Thirty-five days after landing in the capital San José, in midsummer, we were still at the mercy of the capricious weather of the Tica nation.
Successive cold fronts coming from the north of the Caribbean Sea, invaded the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and spread through the highlands of the Central American isthmus. They were retained, and in bad weather the mountains of the Guanacaste mountain range.
Housed in the eastern foothills of the Miravalles volcano, close to the valley that separates it from the neighboring volcano Tenório, we soon got used to seeing the clouds flowing between them and covering the broad summit of the second. Accordingly, the inaugural reconnaissance, we dedicate it to Miravalles and its surroundings.
The road we take from the Agutipaca inn zigzags in a permanent poorly paved drama. After a gradual ascent, it is subject to river depressions and steep slopes that are frightening. Even so, in a bumpy and infernal ups and downs, it finally reaches a panoramic ridge over different slopes.
East, contained by the verdant slope of Tenório. The opposite, extending the entire length of the Miravalles and beyond, to the distant coast of the Pacific Ocean.
Along the way, we passed roadside houses, each with its own land, and farms livestock with open areas, almost always insufficient, of pasture. We meet an elderly peasant at the entrance to an intermediate property. A fork had raised doubts, so his advice would come in handy.
Once the explanation was achieved, we wound up the conversation. “I am Dimas, like Dimas the Good Thief”, the gentleman informs us, proud of the biblical baptism that he had received, and then he lets out a laugh that surprises a cow at his side, about to give birth.
To the Conquest of Cabro Muco Waterfall
We descend from the ridge that serves as a screen along the Tenório-Miravalles Biological Corridor to the village of La Fortuna. There we find Don Vilmar Villalo, responsible for consolidating the newly created Miravalles National Park and for guiding us on one of the walks that will best reward future visitors.
Once the necessary presentations have been completed, we proceed to the starting point. When we leave La Fortuna, the day is summer. On the slope of the volcano where we find ourselves again, a wind full of gusts sprays us with fine rain blown from far away and from higher up the mountain.
Experienced on that trail, Don Vilmar once again validates the incursion. We followed him and his sturdy wellies through the rainforest and above, along a fast-moving river that the rain upstream made noisier.
Not enough to deter us from a lively chatter about Costa Rica, Portugal, and Italy that the tour guide had recently visited. And, lacking sightings of the resident fauna – monkeys, anteaters, tapirs, sloths, to mention just the most impressive – about cycling, their favorite sport.
With the accumulating of the steps, of tangent, the bad weather quickly falls on us. We crossed the Cuipilapa river three times, through improvised stepping stones that did not prevent us from filling our boots with water.
Almost 5km and a lot of water and mud later, the trail takes us to the base of a steep slope full of large, polished and slippery stones, a ravine furrowed by Cuipilapa which, at a certain point, already under a drizzle, reveals a d' impressive water, both for its volume and the height of which it fell.
Out of nowhere, while we were taking pictures, confused, against the rain, five friends rushed past us, recrossing the overhanging river and ascending to the base of the waterfall.
One of them indulges in a quick shower of conquest. The others, to a stream of selfies and supporting photographs.
A Flood Return
At that time, the storm gets worse again. The intensifying of the rain makes us apprehensive about the river crossings of the return.
We complete the photos of the place as best as the flood allows us.
On the way back, we completed it already in amphibious mode, skating along the muddiest trail ever, over puddles and river flow that passed from our ankles to our knees. Still, all without a hitch. Returned to the starting point, we thank Don Vilmar. We say goodbye.
We dried off and went off to one of several lunches of the unavoidable and nutritious “married” tico, made of rice and beans, roasted banana, salad and choice of meat or fish.
That afternoon, we wandered through the leisurely La Fortuna.
We also traveled part of two roads that radiated from the village, through pastures of sabaneras haciendas (read about cowboys) who unveiled other slopes and perspectives of the volcano.
Miravalles: the Volcanic Ceiling of the Province of Guanacaste
In terms of altitude, with its 2023 meters, Miravalles is the highest volcano in the province of Guanacaste. And yet there was only one minor steam eruption recorded in 1946 on its southwest flank.
It lacks an unmistakable, intact crater and the iconic conical shape of Costa Rica's most famous volcanic mountain, its southern neighbor Arenal.
To compensate, the Miravalles creates the largest geothermal field in Costa Rica, operated by ICE, the national electricity supply company Tica. Several competing thermal developments spread along the west side of the volcano also take advantage of it.
The next morning, we were faced with the same weather as the day before. Once again, without a glimpse of the Tenório's summit, we re-examined the domain of Miravalles, still looking for a point of view that would better highlight its altitude and magnificence.
The Smoky and Cozy Domain of Las Hornillas
We enter the thermal baths of Las Hornillas. We enjoyed the bubbling, sulphurous mud pools and vents that gave rise to the Hispanic name of the place.
Crushed from the previous day's walk, we anticipated the thermal experience that had taken us there.
We covered ourselves in therapeutic clay, chatting with Karen and Francini, two sisters engaged in the same hobby. We let the clay act on the skin.
We removed it and moved to the hottest sulfur water tank in the complex. With aching legs and back, that relaxing sprawl at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it felt miraculous.
Ancestral and wide, like so many farms in the region, Las Hornillas also had a river complement near the base of the hill of Cabro Muco where we had started the hike to the waterfall.
We explore it on a trailer pulled by a chapulin - that's what they call the ticos to tractors – by a mixed path of trails and suspension bridges that runs along the riverside property.
Returning to Las Hornillas headquarters and thermal spa, we go from the trailer to the car and return to driving along the roads of Miravalles.
Vinício and his Peacock Farm
While walking along the road, we were getting ready to reverse the gear when we came across a young man soap who carried a plastic bottle on his back.
We ask you for the best course, but we don't quite know where. With time to spare, the boy, named Vinício Gonzalez, finds us funny and the curiosity we showed for what he was doing. You decide to reveal part of your working life to us.
“Have you seen peacocks around here? Oh already?? Okay. But do you want to see many?” The proposal intrigues us. We follow him.
Vinício takes us to his grandfather's farm. At the back of the villa, it shows us a plot of land enclosed by high fences. And, more bizarre than we might have expected, above these fences, a brotherhood of peacocks, dozens of them parked on balance, intrigued by the surprise visit.
We realized that the end of the afternoon and its prodigious light were flying away. Vinício understands the sudden rush. He gladly accepts it, not least because he was late in the task we made him interrupt.
Miravalles from Guayabo. More imposing than ever
This time, yes. We reverse the gear. Instead of heading to the now familiar La Fortuna, we head for Guayabo, a larger town sprawled across the road, bordered by an assortment of commercial establishments. Its facades, windows and names make us lose focus.
In such a way that, only on the opposite end of the village, we remember to sound out the Miravalles. We were getting ready to cut to La Fortuna when, with the car facing north, we saw it again.
From there, the volcano displayed itself as we had never enjoyed it. Conical, prominent high above the ground floor and colorful houses of Guayabo, granting a threshold landing to the clouds that covered the Tenório-Miravalles valley.
Some cumbia played in one of the homes below was the soundtrack of the moment, the gradual yellowing of the mountain, soon, reddened under the increasingly pink coat of the fog and the fumaroles we saw winding, eager for the sky.
This unexpected eruption of textures and tones quickly gave way to the pitch.
Em so many other active volcanoes, the dark would provide us with Dantesque visions of incandescent lava.
Miravalles has its own ways. Soft and welcoming. that the ticos who live with him.
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