossed stepping stones, and rose up a dry reddy-orange steam-emitting bank to be greeted by flat-lands of dead trees and a grassy plain.

Walking along the trail here, we came across cordened-off pools of plopping mud. The mud was fascinating to watch, as though it were porridge simmering away. Further in another direction lay a volcanic lagoon, a large greenish pool of acidic, metalic sulpher-smelling water too dangerous to go near. The surrounding rocks were all reddy-orange in colour, due to the oxidised iron. In addition to the photos on Flickr, videos of both these features can be seen below.

Diverse wildlife

Ian Darke, a resident member of the Latin Link team here in Costa Rica once quipped that it's good to develop an interest in moss and small vegetation when out on nature trails, as the chances of spotting wildlife are often disappointly slim. However, I think we were quite fortunate. Although we didn't get to see any wild cats which live in the area, we did get to see and hear monkeys, lizards, a pozote (a furry ground animal) and some colourful birds.

In addition to photos on Flickr, videos of white-faced capuchin monkeys, and the call of howler monkeys can be found below.


You will need QuickTime installed to view the videos.

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