A few kilometers north of San José, the capital city of Costa Rica, there is a big national park called Braulio Carrillo, from the name of a former president, not a very romantic story I concur. Every year people get lost in those mountains covered by a dense primary forest. There are several volcanoes there that haven’t been awake for thousands of years. The more accessible one is called Barva, and offers nice hikes from a crater lake to another at about 3000 meters above sea level. I first went hiking through an area close to San Isidro de Heredia (1500m high), and went back to hike to the Barva volcano.
What really strikes me anywhere I go in Costa Rica is how fast the climate and thus the landscape vary. I am unfortunately not a forest specialist but from what I understood, when hiking at lower altitude like, you walk through a rainforest, so thick that sometimes you can’t see much through the dense foliage. You see all sorts of plants; kind of like those you buy at ikea to fill in the living room corners but which die after a few months for “some reasons”. Here in their natural habitat they are several meters high. Most animals are nocturnal so you don’t meet them very often but you do hear sounds of life and I always feel that even though I don’t see them, they are watching me penetrating their home.
At higher altitude though, it’s a different story. You go from steep trails through the cloudforest to flatter areas covered by grass, cedar and pine trees. You might as well be hiking in the Alps! Even the houses look different and the cows are fatter and look happier to chew high quality grass (it’s very wet there). Just the journey to the ranger station is worth the trip. If you’re lucky enough, the whole Central Valley is at your feet, you can even have glimpses at the Pacific Ocean. I was there at 6.30am (yes I was!) and the weather was very nice. (By the way, another thing that surprised me here is that all year round, the sun set around 5.30pm and rise around 5.30am, so weird when you’re used to French or, even worse, Norwegian seasons!). But as expected in this area, it didn’t last very long and clouds quickly surrounded the summit of the volcano. Despite his high level of biodiversity, it is one of the least visited park in the country, which makes it even nicer to visit!