Friday, December 9, 2022—Travel to Death Mountain

After an early breakfast, luggage was loaded and we checked out of Selva Verde Rainforest Lodge. The drive took us south, over the mountains, through San Jose, and then southeast back into another mountain range to San Gerardo De Dota.

Sarapiqui to San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica

Enroute the bus climbed the mountains, passing many pineapple, strawberry, and coffee farms and plantations.

A brief stop was made at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Cartago, Costa Rica. 

Our Lady of the Angels Basilica

The Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Our Lady of the Angels Basilica) is a Roman Catholic basilica, dedicated to the Virgen de los Pardos, officially known as Virgen de los Angeles (the Lady of the Angels). The basilica was built in 1639, but partially destroyed by an earthquake. The basilica has since been restored and constitutes a unique mix of colonial architecture as well as 19th-century Byzantine style; the current building dates back to 1939.

The Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels is consecrated to the Virgin of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles, a small representation of the Virgin Mary carrying the infant Jesus, said to have been discovered by a peasant girl in Cartago. Tradition claims that the little girl found the small statue on a rock and took it home. The next morning she found that the statue was not there but back at the rock, so she took it to the priest and he locked it in a small box. The next morning the statue was back at the rock. During the construction, the church was destroyed by earthquakes so many times, it was finally decided to move it to the location where the statue was found and they were able to finish construction. Many people think that the earthquakes were signs that the Lady of Los Ángeles wanted the basilica built there.

Owing to the dark complexion of the stone statue, she is sometimes affectionately called La Negrita or Reina de Cartago (Queen of Cartago). The original statue is kept in a golden shell inside the basilica. An official decree declared the Virgin of the Angels the official patron of Costa Rica.

In the days leading to August 2, the Basilica is the object of extensive pilgrimage and visitation by over a million believers (estimates range from 1 to 2.5 million people), many of whom walk from different points throughout the country. However, most people join the 22-kilometer walk to the basilica from San José and surrounding communities. Locally the pilgrimage is known as the Romería and is one of the most enduring of Costa Rican traditions. As a demonstration of their piety, many people choose to crawl part or the complete journey on their hands and knees. At the basilica they wash themselves and drink the water from the rock on which the statue was found.

After climbing to an elevation of 10,000+ feet, the bus weaved it’s way down a one lane switchbacked “road” to the San Gerardo de Dota Valley. The small and secluded valley of San Gerardo de Dota is located at approximately 7,500 feet in the western flank of the Cerro de la Muerte (Death Mountain) massif in the Talamanca Mountain Range. The valley was carved by the Savage River as a result of the deicing of the glaciers during the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago. The predominant habitats inside the valley are high elevation cloud and oak forests. San Gerardo de Dota is a clear example of a cold environment in tropical regions. During the day temperatures are a pleasant 70-75• F. At night the mercury can fall into the 40s.

Measuring approximately 41 kilometers from its source in the mountains of San Gerardo de Dota to its mouth in the Pacific Ocean, the Savegre River is considered the cleanest river on the Central
American Pacific coast and is the fifth cleanest in the world. The Savegre river basin is part of the UNESCO biosphere reserve.

We arrived at Sevegre Lodge late in the afternoon, checked in, and were overwhelmed by the beautiful gardens and lodge infrastructure.

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