There comes a time during beach camping in the tropics when I think everyone breaks and hits the heat and humidity wall. After Nicoya, we craved some time in a cool climate so we headed from the port to San Jose to pick up the camera and then on to the Cartago area.
Picking up Sam’s camera in San Jose was really frustrating. They had sent us an email saying they could fix the camera, so we had assumed it would be done when we arrived ten days later. When we arrived they told us it would take at least 30 days to get the part to repair the shutter! Say what? Why that was not in the email is a mystery, but we had thought it was fixed and rushed to San Jose to pick it up. Annoying. Thirty business days obviously would not work, so our only other option was to send it to the US to Canon for repair, and then have my friend who is visiting us in Colombia bring it back for us.
We spent a few days driving the beautiful roads in the Cartago region, about an hour outside of San Jose, using Orosi as our base. This area is coffee country, and when you get to coffee farms, you get to cool air since coffee needs to be grown at altitude. The area here is so beautiful, rolling green valleys cut through with rivers, terraced coffee plants on every hill, cows and lots of dairy farms where you can buy fresh cheese. The word I kept thinking of was lush. I wish we took more pictures, I think we were in a camera funk so we only have a few.
While we were driving around in this area we saw Cachi Dam. Costa Rica is very reliant on hydroelectric power, and dams are going up all over the country. Water is a good, clean source of energy and they have a lot of it, so I understand why Costa Rica, a country trying to become carbon neutral, would choose it. The problem is, these dams are changing the ways the rivers flow, there is definitely environmental impact. Here is an article I found that sums it up better than I can from the Costa Rica News.
When we went to the Rio Pacuare a few days later, the rafting company told us that this river was also slated to get a dam, and there was a lot of local effort to stop it. I really hope that this stunning river area does not change. It was voted by National Geographic as one of the most beautiful white water trips in the world, and while the Grand Canyon still holds the number one spot in my heart, this was some pretty spectacular scenery.
To raft the Rio Pacuare you need to head to Turrialba where most of the rafting starts. We chose to raft the Rio Pacuare with a small local company Tico’s River Adventures instead of one of the larger outfitters. They were awesome and I would highly recommend them. They also hooked us up with a free camp spot in town (next to a house where people were smoking crack, but hey, I lived in LA…). This river is full of fun class III and IV rapids that take you through a landscape straight out of Jurassic Park. It was a fun full day of rafting and I am glad we took the time to do it.
In search of even colder weather we drove up to Volcan Irazu. I did not realize how far we climbed in the truck until I hiked up to the lookout, I was sucking air. When I got to the top I saw that we were at over 11,000 feet! We tried to camp at the top of the volcano, but were kicked out by the park rangers (no overnight camping). To be honest, I would not go here again if I had a choice to do it over. It was expensive ($24 US for two people and a vehicle) and unless you can get there when the park opens at 8am, you are more than likely going to see clouds and a volcano crater. We ended up finding a great camp spot on the property of another kind Costa Rican just down from the volcano (for free!) and actually had to sleep with our down comforter. We finally found our cold air!