Turrialba Volcano, Costa Rica
It looked like the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. Everything was covered in black ash; all the trees were dead and some were crumbling; the water was orange. Even eerier, it was completely silent—when my kids stopped talking for two seconds, that is.
We were all breathing heavily, which was unsurprising at 2500 metres above sea level. Our hike had started out on a stony dirt road, and then progressed to fields and slopes covered in springy grass; then we finally stepped into this otherworldly landscape. Just one utterance of the words “post-apocalyptic” from Mr. December, had the kids’ imaginations working overtime. Within minutes, we’d been hired as their photographers as they invented scenes and poses for a music video set after some great disaster.
They clambered over fallen trees, crawled into sheltered spaces in tree trunks, and crossed the orange water to get the footage they wanted. Of course, this extended the length of the hike, but as Mr. December put it, “You want them to connect and get excited about the place, but when they do, if you tell them it’s time to hurry back, you’re not letting them explore and enjoy—which was your goal in the first place.” So we waited patiently while they got “just one more shot.”
The hike was 4.2 kilometres in all—not a great distance by any means, but we were climbing uphill at high altitude, which made it much more tiring. Still, the kids were amazing. No complaints—just photo requests. And they listened to our guide and learned about how the path we were hiking was made by flowing lava, and the trees were killed by the acid rain that followed a major eruption. The eerie water was orange thanks to iron and copper from the volcano.
Everyone was in high spirits as we returned to the car (unlimited snacks, a bottle of Powerade, and more oxygenated air will do that.) On our way down the rutted, potholed, winding mountain road, we stopped to answer a question that E had asked numerous times: “What does it feel like to stand in a cloud?” As it turns out, it feels humid and cool.
A little while later, my ears popped repeatedly as we descended the mountain on our way to our next stop: Blanco Y Negro, an organic farm owned by two sisters with a passion for the land and for creating community… but that’s a story that deserves its own post. I’ll tell you all about it next time.