Costa Rica? I thought you said 'Costco'! travel blog

Sugar cane - ripe and ready for the harvest

Cat lady


Koby is ready for another day of action in the jungle

Froot Loops


Blue Mot Mot

More Froot Loops

Mm mm... Agouti! Tastes like chicken!







Koby scopes out a snake

Yep. Another green pit viper


Dressed for snakes


Snakes mean business


Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just happy...




Miguel makes a friend

Millipede already has enough friends

Caffetal - Time to learn how to make coffee

Don Victor Rodriguez - our coffee tutor

Monteverde orchid

Coffee beans, ready for the picking

Juan Valdez - coffee bean picker

Ripe beans, ready for roasting

Coffee roasting machine

Coffee roasting machine operator

Roasted to perfection

Child labour. Gotta teach em

Sugar cane ready for picking so we can have some azucar with...

The product of our labours


Monteverde cloud forest rainbow

Koi pond with monster sized koi. Gefilte fish for everybody!

House on stilts

Heaven lives near here

"I'm telling you, the gefilte fish was this big!"




Chag Chanukah Sameach from Costa Rica!

This is kind of ominous. It's now been 3 days in a row (not counting Zippedee Doo Dah Day - and don't think I didn't giggle to myself while typing that!) that we've been stalked by green pit vipers.

Or perhaps our guides just know that what we're really after is the thrill of knowing that they are the ones who end up going nose tip to nose tip with them in order to spin the 1 in 600 wheel of certain death. Or, in the case of Koky, to take a close up photo of the curled up ball to green venom using our toys.

We woke up once again to wind & rain but not as windy or rainy as yesterday and so we were off with Koky to the Curi-Cancha Cloud Forest Reserve as there are critters in them thar hills and forests and we aims to see them. Well, more accurately, we aims to have Koky spot them and then patiently show us where they are and take photos of them for us.

Today's natural history lesson included tidbits about a variety of living things, including:

Sapote: A soft edible fruit with a huge black seed pod that is used for various crafts. The fruit induces drowsiness. Presumably used in liquor but I haven't tasted it yet.

Segue: This actually isn't anything we saw but hearing about the qualities of Sapote made me remember my adventure in Costa Rican drinking a few nights ago in La Fortuna.

On the bus ride to the Cano Negro river adventure, Sayrese was telling us about Cacique, the national liquor of Costa Rica. Cacique is made from sugar cane. In the words of Sayrese (and I am quoting here): " I sat on the floor and drank it all night with my friends and, seriously, I didn't have any hangover and went to work the next morning".

In fact, "Cacique" is the official brand name of the liquor called Guaro. Bottles of the stuff line the shelves of every grocery store here. With a testimonial like the one from Sayrese, I had no choice but to try it. When I ordered it, I asked the waiter how I would like it. He said I'd like a Guaro Sour. Sounded good to me. Pucker up city is what I got. I made everybody in the restaurant taste it just to make sure it wasn't only me. I have never had anything that sucked away my breath and dried up my mouth as fast.

The best part: FANAL is the official government agency that oversees the production and distribution of Cacique. It's also in charge of the production of Costa Rica's supply of ethyl alcohol for antiseptic purposes. My guess is that they just put a different label on the bottle at the end of the production line.

Okay, end of segue - now back to stuff we saw in the Curri-Cancha Cloud Forest Reserve today.......

Tiny avocado: I mean like the size of an olive. It would take a zillion to make a decent sized bowl of guacamole.

Agouti: A large sized rodent that hides food and then forgets where it hid the stuff.

Blue crowned Mutt Mutt: It's actually spelled "Mot Mot" but I've spelled it the way it's pronounced. This is a colourful bird with a very long tail that is notoriously hard to spot. Unless you're Koky, who planted it there earlier this morning and nailed it to the spot, I'm certain.

Millipede: Miguel spotted this one and Koky promptly picked it up to show it to us in the palm of his hand. It promptly pooped on Koky's hand. Scared shitless, as it were, I presume.

