Saturday, April 9, 2016

San Jose, fruits and the beach

Week 4 was relatively quiet. Started the week with a visit to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. After a few tries we managed to get to the parc next to the stadium, not easy navigating a city the first time in a new country. The kids had fun playing in the playground modules and Willem had the time of his life playing in the dirt... ah the simple pleasures of a baby :-)

Next we headed for the Jade Museum. Somehow we parked right in the middle of a political rally... at first we thought it was an angry mob or something but a security guard at the museum explained that it was just a politician working the crowd.

So we headed into the museum which is nice and educational but a bit repetitive, only so many spears, pots and flutes you can look at before it get's a bit old.

There was a fun activity for the kids, a small sand box with fake bones and artifacts they could unearth using brushes, just like real archaeologists.

Later in the week family members of the owner came around to start harvesting the mangoes. The kids helped out and made a fun morning of it.

Marianne showing the proper technique to pick a mango. The pole has a net at the end and one side is sharp so that when you pull on the mango stem it gets cut, then it falls into the net. For fruit higher up one guy climbs up the tree and throws them to another guy who uses a small sheet spread out to catch them.

This spicky fellow is called a guanabana. It's white inside and has a lot of fibers and a few medium seeds. Marianne and I liked it but not the others.

The next day Norma, the owner of the place, showed us how to cook the raw cashews we had picked. We ended up burning half of them, yes the flames are normal as you have to burn off the oil in the outer layer of the nut. 

After they burn long enough (a couple of minutes) you use a hammer to break the inner shell to get to the tasty insides. Not easy with a BBQ, we're assuming that the big producers have a more controlled environment to cook them :-)

Yesterday we took off for Hermosa Beach. Same dark and fine sand as the previous beach. But this beach was empty except for a few surfers.

Sand? I didn't eat sand... what are you talking about?!

Fearless me taking on the giant waves... i had a blast getting tossed around by them. After a while i tried diving under the wave before it hits, that was even more exciting. When i was under them it would get dark and quiet, then after a few seconds when it lightens up i knew i could go back up. 

This Black Headed Vulture, with a face only a mother bird would love, we spotted on the way out of the beach. There were also several White Egrets lounging about.

We stopped at Jaco beach to see if it was worth going to on our next beach outing. A touristy place but fun none the less. We meet a cool Quebec family touring America in their camper along with a french family they had meet along the way in their own camper. Later we had supper at Pizza Pata. The kids where K.O. when we left and we all managed to sleep in a bit this morning (7am is sleeping in for us here... since the sun rises at 5:30am and sets at 5:40pm every day).

Monday, April 4, 2016

Monteverde - Last day and the road back

All good things must come to and end. After three nights we had one last morning activity, lunch in a nice (and cheaper) restaurant and then headed home.

Julie insisted on visiting a (free) trail close to town and boy am i happy we went! Wildest trees i've ever seen, Ficus Trees. Has to be seen to be believed.

This is a shot of the inside, it forms a tunnel that you can climb part way up to the top.

We had fun climbing over and inside the trees :-)

Our lucky Belgium neighbours got a cool treat one night, a live scorpion on their pillow! Good thing they spray for scorpions at the farm, makes them pretty loopy so they don't sting the guests. This one was about as long as my thumb. The owner had warned us about them and instructed us to always shake out our bed sheets before going to bed and checking our shoes for napping critters.

This bug we found on our porch. Its a grasshopper that looks like a leaf being picked apart by ants. Very neat camouflage.

My trusty co-pilot, Marianne, made a video of us driving back. This gives you a good idea of what the road is like. It's dusty, bumpy and is littered with golf ball sized rocks. Turn up the volume and you can hear the car rattling like crazy, glad it's a rental and not my car. It's mostly downhill heading out from Monteverde and often a shear drop on one side and a cliff on the other. It's a tense 40 minute drive where i kept my eyes on the road. At one point the road is only wide enough for one car... i don't know what we would have had to do if we got there when another car was coming the other way!

Monteverde - Part III

Day 3 at Monteverde and the girls got to do what every little girl likes to do... ride a horse! We went on a 2 hour ride on the trails of the farm. Lot's of up and down the hills, across creeks, through the forest and at the end through cow fields. At one point in the forest, the guide had us dismount and take a side trail because of a nasty looking snake on the main trail. He didn't want the horse to get spooked. At least that's what we think he said, hard to tell since he spoke only Spanish :-)

Marianne very happy and excited.

Evalie a bit worried and unsure at first, but after 20 minutes she was riding like a pro.

The views where pretty damn amazing. 

The aforementioned cows.

In the afternoon we toured a coffee and sugar cane plantation. Here we see one of the fields of coffee plants. There are also banana plants in this field, but usually there are only coffee plants.

A sample sugar cane crop on the tour trail. The stalks look a lot like bamboo.

We learned about the machinery used to transform the coffee beans from the fruit picked from the plant to the roasted coffee bean used when making that life giving brew we all love (a lot of us anyway)! Bellow is the sorting machine, that sorts by size, after that they are also sorted by weight.

The girls tried they hands at making sugar cane taffy. Basically it's like making maple syrup, you get the sugary water from the plant, boil it until it's mostly sugar, then let it cool down. By stirring it vigorously you get a big chunk of taffy. 

Marianne was always the first to volunteer for demonstrations. Here she is grinding some cocoa beans. They don't grow it at this plantation but they buy the raw product and transform it on site. There are several steps to processing cocoa beans and we got to taste it at several steps... it goes from bitter to sweet and tasty. For our friends back home we'll be bringing back some raw beans for you to taste. :-)

We discovered the ultimate pacifier for Willem... sugar cane cores! He was a cranky guy during the tour, but once he got his lips on a piece of cane he was happy again. The guide just cut off the bark and cut the center into sticks. It's very fibrous but if you chew it a bit the sap comes out and it's nice and sweet. We wanted to buy a bag full but it doesn't keep for more than a day.

We also got a very uncomfortable ride in an ox cart. Next time we'll walk, it's faster!

For supper that night we went back to our favorite restaurant in Saint-Elena, the town we we're staying in. It's called the Treehouse... because, you guessed it, it's built around a huge tree. The food was very good but pricey, then again it's a tourist town.