Tuesday morning, we drop Boo and Ann at the airport in San Jose. We’re sad to see them go, but grateful for their good company any buoyed by the prospect of more visitors tonight.
My parents won’t arrive until after midnight, so we have a full day to pass in the capital city. But we didn’t come here to hang out in the cities, so we point the car toward the outskirts of town and are soon climbing the mountains to Poas Volcano.
Poas is another of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes. The great thing about Poas is that you can drive nearly to the very top of the volcano, and with just a short walk and some luck, you can be peering down into her sulfurous, bubbling crater in a few minutes.
I say luck, because it all depends on the weather. Up on these mountains, clouds and rain can move in at any time, completely obscuring your view.
We pull up to the entrance to the Poas Volcano National Park, and the employee has unfortunate news. “The crater is covered in a cloud now. Do you still want to go in?”
“Is there a chance the clouds will move away?” I ask.
She shrugs in a very unpromising way. We pay our $24 anyway and take the gamble.
After a brief but enjoyable perusal of the volcano museum, we make our way toward the crater. I’m optimistic because, although it had been raining earlier, the sun is shining.
But as we make our final approach, all I can see ahead of me is thick whiteness. It’s as if a giant marshmallow has settled directly into the crater, effectively blocking our view. I’m surprised at the density of it. Although I can see the plants just on the other side of the protective railing, I can’t make out even the faintest shapes or colors just a few feet farther ahead.
The smell of sulfur washes over us, and I find myself coughing. The volcano is there, even if I can’t see her.
Camille is not impressed.
But we have an entire afternoon to fill and we’ve paid our money, so I decide we’ll wait a while. And wait a bit more. We can hear thunder off in the distance and know rain is likely on the way, and we’re just about to leave when I wonder if my eyes are playing tricks on me. Can I see movement in the clouds? Where there was just a wall of white, can I now see shapes?
And then I begin to see the edges of the crater. And then I begin to see the turquoise pool of water in the center.
Camille sees it too, “DAD! YOU CAN SEE IT!” she screams to Lee, who has stepped away. Everyone around us quiets and rushes to the railing. As the cloud slips away, the cameras come out.
For just a few minutes, you can clearly see the crater, the lake, the sulfuric steam rushing from the edges. You can see the hardened lava flows from previous eruptions. She is beautiful.
Then she is gone. Covered up in a thick white blanket.
We hang out long enough to see her one more time before the lightening comes frighteningly close and we dash for the car. Halfway down the mountain, we stop at a roadside restaurant to eat and can barely hear each other over the sound of the deluge. But we are dry and safe and, for the millionth time since we arrived, feeling incredibly lucky.