This morning we were up bright and early to catch our bus. We headed immediately up onto the slopes of Irazú volcano past the city of Cartago. This is the fertile landscape on the side of Irazú. Apparently all that volcanic ash and rock makes for fertile farmland. I couldn't believe how dark brown and rich the soil appeared. The city of Cartago lies beneath the clouds just past the farmland.
Once we finally made it into Irazú volcano national park, we were greeted by this cute little white-nosed coati. Coati's are a relative of raccoons, and they certainly act the part. They were scavenging through the garbage bins and walked unafraid up to the visitors.
The kids were freezing when we set out on our walk out to the Irazú craters. They humored me with a photo looking out into the mist that initially covered the first crater.
Although it was a relatively short walk out to the other 2 craters, the mist seemed to move out quickly and we were afforded nice views of the craters. We were much obliged after the disappointing views at Poás volcano.
The first crater is easily reached along the path and the kids were excited to be able to walk into a volcanic crater. When I tried to take a photo, Finn said, "Not now, Mom! I'm trying to examine this volcanic ash!"
The principal crater had the best view, although I wish we could've seen all the way to the lagoon at the bottom. Apparently, that is only seen from the air. I remained grateful that the clouds kept out of the crater area while we visited though.
The kids spent quite a while playing in the first crater, then we examined some of the foliage growing along the volcano's craters.
These huge leaves are called the poor man's umbrella plant. The leaves can grow up to 6 feet in diameter.
When Elizabeth returned from a solo walk around the principal crater. I asked her what she was carrying. "Trash! Can you believe someone just left trash out here!" That's my girl. :)
When we returned to the parking lot, more coatis had joined the scavenger hunt. We probably saw more than a dozen total, including some babies.
Upon leaving Irazú, we headed into Cartago to briefly visit Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles, the most notable Catholic church in Costa Rica. Built in the 1600s, it was partially destroyed by an earthquake then restored. The mix of Byzantine and colonial architecture is quite lovely, and the sky cooperated to give us a few nice photos.
The inside of the church was just as amazing. Unfortunately, a service was in session while we visited so I only took a few photos from the doorway.
Not too far from the church, we visited Lankaster Botanical Gardens. The gardens are operated by the University of Costa Rica and boast the largest collection of orchids in Costa Rica.
The collection of orchids were truly amazing. I could've easily photographed more than a hundred of them.
They even have a collection of microscopic orchids. (I never even knew there was such a thing!)
We also quickly visited the rest of the gardens.
I think the favorite was the Japanese garden area. Between the bamboo, the water lilies, and pagodas, it was fun to explore.
There were so many other lovely plants and flowers. I took way too many photos of them! The succulents section was amazing.
The plant below is related to the banana plant. You can see the red banana-ish looking things below the bloom. They aren't edible, but they aren't poisonous either.
I don't know exactly what the plant below is; I've never seen the leaves before. As I walked past it, I caught the unmistakeable whiff of honeysuckle though.
The orange and green plant below was probably the strangest I encounter at the gardens. I have NO idea what that thing is! It looks like it belongs in a Dr. Suess book!
Upon leaving the botanical gardens, we traveled down into the Orosi valley to find a meal and a beautiful view. You can see the rain off in the distance. By the time we finished lunch, that rain had moved through the valley and found us.
Our last stop of the afternoon was the oldest Catholic church still in use in Costa Rica. Iglesia de San Jose de Orosi, was built in 1743 and looks very colonial and quaint. The inside of the church looked incredibly old as well, and judging by the signs not to touch, they probably were.
The view looking out of the church was quite amazing as well. You can see now why this is called the rainy season. The seasonal rains seem to find us nearly every day at some point.