Water pipes and volcanic eruptions

Added 13 Mar 2015

We leave San Jose this morning and drive west towards San Ramon. We stop in the town of Sarchí which is Costa Rica's most famous centre for wood crafts. There are many small factories and stores here producing wooden souvenirs including bowls, tableware and even rocking chairs, but the most popular items on sale are elaborately painted oxcarts called "carretas". In souvenir version they are all sizes from miniature to huge! The original full size versions were traditionally used to carry coffee from the highlands down to the Pacific coast. We visit one of the most famous factories, called Eloy Alfaro. They still generate power here from a waterwheel. A main belt turns a drive shaft that connects to other belts to power machinery. Smaller belts connect in different directions to additional drive shafts along the ground floor and up through holes in the wooden ceiling to the floor above. Yet more draft shafts, pulleys, belts and machines are upstairs. When the waterwheel is engaged, everything appears to creak into action! It is quite something but we guess there is probably no “health and safety” officer on duty.

After Sarchi we drive to San Ramon. The plan is to skirt the town centre and continue direct to our ultimate destination, Villa Blanca. We do plan to stop at a supermarket to allow guests to shop for some lunch provisions for the coming days. At Villa Blanca we are staying in individual cottage style “casitas” and there’s nothing nicer than sitting on your own terrace and enjoying your own lunch picnic! At the shopping centre we all jump off and walk towards the supermarket. However we discover the shop has recently closed down. Time for plan B. All back on the coach and we drive 100 metres along the road to another potential food shop. This shop is pretty small and doesn’t have much stock. Time for plan C. We decide to drive into San Ramon town centre. Near the main church we stop outside a medium size supermarket and all run in. The shop staff are understandably surprised that nearly 70 Brits are invading their store. Half an hour later the shelves are bare and we are queuing at the check-out counters with what appears to be the weekly shop. Packs of coffee and wine are the most popular items!

Eventually we are on the road to Villa Blanca. The last 15 kms is a single track road with a few pot holes here and there, so we take it easy. Half way along we notice a water hosepipe balanced above the road across two poles. The coach is too high to drive underneath. Richard and Isbela jump off and climb the bank. They are able to pull the hosepipe higher and do a temporary repair job. We drive through with inches to spare.

We arrive at Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Resort a few minutes later and the friendly staff is waiting to greet us. Nice cool towels and juice, or juice with alcohol. Guess what is most popular. We settle into our cottages and begin to explore. As dinner is served in the main lodge we begin to hear about the eruption of Costa Rica’s Turrialba volcano. There are some fairly dramatic pictures on the TV showing big ash clouds. The main airport is closed as a precaution and we realise this is happening just 20 kms from Cartago, where we were yesterday. Potential volcanic activity is of course monitored continually in Costa Rica and the eruption is apparently not entirely unexpected. However the local authorities tell us we are OK. From San Jose we have moved some distance to the west and there is now a mountain range between the volcano and us!