Sunday, April 19........Volcan Irazu, Costa Rica
Ten days have passed since last I wrote. They have been trying times, but a good opportunity to deepen my patience. At the end of waiting four days in San Ramon I visited a mechanic. He tinkered here and there beneath the van but was unable to fix the problem. He said I must go to a specialist in the capital. But the capital is an hour or more away along more mountain roads and I left with great trepidation. A half dozen times the van lurched to a stop and I had to wait for the engine to mysteriously start again. Finally, soaked in sweat from having repeatedly pushed the van to jump start the motor, I rolled into San Jose. The engine died at the bottom of a steep hill, it was Sunday, and no mechanics were working. I had no choice but to sleep within the van that evening. I dared not leave it unattended on the city streets, for San Jose is known to be a place of audacious bandits. I slept with a can of mace in my hands should someone try to enter in the dead of night. A few roving teenage bandits tried the doors but, hearing me yell within, they fled into the darkness.
Waking early, I enlisted a taxi driver to tow me with a rope to the nearest large garage. We wound our way through bustling downtown San Jose, causing a few traffic jams on its labyrinthine streets. Pulling into a modern and well staffed garage, I breathed a great sigh of relief. Here I would certainly be able to get the problem fixed. But, my problems were far from over. The mechanics were well meaning and honest I suppose. Three fellows spent hours under the van, hooked up a variety of diagnostic machines, changed the coil and a bunch of wires, and charged me nearly $200. But after two days they gave up in frustration and said I must go elsewhere.
These first mechanics had only made the problem more severe and so, surging and stopping twenty times within a mile, I made my way to a nearby garage specializing in German parts. Three more days I spent there. During the days I would hang around the garage to do what I could to guide the mechanics or test-drive the vehicle after they had tried this or that. Twenty cars, trucks, or motorcycles were always being worked on within the cavernous garage and the rumbling engines and copious exhaust fumes gave me a stunning headache. At nights I slept within the van, in the parking lot adjoining the garage. But the mechanic who did the work on the van, a wonderfully friendly fellow named Juan Carlos, finally got to the root of the problem. It turned out to be an arcane electrical malfunction in a small computing device that has something to do with air intake for the engine. Once fixed, the van performed again like new. I soon fled the polluted city and made my way high into the mountains. There was nothing I desired so much as clean air and quiet but for the sounds of nature.
Costa Rica is a land of many volcanoes. Most are inactive but a few burble and snort out noxious gases. The tallest of these were venerated as sacred, as the abodes of deities in archaic times. Today they are places of sport for hikers and city folk but I knew the old earth spirits would still be there. The city of San Jose is ringed by volcanic peaks and I choose Irazu, the tallest and easiest to reach. Rising to 3402 meters, Irazu towers above the surrounding forests. A paved road leads nearly all the way to the summit. Along this road several rough tracks lead off into the forests. Choosing one, I meandered through mists and groves of stunted trees until I came upon a small volcanic crater. Small and perfectly flat, it was a perfect place to camp. I parked with a view toward distant mountains and stayed for two lovely, cool, and quiet days.
Part of the peak is off limits to visitors due to the precipitous sides and unstable surface. Climbers have fallen hundreds of feet to their deaths in this area. My problem was that these dangerous cliffs were also the best vantage place from which to get fine photographs of the lovely crater lake. It would certainly not be the first time I had gone where I was not allowed! Rising early, well before the light, I put on clothes the color of the volcanic soil so as not to be seen by the park rangers. With two cameras and only the two lenses that I would need, I spent some five hours climbing, and scrambling to get the shots I wanted. The small, almost perfectly round lake has the most unusually colored water that I have seen anywhere in the world. It is a rich and glowing shade of olive green; I hope my photographs record its lovely hue. Upon returning from my strenuous climb, I napped and read and wrote until the stars shown bright in the pristine skies.
Volcan Irazu, Costa Rica