QCOSTARICA – With a string of walks that will begin at 5 am and will continue every hour until 10 am, in groups of 17, tourists will return to the Turrialba volcano starting December 4.
In this first phase, it is expected that at least 102 people will be able to enter each morning because that is when the volcano is clearest. Those in the first group will be able to see the sunrise.
It takes about two hours on the guided tour to the lookout point, will have a stay of half an hour and another half hour to eat some food.
At the end of the time at the top, the group descent begins along the same path and it takes approximately one hour to reach the bottom, when the vehicles were parked, in a farm between La Central and Las Virtudes.
Visitors will be able to have a coffee or a snack at the vehicle parking area.
The ascent route is about five kilometers and passes through livestock areas, pastures and the transition of the humid forest, where you can see the flowering of different species of plants, as well as the moorland, birds and other attractions that the certified guides will explain.
It includes oak, mountain orange blossom, cypress and myrtle trees. You can see birds such as hawks, woodpeckers and goldfinches, among others.
The National Emergency Commission (CNE), as well as the Chemistry School of the Universidad Nacional (UNA) have trained some 60 guides on the risks of volcanic gases and other details that allow them to react adequately to any eventuality.
This reopening will show a renewed panorama, because before there was no western crater, which has a horseshoe shape and it was through which the colossus emanated gases, ash, pyroclastic flows and juvenile magma in its most recent eruptive cycle.
Two other craters, the central one and the eastern one that were previously deeper, were filled with material from the eruptions, mainly the strongest that occurred between 2015 and 2016.
Near the lookout point, two areas were set up with tables to facilitate eating and there is drinking water service, as well as sanitary services.
You can also walk a small path near the lookout point, called Chusquea, said the regional director of the Central Volcanic Cordillera Conservation Area, Rafael Gutiérrez.
In the upper area of the road, visitors will come across several shelters so that groups can protect themselves in case of an eventuality.
As it is an active volcano, at the moment it is not allowed to enter other sectors of the national park.
According to Ida Herrera, president of the Turrialba Chamber of Tourism (Catur), the Turrialba volcano is one of the main attractions and that is why they trust that it will energize other places in the area that range from adventure tourism in the mighty rivers, to the historical and cultural Guayabo National Monument, passing through the cattle farms where the cheese that characterizes the Cartago canton is produced.
Initially, the guided walks will be with groups of 17 people, in order to comply with all the measures that the Ministry of Health has to prevent contagion of covid-19. In the future, the groups are expected to be 35.
When the rains intensify in that part of the territory (between May and August), the schedule is expected to change, so that the first group enters at 8 am and the last one at noon.
Visitors are recommended to visit the Sinac page or Catur’s Facebook page, as well as the website visiteturrialba.cr, where the access point, costs and other information of interest will be detailed in the coming days.
For thee walks, the use of comfortable shoes, sunscreen, waterproof clothing and a coat or jacket is required, given the 3,340 meters (10,958 feet) above sea level.
Because the owners of the La Central hacienda have claimed as part of their property the road that traditionally led to the lookout point (national route 417) and since to date, there has not been a resolution by the court, the National Council of Conservation Areas (Conac), looked for another alternative.
Therefore, an agreement was signed with the owners of the Montecalas farm, in order to have a route that guarantees the passage of tourists to the lookout point.
In this first stage, the sale of tickets to the volcano will be in charge of the groups of operators and, according to Rafael Gutiérrez, director of the National System of Conservation Areas (Sinac), the cost will be ¢1,000 for residents in the country and US$12 for tourists.
Access will only be allowed to those who arrive on the guided tour. The park administration, in coordination with Catur, is still considering the amount to be charged for the guide service.
“We will work with guides from the area, who must have the proper certification granted by the ICT,” said Ida Herrera.
Initially, the site for reservations will be the same as the Guayabo National Monument and then it is expected that they will be able to do it with guides that Catur will enable.
He added that the patrols will continue in private farms through which illegal visitors enter, which sometimes reach high-risk areas, as happened with a couple who had to be rescued on November 14, after suffering fractures in a fall.
Slept for about 130 years
According to volcanologist Javier Pacheco, the Turrialba volcano developed between 1996 and 2018 a cycle that was not seen in the last 130 years; the last time there was something similar was between 1845 and 1866, according to the few historical documents of the time.
The first eruption in the recent period of activity occurred in January 2010.
In October 2014 the volcano opened its western crater and in April 2016 reached its eruptive climax, when the conduit or chimney was left open to the point that in 2018 the magma could be seen at a depth of 200 meters.
Then, the magma stopped feeding the volcano and the activity began to decline to the point that is in 2020, in June and July there were some eruptions with ash of little force, attributed to the interaction of gases with the hydrothermal system of the colossus.
For now, only seismic activity and slight gas emanation continue.
“It won’t be for about 100 or 200 years that strong eruptions will be seen again, unless there is a new magmatic feeding, but rather it is expected that the activity will continue to decrease little by little,” said the scientist.
He added that there will be active fumaroles for many years, as well as gas escapes and small eruptions, so the restricted areas must be respected.
The closing of visits to the volcano was ordered by the CNE on August 10, 2009, then it was reopened with strict security measures for a short period and was definitively closed to all access in in 2012, despite the groups insisting on its reopening.