A lookback: After the quake

March 17, 2011

Immediately after the 2009 earthquake, the Poás Volcano Lodge farm was the main evacuation route for people escaping from La Paz Waterfall Gardens and other points north, after the road collapsed. Once the initial shock – followed by many aftershocks – was over, Cannon had to contend with finding housing for his workers, whose houses were all destroyed. The Boy Scouts came to the rescue with tents on loan. Road repair crews knocked down fences, scattering his herd, and 100 or so cows stampeded and had to be rounded up. No water and no electricity made the task of rebuilding the farm and lodge even more daunting.

Along with repairing his ruined farm and lodge, Cannon spearheaded the project to repair the severely damaged Vara Blanca school and to rebuild the destroyed kindergarten, with $20,000 donated by the British Embassy from the 2009 Queen’s Birthday Party proceeds, along with donations from the Little Theatre Group. Cannon is now in the process of selling part of his farmland to provide new housing sites for 36 still-homeless Vara Blanca families. His hope is that each new house will have a 100-square-meter yard in which families can plant organic gardens and grow enough produce to create a local market. He also has plans to produce local cheese and set up some roadside businesses to help jump-start the local economy.

Two years after the earthquake, Cannon’s farm and the surrounding disaster scene are mostly recovered. Strawberry farms are once again thriving, and dairy cows are contentedly grazing. The access road from Alajuela never really closed, and the upper reaches of the more damaged road north from Barva to Vara Blanca – one of the most scenic drives in the country – is once again in good enough shape for any car. There are still a few bumpy patches, but nothing out of the ordinary for Costa Rican roads. The earthworks and terracing done by the National Roadway Council (CONAVI) are quite amazing to behold.

The Vara Blanca gas station is open for business, as are the roadside shops selling local products, and Restaurant Colbert, the French auberge famous for its freshly baked baguettes, pâté and French pastries, is open every day except Thursday. The road to La Paz Waterfall Gardens is clear, and once again you can drive on to San Miguel to connect with the road heading west to San Carlos and Arenal, or continue north to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí and on to the Caribbean.

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