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Published: February 20th 2019
Day 14 Costa Rica - Puntarenas.
What a brilliant day we have had. We have been to puntarenas before and took a zip line tour that time. We knew, from past experience, that the town itself is very small with a nice market, walk and lighthouse but not a great deal else within walking distance. You need to consider a tour to get the best out of your stop. So, yesterday evening, we booked a tour for today to the highlands and a coffee plantation followed by a stop at a cart making workshop.
It didn’t start too well this morning because we were late docking. Part of the reason for the delay was an equally sized Holland America ship was in port next to us.... only one ship at a time can get authority to let passengers off....they got in first!
It was quite fun seeing their ship right next to ours as we got ourselves ready . They were so close we could talk to people on their balconies from ours. Weird ship though....i don’t like the black and white paint job Holland America uses as much as the princess cruise line’s white and blue. Apparently, they are equally as beautiful as ours on the inside though.
We were due to meet in the dining room at 08:40 for a tour which was due to set off at 9:00 am. Hmmm... at 09:30, we were still in the dining room and only three tours had managed to leave the ship. People were getting a little restless. Finally, an hour late, we set off for what was meant to be a half day tour to the coffee plantation.
Our tour guide, Jose (hosay) was brilliant from the start. He knew people getting fraught with the wait and instantly made us laugh, lightening the mood and getting everyone on the coach in super quick time.
The journey to the plantation was due to take an hour and a half (which it did) and took us along winding mountain roads with a view of the Costa Rica jungles, mountains and coast line as we went.
The higher we climbed up the mountain roads, the more spectacular the scenery became. At points, there were sheer drops either side of the road but our driver was awesome, managing the terrain in a full size coach with ease. I took several pictures from the window of the coach, hopefully they will give an idea of how beautiful Costa Rica is.
Just before reaching the plantation, out driver stopped at a fruit store, and purchased some traditional fruits and nuts for us to taste. We had to try to guess what the item was that Jose held up. The most surprising was a cashew..... it looked like a red/green pepper... apparently you can eat the entire fruit and the nut is actually just the stalk bit dried out. The cashew felt oily to the touch and was quite heavy, around the size of a pepper at home. We also got to taste cashew nuts which had just finished sun drying....they were amazing. So tasty and nothing like the salted roasted ones that you buy.
We reached the coffee plantation in the highlands, ears popped several times on our way up the mountain....the first thing which hit me was the smell of roasting coffee....not crap coffee but the most amazing rich coffee scent you could imagine. It was sweet and heady and even David, who thinks coffee is the devils urine, said it was a gorgeous aroma.
The tour was excellent. It took us through this working plantation, showing all the steps from planting the bushes, to picking only the ripe red berries and then the drying, separating and roasting process. We watched berries getting split and the beans being revealed inside and then went inside another room where beans were being roasted at different temperatures. The darkest roast beans are left at 200 degrees Celsius for 17 minutes....any longer than that and they will burn which ruins the entire flavour.
This particular coffee plantation produces roasted coffee beans of various strengths by adjusting the temperature and roasting time. The smell in the roasting room was other worldly.....fantastic. We got to try a cup of their coffee brewed the standard way (in a machine) before the tour started....Dave even tried it and didn’t throw up!
The picking season for the coffee berries is December to February and so we didn’t see pickers or berries on the bushes. We did see the process they go through whereby they chop the tops off the last season bushes and plant baby plants to replace those which have exhausted their supply of beans. I found one bush with some berries on and managed to take a photo.
Walking thorough the plantation was a great experience, it was hot and humid but was a chance to see how the drink I love is made from berry to bean to bag. Our guide pointed out other plants too us as we made our way through the coffee bushes. One of these was a cool purple flower which we could pick and eat. It tasted JUST like mushrooms. I forget what it was called.....sorry.
We had to keep eyes peeled for snakes, especially boa constrictors, and spiders.....great.... but all made it through unscathed.
Oh....oh, I have to say this......One guy, I don’t know his name but I did take photos of him, had a face like a wet weekend all day. He was determined to be miserable. I think his trousers were so tight they were squashing his nuts and making his face contort ..... see if you agree when you see the photos.
I mean.....what era is he stuck in? He must think drainpipe jeans is a good look when you are 108 and have a gut the size of a large barrel......Anyway, he was a miserable git all day and everyone got fed up of his face. He was rude to our guide and clearly didn’t want to be on the tour. Luckily......no one cared and everyone, apart from him, had a great time.
Once the tour was complete we got to try ANOTHER cup of, just roasted, beans but this time using a more traditional method of brewing. It was kind of strained through an old Cotten sock into a metal container. You could see how fresh the coffee was from the rainbow coloured bubbles produced when the water was added to the grounds. That’s from the oil in the beans. Only fresh beans produce rainbow oil bubbles.
This cup of coffee was just delicious. The first sip, a little bitter but, the second brought out the true flavour of this lovely little bean. Again, David tasted the coffee and.....wait for it....... HE LIKED IT AND DRANK THE LOT!! The drink he calls devils urine.... he drank it and likened it to trying Guinness for the first time. An acquired taste.
In the shop I brought one of the Cotten coffee strainer things, a wooden cup, some beans and David got some local spicy sauces. It’s the most I’ve spent on a tour in one day ever lol. I love my coffee though. I hope you enjoy the photos and hearing about the day as much as we enjoyed the tour.
We finished up our day by visiting a traditional cart of wagon making place. Coffee is still taken off the plantations using ox pulled wagons..... you can’t get tractors onto the sides of mountains very easily! This place showed us how these carts are made and the very intricate way in which they are decorated. These wagons, or carts, are a national symbol of Costa Rica and we watched artists at work decorating them. It was a good visit... but nothing could beat the working coffee plantation.
Our trip back down the mountains was equally as beautifully the journey up. The sun was beginning to go down and this created a misty haze over the tops of the mountains. Our tour, meant to half a day, ended up finishing three hours late. We were glad that they didn’t cut our time as we started so late but it was a very long a tiring day with no food stop!
We had just time to rush to the market outside the port before going back on board this evening. I managed to get some photos as the sun went down over the sea.
After saying goodbye to the Holland America ship which set off just before us, we headed down for dinner......awesome as usual.
And now David is snoring his head off as I type this..... the clocks go forward for us tonight and so I am now going to bed before I lose any more of my sleep time.
A really good day.
If I forgot anything I will add it in tomorrow.
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