Thursday, 17 February 2011

Another volcano

Since Volcàn Arenal was less dramatic than we had expected, we thought we'd pay a visit to Volcàn Poas, much closer to home. Our guidebook warned that clouds often obscured this region too, but not until after 10 in the morning. We made an early start and arrived at the entrance around 9:30. Poas is currently dormant with the advantage that you can go right up to the edge of the crater. Nonetheless, we duly noted large signs in the parking lot advising all motorists to park facing outwards " in case of emergency evacuation."

A broad paved walk, lined with flourishing tropical plants like gunnera,

 led to a viewing platform where various other tourists lined the railings.

But there was lots of room for us too.

It was quite a spectacular sight, with its pale blue lake giving off faint whiffs of sulphurous steam.

I was intrigued by this purple-flowered shrub that was thriving in several places right on the brink.

True to predictions, we had been there less than an hour when the clouds started to drift in. We wound our way slowly back down the steep road and stopped for lunch at a restaurant perched on the hillside.

There were comfortable chairs inside, but we chose to sit on the narrow balcony at a rustic  table and bench made from split logs. It wasn't comfortable at all but it offered a panoramic view of the valley below.

We ordered what was becoming our usual dine-out meal, a casado (translation: married man's lunch - although most menus offer it for dinner too). This is a generous platter that includes rice, beans, salad greens with sliced tomato, fried plantain, and your choice of a piece of beef, chicken or fish. It is cheap, filling and delicious.

We detoured on the way home to visit two small towns, Sarchi and Grecia.
Sarchi lures tourists with numerous shops selling furniture made from local wood, some of it very attractive. There are also workshops making brightly-painted replicas of traditional ox-carts, which can be dismantled, crated and shipped anywhere in North America. I settled for a few photos.

For those with their own pair of oxen, this one even provided a yoke, balanced carefully across the rim.

Grecia's chief attraction is its red church, built in Belgium entirely of iron and shipped piece by piece across the Atlantic.

It has elegant doors (which were missing from the original shipment and had to be sourced in Holland),

a simple wooden interior made striking by beautiful chandeliers,

and an intricate tiled floor.

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