Hummingbirds: Blue throated, ruby throated, emerald throated, throat singers, double breasted, and wool worsted. Many varieties of them indeed. Their wings beat 190 times per second. We took a passle of slo-mo movies of them and would have continued to do that all day long if Koky hadn't been very very excited to find and show us the.....

Green Pit Viper: What can I say. We loves us our reptiles.

Banana tree: Featuring both male & female parts. Best to see the accompanying photo to actually understand this.

We enjoyed quiche & soup for lunch at Stella's Bakery in bustling downtown Santa Elena and that's where Oscar picked us up after lunch for a tour of Cafe San Luis (a coffee plantation) with the owner, Victor Ramirez. Mariquena is Don Victor's 8 yr. old daughter. She accompanied us in order to lock us all in the drying shed. Oh, what a trickster!

Gabi (their neighbour who speaks English) was our translator and my guess is that she translated about 1/2 of what Don Victor told us. Me & Miguel made up the rest. As a result, here is a pretty good description of how you make coffee, from seed to cup, based on what we understoodand made up:

1. Put coffee tree seed in ground. Cover with banana leaves. Leave in ground until it's one foot tall. Put the short coffee tree into a plastic bag.

2. Wait two years and put the plastic bag in ground. Or maybe put the plastic bag in ground and wait two years. My tenses in Spanish are kind of mixed up sometimes. I think you still need to have the coffee tree in the bag at that point, too.

3. Wait another year and coffee beans appear on the tree. Pick them when they are red. Or yellow. Depending on the tree. Or if you have trouble with your colours.

4. Fill basket with coffee beans picked solely by hand until the basket is filled and weighs 13 kilos. You get paid about $2.75 for picking a full basket. We hired Miguel out for the rest of the season. He could use steady employment.

5. Pound beans that have been picked to a pulp in a giant sized mortar and pestle contraption. Well, actually, just pound them enough to get the outer fruit skin to come off, revealing two bean shaped objects that, to the uninitiated, would appear to be the actual coffee beans. Oh, no chancy, Mr. Whalen!

6. Spread out bean shaped objects on ground until they are dry. Then roast them while stirring and blowing away thin translucent husks that turn out to be a second skin coating each individual coffee bean and that kind of peels itself off under the intense heat which, after being blown out of the roasting pan, reveals and leaves you with the actual coffee beans. Try hard not to burn yourself while doing more than one thing at a time.

7. This part is important. Do NOT burn the coffee beans while roasting them in the pan after you've blown away the husks. I was the roaster. I burned them. Don Victor made me sit in a corner.

8. Grind the roasted beans. Debbie was the grinder today. She did a great job. She was hired on the spot. Me..... I'm still sitting in the corner.

9. Roll out the now roasted & ground beans into ground coffee powder with what appears to be a dough roller except it's much heavier and takes some real effort. Colleen was a natural. She too is now on Don Victor's payroll. Again, you know where I am.

10. Take the now finely ground roasted coffee bean powder and ...... make a cuppa Joe! Everyone else (who wasn't sitting in the corner) got to try some. I heard it was delicious.

Well, that's the way they used to do it, anyway, when Don Victor married his wife and they moved into the coffee shed which also doubled as the house that her parents built and where she grew up. Steps 5-10 were all performed in that coffee shed/house. When not sleeping on the bed in the corner.

Now, the family lives elsewhere and they use (somewhat) more modern machinery to actually take care of all those steps. But it's nowhere near as fun, I can assure you, and it doesn't involve people sitting in the corner any longer so, frankly, the new fangled machinery didn't interest me near as much.

Of all the things I learned today from my visit to Don Victor's Coffee plantation, the most useful in the future (and by that I mean tomorrow) is that the bloody road leading down to the coast from up here in the cloud forest at Monteverde are of the rock & pothole variety. I'm psyched!

Happy Chanukah! We lit the Chanukiah and enjoyed pizza on our last night in the treehouse.

Tomorrow, a visit with Miguel & Colleen's nephew Will (on Miguel & Colleen's side) who lives in Jaco with his girlfriend Selena (or maybe Helena - we'll find out for sure tomorrow).

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