Up in Guanacaste in northern Costa Rica I stayed in a place called Rinconcito Lodge which was in an isolated area outside of Liberia. It was here where I would base myself ready to visit Rincon de la Vieja, with my original intentions being to climb the volcano. However, recent earthquakes at the volcano closed it for climbing so it was Plan B, visit the bubbling mud pots and hot springs in the national park instead. I signed up for a tour but upon being told that I was going to ride a horse for the initial part of the journey I felt anxious, anxious at the idea of riding a horse. I suppose I was paranoid that the horse was going to go crazy and throw me off.
So next morning it was on the horse I went and I just let it go on autopilot, and it actually wasn't as bad as I thought. Maybe I was given an easy horse? I felt like John Wayne for the moment.
The Santa Maria ranger station was where we left our horses before setting off for the long trek through the forest. Crossing a few streams and sweating on the way the highlights of the forest included a Sloth sleeping up a tree, an Oriole Snake, some Monkeys moving around some trees, and a tree with a huge trunk. Later, when we reached a stream which had a cloudy appearance in the water I knew that we made it to the Sector Las Pailas, where the mud pots and hot springs were.
Walking up a mound after crossing the stream along with my guide the first mud pot I encountered was a mini pool of mud bubbling away, obviously that was nothing compared to what I was to see after that. Next up was a sulphuric pool of water called Pailas de Agua and that was followed by the Pailas de Barro, a group of large bubbling mud pots. The Pailas de Barro mud pots bubbling away also emitted steam and smelt like rotten eggs, it was obviously the sulphur I was smelling similar to what I smelled near the active craters of Pacaya and Etna volcanoes during the previous years.
Next up we came to a viewing point overlooking Laguna Fumarolica, a sulphuric pond with active fumaroles in the rocks. My guide climbed through the fence and descended down to the rocks and beckoned me to come with him to the other side, are you serious? I felt obliged to follow him. At one point he pointed to a fumarole and told me to move quick as I passed as the steam could scold you, I knew what he meant.
On the other side of Laguna Fumarolica we were back inside the forest where we saw steam being emitted between trees, another fumarole. So this Sector Las Pailas, which lies at the foot of the nearby active Rincon de la Vieja Volcano to the south, has a network of fumaroles which is obviously being fed by the same magma chamber. Next up we stopped at a hot spring, this time the water was clear only that it was boiling hot. Then we stopped at our last vent, Volcancito.
Volcancito was another bubbling mud pot only that it was smaller than the ones at the Pailas de Barro. Staring into the mud pot, the mud was constantly bubbling and boiling like as if somebody had put clay into a cooking pot to be heated up. Just as we were leaving I saw a baby Green Iguana on a log and a monkey resting up in a tree.
We made the long trek back to the Santa Maria ranger station before mounting our horses for the return trip to Rinconcito Lodge.
It was a satisfactory trip and I quite enjoyed the trek. One of the good things about visiting a volcanic area in a national park is that you have the added bonus of spotting wildlife on the way.