Arenal Volcano: almost free of cloud!
We arrived in La Fortuna this morning and this afternoon's entertainment is a walk on the lava field of Arenal Volcano, 1633m above sea level. It used to be the most active of Costa Rica's volcanoes and indeed one of the most active in the world, but it has been quiet since December 2010. It is notoriously difficult to see, allegedly only clear for 77 days a year. As the picture above shows, we were lucky.
You follow a trail from the car park through a grassy landscape and we quickly noticed some wildflowers, which have been noticeably scarce on our trip so far, and immediately afterwards some butterflies. Hurray! Apart from some, by now, familiar Sulphurs there was what I thought was a Monarch (see for comparison this one I saw in Hahei in New Zealand - it is obviously brighter).
When it opened its wings however, it was instantly obvious that it was not a Monarch, but in fact a Queen, a first for me.
The path had been following a field edge and we now turned right to enjoy our first clear sight of the volcano, with a very pretty small pool in the foreground to enhance the view.
We walked along a track towards the volcano noting the view to the right of scattered trees amid grassland, with mountains behind. This was very different from what we have seen previously in Costa Rica and seemed almost African.
At the end of this section we cross the paths of several groups of leaf cutter ants. I took some photos, but failed to get close enough and they simply show some green bits on the path: you can't see the ants carrying them back to their next.
At this point we began the ascent towards the view point for the volcano. As we got closer, it was framed rather delightfully by the bushes.
At bit further on we entered the lava field from the last major eruption in 1968. This was a major event, killing 78 people and changing the shape of the volcano as the top was blasted off.
Further up, there was a lovely view to the right over Lake Arenal, an artificial lake which, by means of a hydro-electric scheme, provides nearly half of Costa Rica's electricity.
As we got closer to the view point, the cloud continued to clear and we were delighted with the view shown at the top of this post.
We came back down by a steeper route and returned to the car park, seeing a One-day orchid on the way - it flowers for one day only, every six months. To my frustration, I couldn't manage a decent picture.
Conditions: hot and sunny.
Distance: only a couple a of miles.
Rating: five stars. A really memorable walk.