Dec. 29-Jan. 3: New Year, New Country and Rincon de la Vieja National Park

On December 28 (day 58), Danielle and I left Granada, Nicaragua, and drove into Costa Rica. We arrived in northern Costa Rica to find much of the agricultural land was severely flooded due to Hurricane Otto that hit the country in late November. We stayed our first night near the border town of Los Chiles at a small restaurant along a very flooded river, experiencing very heavy rains.

The next day (Dec. 29/day 59), Danielle and I headed towards the town of La Fortuna, famous for its hotsprings. We camped at one of the hotspring resorts in the area from the 29th until the morning of the 31st. While in the area we went to both the hotspring resort that we were staying at, as well as some free hotsprings in the form of a warm, flowing river. It was a pretty good time relaxing the warm waters.

On New Years Eve, (day 61), Danielle and I left La Fortuna, and headed towards the Playa del Coco area on the northern Pacific coast for two reasons: one being that Danielle's parents were set to arrive at the nearby airport in Liberia in a few days, and two it turned out that Danielle's dad's – Dirk's – cousin and her partner were living in Coco for a few months and we'd connected with them online and planned to meet up in a few days.

So, we drove to the area, got groceries, and looked for a suitable campsite. We saw online there was one at a beach/town called Playa Hermosa, but when we arrived we found it to be very unappealing and extremely busy. Therefore we headed to the next town over and found a pizza restaurant/parking lot/campsite right across the street from the beach. At USD$12.00/night it was a better deal than the last place, had fast wifi, as well as decent bathrooms. We celebrated the new year by enjoying some olives, cheese, meat, crackers, and wine on the beach.

The next day (Jan. 1/day 62), was spent on the beach, hanging around the area not doing anything in particular. On Jan. 2nd (day 63), we spent the day at the beach and drove into Coco to get some more groceries and in the evening to meet with Barb and Gord, who Danielle had only met a few times (she'd never before met Gord), and I'd never met. We spent the evening chatting and they made us dinner.

On January 3rd (day 64), Barb and Gord took us to Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park, about an hour's drive away. The park is pretty big and is comprised of two sections. The section we visited featured boiling, volcanic mud pits, waterfalls, as well as a small volcano (volcanito). The mud pits were very interesting and I'd never seen anything like them before. They were no Yellowstone National Park, but nonetheless impressive. I was pretty stoked to visit the park because when we were in La Fortuna I'd googled hotsprings and this park had come up, leading me to want to visit it. However, given the time frame we were existing upon I had written it off as impossible – and yet, here we were.

Aside from the volcanic activity we witnessed (and smelled) within the park, we also experienced some wildlife, both dead and alive. Alive wildlife included a massive pack of coatis (a racoon-like animal also known by many other names such as a pizote), leaf-cutter ants, blue morpho butterflies, toucans, howler monkeys, and more. Dead wildlife included jars of preserved snakes that can be found within the park.

We all enjoyed the park even though the hiking wasn't incredibly challenging. My only regret is that the lighting was incredibly harsh and made for sub-par photographs. Nonetheless, I'd recommend the park especially if one has never seen volcanic mud pits. We spent another enjoyable night at Barb and Gord's.

A result of the massive flooding due to Hurricane Otto in the Los Chiles area.

Mud pits at Rincon de la Vieja National Park.

Warning sign for the above pictured mud pit. Temperature apparently 106 degrees Celsius.

A gang of over thirty coatis crossing the trail in front of us.

El Volcanito.

Photo captured by Barb Weihmann using my camera.

Leafcutters along the side of the trail.

Pickled snakes in the ranger station.