Costa Rica / Nicaragua 2018: Week 2

We took a 3-day weekend to go to La Fortuna and see the Arenal Volcano.

We picked up the bus in Puerto Carrillo and headed to Samara to pick up the rental car.  Once we got our car, we were off for the long drive to La Fortuna.  The drive took us about 6 hours, but that time included some um, shall we say, ...poor navigating on my part.  We had brought a GPS, but had issues with it, so decided to stick with a good-old-fashioned paper map - which would have been great if there were things like, oh, maybe street signs!  We were on a poorly paved road, but I'd read and heard a lot about the roads being bad, so I think much of it.  Until this happened.  The road ended. Oops!

The landscape throughout much of the drive reminded us a lot of central and northern California; however, once we started climbing the mountain, it quickly turned into the rain forest. We stopped for lunch overlooking Lake Arenal.  While there, we got talking with the restaurant owner and learned that Rio Celeste, which was our destination for Sunday, was closed. Rio Celeste is a beautiful blue river and our plan was to hike to the waterfall.  We had heard about the large earthquake off the coast of Honduras, but hadn't heard that following that there was a seismic swarm of 12 tremors in 3 hours in the area of Rio Celeste.  The tremors caused the river to turn brown and they closed the trails to check for mudslides and safety.  (We've since learned it's now reopened and the color is coming back.)

Rio Celeste (internet photo)  We'll have to see it another time.

View of the lake with Mt. Arenal in the background

Getting closer!  So lucky to arrive on a fairly clear day.

We got to La Fortuna late in the afternoon and after some more navigation issues, found our hotel. 

We may look a little haggard after the long drive, but we made it!

View from the room.  It's hard to tell, but that's the volcano straight ahead.

Apparently, when you stay in the Rain Forest, your shower needs to have live plants.

Along the way, we saw a bunch of coatis on the side of the road.

And we saw a sloth - actually saw two of them!  This one was in the trees behind our room.  They are sooooooo slow!!! 

On Saturday morning, we got up and headed to North Fields Cafe for a coffee tour.  It was about 10 minutes away, we left 45 minutes early, and arrived about 5 minutes late.  Do you see a trend here? It was not the first, nor the last time, that Brett heard me say, in my best Phil Keoghan impersonation, "I'm sorry to tell you.  You are the last team to arrive, and have been eliminated from The Race." The good news is they hadn't started the tour yet, so we didn't miss anything.

We got a great tour of a small local coffee plantation, and went through the entire cycle, from planting seeds, to picking cherries (what the coffee beans are called), to drying, roasting, and brewing. It was kind of funny that they were upfront that the coffee from their plantation isn't good. The elevation is not ideal, so the area doesn't produce good beans, but the large coffee conglomerates pay the same, no matter what the quality is, so they sell the beans to them.  We also learned most of the workers are immigrants from Nicaragua.  They get paid $2 per basket that they pick and they are large baskets and small beans.  Costa Rica provides the children with free schooling and healthcare, but adults need to pay $40 per month for healthcare.  Sadly, some of the children end up working the fields rather than going to school as the families need the additional money.

At the end of the tour, we ground coffee beans and brewed both a medium and a dark roast for tasting. For this, we used coffee from their other plantation that is located in the good growing region and this coffee was said to be some of the best in Costa Rica.  It was awful.  Now, in all fairness, I'm not a coffee drinker, so maybe my opinion doesn't count. But it wasn't just me - several folks thought it was awful.  Maybe we just don't know good coffee?

After finishing the coffee tour, we headed to another small family operation, the Don Olivo Chocolate Tour.  The chocolate process was similar to the coffee process - pick, dry, roast, grind...enjoy!

Getting ready to head out on our adventures.

Some of the birds we viewed during breakfast. 

It's hard to tell in this picture, but those are toucans!  How cool is that?!

Getting fresh oranges at the coffee plantation.  We also got fresh papaya and my favorite, fresh pineapple.

Inside of a cocoa pod.

Cocoa beans after being roasted

The final product!  Hot chocolate.

Other miscellaneous photos from this week - 
On the drive home Sunday, it was super windy with a number of downed trees as well as a downed few utility lines, Here's one way to "flag" a line as being super low - tie a bag to it.

Brett wishing he wasn't gluten-free when he found milk and Oreos sold together.

Blue-jeans poisonous dart frog

This could have been any day this week.  Brett heading out the door to the beach, while I stayed back and worked😒