Volcano Irazu, Cartago

Our trip through Costa Rica begun with the Irazu Volcano located at ca. 3400 m. From the peak there is a wonderful view over the valleys, the coffee plantations and the villages. The summit is a bare landscape of craters. The Prinicpal Crater is ca. 1000m in diameter and 300 m deep while the second one is 690 m in diameiter and 100m deep. It looks like the volcano is no longer active. A few plants have begun colonize the landscape. Everything is green and you do not feel like on 3400 m height. The trail goes from the parking lot to a lookout over craters. Costa Rica has a series of high situated volcanos and some of them are still active. On the way back the lower you get the lusher the vegetation. As you emerge from the edge of the park, the land is agricultural, with much cattle and dairy farming.

Our next stop was the church Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles in Catargo which is one of the most important churches in Costa Rica. According to the legend, a young girl found twice a Virgin statue (la Negrita) close to a river a brought it to her home. In both cases, next morning the statue was found again at the same place by the river. Since then the people believe in the magical force of the statue.

The church was built at the place the girl found the statue. Today the statue is a pilgrimage destination and every year in August up to two million people come here. The Virgin associated with the statue is the patron saint of Costa Rica. Miraculous healing powers are attributed to la Negrita. Inside the basilica is a chapel dedicated to la Negrita where gifts from cured pilgrims can be seen. The gifts are metal (including gold) models of the parts of the human body that have been miraculously healed. The pilgrims fill their bottles with saint water out of the river.

On the way back to San Jose we passed through the fertile soils of the Ortosi Valley and visited the church San Jose. One of the church patronesses is Santa Maria de Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico. The night we stayed again in Holiday Inn, San Jose.