Saturday, October 16, 2021

[CARTAGO] Mount Foggy Foggy


So, you want to go to Cartago to see Irazú's lovely volcano’s crater? Based on numerous anecdotes from those who have already visited, you are bound to end up with either of these two views: lovely blue water or fog. What I find weird is that I found neither one. Instead, what I saw there was an arid crater, as it should be, with neither water nor fog. It was just a dry crater, pretty much like what you would probably see on the moon or on the face of your dermatologically challenged friend. No water. No fog. Just a huge hole.


The most popular suggestion is to go there really early in the morning to avoid the fog. This does not pose a problem if you have your own car. I don’t. For us tourists who rely on public transportation, our only option for a direct trip from San José to the entrance of the Volcano Crater Park is Bus Metropoli’s yellow bus which only makes one trip daily from the bus stop right across Teatro Nacional. The bus leaves San José at 8 AM and arrives at the park at around 10:15. The bus going back is a different story.


It’s easy to find the bus. It says Volcán Irazu on the windshield along with the stops that it will make along the way. You will reach Cartago in about an hour and the bus will stop there for around 10 minutes to pick up passengers before heading towards the volcano, which takes another hour and 15 minutes. As you go higher in altitude, it gets colder. If your tolerance for cold climes is really low, I suggest bringing a sweater with you. You can only pay for the fare with cash. Give the driver CRC2,350 (~PhP190) to make him happy.


First things first: your admission ticket. According to a blog I’ve read you can buy one right at the entrance with your credit card. This is still true, but the latest update is that you have to go to this website to create an account and buy the ticket online with your credit card: http://www.sinac.go.cr/ES/resvlinea/Paginas/default.aspx. You can also buy tickets online for other national parks all over Costa Rica. After paying, you’ll receive the ticket via email.


Since I only read about this at the bus door, I decided to take a risk and travel for over two hours without a park admission ticket. The bus driver dropped us off at the entrance, which is around 5 minutes of walking away from the parking lot so we can buy the ticket there. A personnel will board the bus to check for your reservation on your phone. Those without will be asked to get off, scan the QR code on one of the posts for free WiFi, and buy the ticket online as you are supposed to do. There is no credit card terminal or booth for buying tickets at the entrance. You have to do it on your smartphone so make sure you are fully charged.


Crisis averted. While you will be asked for a timeslot when booking and only 12 PM onwards had open slots left for us, we were still allowed to go in at 10 AM. The gravel road forks in the middle. Head left and you will be hiking towards the highest point. I took this option and was easily reminded how unfit a human being I was. Like, take me to the ICU, children. I’m about to faint here. This 20-minute hike is already equivalent to my entire cardio program for the week. The views were nice, though.


But yeah, it was foggy AF. Am I disappointed? Not really. As much as I dreaded the hike, I really needed the exercise. And as always, there is just something so rewarding about sweeping views from a mountaintop after a strenuous ascent. It feels like you are being rewarded with beauty for your efforts. There is also a viewing deck with several floors made of concrete where you can get a better view of the hills and the crater down below. After this, get back on the road and take the right turn at the fork, which will now be on your left.


What’s waiting for you there is a huge flat terrain with greyish soil, which I suppose is volcanic ash or something to that effect. That great plain is bordered by the hilltops you just hiked on one side, and then the ravines leading down to the three craters on the other. There are wooden barricades and enough warning signs asking you not to climb them. Common sense. If you are the adventurous type, make sure you have what it takes to come back alive. Despite lava being absent, that fall would be damn steep.


And there it was, the main crater. Next to it is an info board with a colored photo showing you how it would look like with blue water in it, like Google Photos would like to show you. All I saw was a parched hole on the ground as if an asteroid decided to leave an “Asteroid was here” remembrance there. If you want a similar experience with a higher possibility of bright blue or green water in a crater, I’d suggest Taal Crater Lake (now closed, sorry) or Pinatubo on the other side of the Pacific.

[CARTAGO] Mount Foggy Foggy

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