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Judy Oldmstead H

aving heard how varied the natural sights were in Costa Rica, from volcanoes to rain-

forest and birds, we knew we want- ed to see it in person. When I saw a McPhail ad in KIT last fall advertising a two week discovery tour of six dif- ferent areas of Costa Rica, focusing on nature, we were excited to go. After a delay due to an east coast storm, an overnight in Houston, and a rerouting through Tegucigalpa, Honduras, (the second most dangerous airstrip in the world) we arrived in San Jose, the cap- ital city of Costa Rica. We stayed at the Gran Hotel, a

charming old hotel in the historical centre of the city. After visiting the stores around the market square, our group of 20 plus 2 guides met for a wel- come dinner. It was a great opportuni- ty to meet the rest of our travel mates. Eleven of the 20 were retired teachers, some from Alberta and Ontario, as well as several other RTAM members. Te next morning, after breakfast in

24 n KEEP IN TOUCH | Spring 2014

a lovely open air room on top of the hotel, with views of the city and the mountains, we boarded our bus at 9 am for Irazu Volcano. We travelled through the Central Valley which is a major agricultural area producing a variety of crops, including the best coffee. Te type of crop depends on the elevation; at lower levels, where it is warmer, sugar cane, pineapple, pas- sion fruit and rice grow, while at high- er elevations, cauliflower, cabbage, onions and potatoes are produced. Tere were many cattle in the region, both beef and dairy. In fact, the grass beside the highway was kept short by cows grazing, without even a rope to keep them from wandering. At the end of a long, narrow, winding

road, we trekked across volcanic rock to peer into the bottom of the crater, which was more than a kilometre in diameter.

only a muddy area was visible as we peered over the edge. Vegetation was sparse on the upper level, with a few

clumps of grass and tiny wildflowers. We had a glimpse of the Magnificent Hummingbird in the dense shrubs along trail. Tese birds are only found above 3000 metres elevation. As we left the Irazu Conservation Area, we were surprised to see a kilometer long line of vehicles waiting to enter the park. Entrance is limited to a certain number at one time and we were glad we had arrived early. We continued on to Cartago for

lunch in an open air restaurant with local musicians entertaining the din- ers. A staple dish in Costa Rica is casa- das, a combination of black refried beans and rice, mixed with chicken or beef. Te flavour varies from one region to another, but it’s still black beans and rice. We continued travelling east to

It last erupted in 1965, but

Turrialba and the cloud forest region surrounding this volcano. As we ap- proached, smoke was drifting from the volcano. Our destination was Guayabo Lodge, run by a Dutch wom-

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