Friday, February 8, 2013

Costa Rica Day 2

Thursday February 7

We didn't have a very good nights sleep. It sometimes happens in strange rooms. Suitcases have to be outsides the rooms at 6:30 am and then breakfast.

 A little sunrise from our room window.
After breakfast our trip leader Nestor gives his welcome briefing and we meet our fellow travelers. We are 15 and Nestor. Our bus driver Zorro is loading our suitcases.
The bus is very small. Nestor has put labels with our names above the windows over each seat so there is no question where to sit. He will rotate these every day. It's kind of good ... except that mine is over a wheel and my knees are up to my chin.
It doesn't start very well. As soon as Zorro starts driving the bus backwards away from the hotel entrance a car drives in and they "make contact". The car has a dent and it takes a little while to sort it out but finally we are on our way.
We have a tour of the city. San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica founded 1737. We learn that there are lots of earthquakes (about 2 daily) which means there have to be building codes. 
We stop at the Teatro National which was built 1897 by the coffee moguls. 7 families had become very rich and powerful owning coffee finca (plantations). And this was one way to show it.
The entry.

The hall way and stairs to the balconies. Very difficult to photograph but I tried with the panorama feature on my iphone sideways.  At least it gives an impression.

Again the panorama feature. The famous painting on the ceiling of course is a rectangle. No curves.

 Even the lamps are symbols of the coffee beans

The stage.
The president's loge. 

Nestor explains the life back then and that the seats on the main floor could be taken out and the floor be raised to the stage level for debutant balls.

 Picture above: Imagine socializing during intermission in this place. On the left and right were little rooms for smokers. One for the men and one for the ladies. Ladies were only allowed to smoke one cigarette though. Smoking two would label them as prostitutes.

Even the bathrooms had mahogany doors and crown molding around the painted ceiling.
Interesting flowers left and right at the entrance ... with millions of thorns.

We were back in the bus at 10:35 am but excitement again. One of our fellow travelers was missing a bag she thought she had left on the seat. A search began but it wasn't found. Don't know when we hear the rest of the story or whether there will be one.
We drive a while ... a little while even on the Pan American Highway which goes from Alaska to Patagonia. Road constructions and accidents makes Zorro find alternative routes. It is quite hilly.
Next stop: At a leather factory. This is a single lady's private home with a couple of sewing machines (behind the lady) and 2 little sales rooms. She doesn't speak much English but Nestor translates. She tells us her life story and the story of her business and it is very interesting. She is very nice and so enthusiastic and energetic. I was very happy that somebody bought something.
One of her phrases: The best day to learn is every day!
The view from the back room into the valley and the mountains.

Boarding the bus again.
After some driving we reach the Doka Estate. This is a national heritage site and one of the oldest wet mills. This one is important because they are doing it very environmentally correctly ... no polluting of the rivers. 
But first we had lunch ... buffet of course. James is buying a local beer (Imperial) to go with it.

So lovely to have meals "al fresco" in February.
 Oh yes, rice and beans at every meal.
Afterwards we had a tour of the finca. I will never drink coffee the same way again. And this young man (Isaac) was very knowledgeable and funny.
This is a basket the pickers use. In Costa Rica the pickers get about $3 for each basket. In Nicaragua only 50c that's why there are many migrant workers here from there. It takes a experienced picker about 20 minutes per basket.

You squash the coffee berry and out come the beans, usually two but sometimes three. If there is only one, it is round and called pea berry and the most expensive coffee you can buy. 
Here are the babies.
The seeds fall on the ground and are pushed up from the bottom. So unusual.
Forgot the age when the plant looks like a butterfly.
And after a while it looks more like it's parent.
These are about ready to plant. A coffee tree starts bearing fruit when it is about four until it is 20 years old. So when they are 16 (or 17) babies will be planted between the old which will be cut down when they are 20 and the new ones start having fruits. One tree bares about 25 to 50 lbs per year.
Now the process. The government regulates that only Arabica beans are planted. Costa Rica produces 3 % of the worlds coffee but is one of the three top producers in quality in the world and they don't want to lose that spot.

About the environment: at this finca (plantation) they use the skin as fertilizer, the sugar being washed out between the skin and the beans can be turned into liquor and the water is used for irrigation. No waste.

Three grades of the beans. On the left first grade, in the middle second and on the right third. The third grade is for instant coffee. 
Quality is dependent on density, weight, size and color.
James is helping out. This is called "flipping the golden beads". The best grade is dried this way which takes 5 days, flipping them every 30 minutes. Others are being dried inside by machine which takes 12 hours.

The coffee shop!

We were asked to guess how long roasting (always at 250F) takes. Light roast = 15 minutes
medium = 17 minutes
dark roast = 20 minutes
what a science!
This is how Costa Ricans brew their coffee. A piece of wood only $34.
When we leave the finca I can't help notice the walkway.

And did you know that the leaves have caffeine in them too?
And off we go to continue our trip. This time I sit in front in the empty spare seat (reserved for sick people) since nobody feels sick and am really not comfortable over the wheel.

Very nice country side. Nestor talks and explains a lot.
Costa Rica boys are called = Tico
girls = Tica
and there is something like "tico time" which means "whenever"

A brief photo-stop. This is such a pretty waterfall right next to the road.

And then a little further we stop again. Wild white-nosed coati (sometimes called coati mundy).

 They eat fruit. Since we don't have any, they move on to the stopped car behind us.
We are almost at our destination. The sun is going down.

Our Hotel: La Quinta Sarapiqui
We have a visitor in our room. Good. Love him eating all the bugs ... if there are any. But he is very shy and I have to zoom.

* * * * *
The official OAT itinerary of today:

Day 2
After breakfast and a welcome briefing with our Trip Leader, we set off to discover San José—Costa Rica’s capital city—founded in 1737 and rich in culture and history. We begin with a walk through the National Park, which is well-shaded by tropical trees and contains the National Monument, a bronze statue symbolizing the bravery of the Costa Rican people.
From there, we continue through downtown San José to the ornately decorated National Theater (Teatro Nacional), passing the National Library and Morazan Park along the way. One of the country’s most impressive architectural accomplishments, the National Theater is proudly regarded as the "jewel of the nation," and we'll explore it today on a guided tour, before departing San José on the famous Pan-American Highway.
From the city, we drive through the beautiful Central Valley to Alajuela, the coffee capital of Costa Rica, where we stop at Doka Estate, a 100-year-old coffee finca (plantation). At this Costa Rican National Heritage site, we’ll learn why locals call the coffee bean the grano d’oro, or golden seed, and find out how this valuable crop is produced. We enjoy lunch at the plantation, and then continue on to Sarapiquí.
We arrive at our comfortable lodge outside the town of La Virgen later this afternoon. Our eco-friendly lodgings here are situated alongside the Tirimbina Biological Reserve. A lush tropical rain forest teeming with native fauna, this habitat is also a seasonal home to migratory birds from the northern U.S. and Canada. After getting settled, we take a leisurely walk around the lodge’s grounds. This evening, we enjoy dinner at our lodge's open-air restaurant before settling into our thatched-roof rooms, where we’ll be lulled to sleep by the soothing sounds of the jungle, and awaken to a symphony of birdsongs.

1 comment:

  1. I hope that you link day 3 to block lotto. Glad your having fun. H