Natural gas


There were signs, I am sure, but maybe they were in Spanish. Last night the sky had been scarlet, long lingering dribbles of scarlet, fireworks that never do their job. The cracks and booms raising the tension. How weird to sit and eat a meal watching the ever smoking volcano? We were in Costa Rica, certainly a country of contrasts, two days ago we had been eating our meal overlooking a cloud forest, peacefully listening and watching the birds prepare for sunset, then last night, on an outside table, with the smell of sulphur diminishing our appetite for the black beans on our plates. And now, my shoes feel hot, we are so close to the volcano, Arenal, that we can hear strange primeval creakings as boulders tumble down from the heights. Walking, or climbing over rocks and lava beside a small smoking stream, we find a rock covering something up.

‘Don’t touch it!’ but too late a jet of boiling water is pointing high up into the sky.

‘Why did you touch it!’ Shouting over the incessant background noise, worse than a motorway, a digger, a pneumatic drill. But in reality just nature, real living nature, geology in action. The smell and the noise are overwhelming, the heat burning my face, the water flowing beside us is bubbling.

‘It’s no good, I want to go back’

‘No let’s carry on.’

‘I WANT TO GO BACK’ My shoes really are melting now. The tumbling rocks banging and jumping all the way down seem very close. I can hear them breaking free, crashing, scraping. I don’t like it.

‘Oh.. all right then.’ Downcast for a second then intrigued by a burning piece of vegetation.

Jumping the stream and back across the prickly lava, clambering over the fence, and past the sign. Yes, I am sure it says no further. To a proper path sedately laid for the benefit of tourists. Back up steps to a building with changing rooms, a café, a lot of people. And steps down into the water, filled with the occupants of a cruise ship, basking in the warm volcanic waters. Huge stomachs compete with loud voices shouting over the sound of water rushing over a waterfall and into a rock strewn pool. Into our swimsuits and approach the pool. The water feels almost greasy, warm on my feet, steam obscuring the bodies. Constantly the rushing sounds of water and the noise of the volcano give
this place a feeling of a station at rush hour.

Mind da rocks!’ A broad Brooklyn accent flies over the water. I see his stomach before his face, as he lays on his back floating. Bright shorts on an over tanned expanse.

‘Oh, yes, we certainly will.’

E Smith

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