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Published: December 27th 2017
Gulf of Nicaragua
Environment curiously similar to Alberta in the summer
Our excruciating early start was 6:00 a.m. to drive to San José, because none of us cared to fly. This gave us an extra hour to sleep and lots of snacks in the vehicle. Several times all day we had to assure Ollie that a four-hour car journey was not onerous for Canadians; he and Estaban considered it a major undertaking.
I liked driving through the countryside because I got a better understanding of daily life. At first we retraced our route past the airport and the roadworks; Estaban fairly soon turned onto a new multilane highway, part of the Pan American Highway
. I wasn’t dismayed by the highway route, because the views were good – lushly green, of course. In time the new road linked to the old highway - two lanes and lined with the houses and farms and shops that make for interest. Between the rolling hills, we crossed many irrigation canals, primarily for rice production. The fields were dry, not paddies. Teak plantations were also along the way; the variety grown in Costa Rica matures in about five years and is used for furniture and yacht decks because it can be waterproofed.
We turned off onto the
Breakfasts from all cuisines
Coastal Highway, catching sight of the sea at the Gulf of Nicaragua at the city of Abangares
. At Caldera Port
we could smell the sea, particularly because of the two tuna processing plants. We were travelling through the foothills of the Coastal Mountain Range. The road cuts showed laterite soil, rich in minerals. The heavily treed land was privately-owned protected rainforest; the trees and plants were much shorter than on the Caribbean side of the country. Some of these deciduous trees had widely spreading crowns.
Shortly after 9:00 Ollie asked Estaban to pull off into a specially design highway service facility. For the second time on this trip (also near Tortuguero), the restroom was beautifully and unusually designed in light wood. The restaurant itself had deeply carved animals crawling up the central posts and imaginatively carved wood supporting the tables. The cafeteria offered Costa Rican breakfast (beans and rice mixed together, ham or sausage and eggs, which Ollie and Estaban had. I had a toasted beef sandwich that was tasty with tomato and mustard – very filling! Estaban helped me by persuading the staff that I seriously wanted hot water and lime juice to drink.
By 10:00 Ollie learned
Doka Butterfly garden
(internet on phone) that there were rain clouds on the Poas Volcano
and that visiting was a waste of time. We rearranged our schedule: visit to the coffee plantation for the 11:00 tour, have lunch there, and reassess.
With time to spare at the Doka Estate
coffee plantation, we walked around their butterfly garden. A few species of butterflies were in the garden, and I was happy to photograph all of them, including the Blue Morpho
, both its brown under side and its bright blue upper side. We wore jackets because the wind was blowing and the temperature had dropped, part of the storm over the volcano.
The coffee tour was led by a young woman, who introduced us to the one-year process to germinate a coffee bean and establish a plant that can be removed from greenhouse and planted in the field. We walked to a decorative row of coffee trees (looked like bushes) where she showed us the green, yellow and red (ripe) phases of the coffee cherry. Pickers fill a basket with 28 pounds of ripe cherries for $2.00; a top picker can earn $40 a day, a modest picker earns about $12 per day. The baskets are
Traditional and still effective
Beans are washed and sorted; the ripe ones sink to the bottom of the pool.
checked to be sure almost all the cherries are ripe. The seasonal labourers are mainly from Nicaragua, others are from Panama, Mexico, etc.
The processing plant uses the original way of discarding unsuitable cherries – they are dumped in a huge cement water tank, and the good ones are heavy enough to sink to the bottom; and, the cherries are simultaneously washed. Then the skin, sugary layer and two interior skins are removed, exposing the coffee beans. (The 28 pounds has thus been reduced to 7 pounds, further reduced to 6 pounds after roasting.) The beans are put through a grading machine that separates the largest (best) from the medium and smallest sizes. The largest are for export (85%!)(MISSING), the medium for local bean sales, and the smallest for local ground coffee. The best beans are sun dried, in a tedious process of spreading them out and raking them. The medium beans are half-dried in a large tumbler, and then sun dried. The low-quality beans are dried in the tumbler. Doka does not roast beans, except for their restaurant and gift store. Large international buyers prefer to roast their own blends. View the video from our tour.
Lunch was a little difficult because
Sun drying for export coffee
Outdoors on a debris-free cement pad
all the main courses, served cafeteria style, had dairy products. Ollie talked to them, and for me they grilled a steak, served cut in strips - excellent flavour and tenderness. Rice and veggies went with it. We could drink all the coffee we wanted - the espresso was great. After lunch, we discussed the volcano visit one more time. Other guides didn’t recommend it this day. The high winds, cold and rain constituted the edge of the forming of hurricane Otto in the Caribbean. Actually, we preferred to get to the hotel in San Jose to prepare for rising at 2:30 a.m. tomorrow to catch our flights!
Ollie agreed to reschedule our farewell dinner to the early hour of 5:30 p.m. He drove us through the heavy rush hour traffic to an incredibly luxurious restaurant in a castle-like building with a view of the city. In a thoroughly satisfied mood we relaxed into the wine and good food, served with great elegance in a quiet corner. The highlight came from our tributes to Ollie. Gisele had suggested this from her experience on another tour. Judi gave moving extemporaneous praise of his generosity of spirit. Lise read “What we know
Paos Volcano still shrouded
A last look from my hotel room in San José
about Ollie”, naming all the things he said and showed that he loved. Gisele sang a personal version of “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”. I read my multi-versed limerick recounting our trip. Great fun! View map of our drive.
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