This is the final posting from our Europe 2013 trip. There are a lot of photos but I need to get them online.
Today seven of us headed out to the Sugar Moon Maple Syrup Farm and Pancake house. The farm has 2500 taps on about 35 acres, and lots of people who want to eat pancakes. Something that I had never seen before, but makes a lot of sense, the farm collects sap with a “gravity-fed pipeline system”. This means that each tree is connected to the others by a network of plastic tubing. This tubing in turn feeds into a “main line” that travels downhill to the sugar camp and the sap tanks outside. They then boil their sap over a wood-fired evaporator – a craft that requires attention and skill as the syrup is actually finished over the wood fire.
Shawn told me of a local mountain road that had great views of the area, he had jogged up the mountain as part of his training. I initially took the scooter up the hill and at a later point, when I had a car, took a group of people up the hill.
The road traverses the ridge that overlooks both Jaco and Hermosa.
When I (Hetty) lived in Japan, I used to plan weekend excursions to see more of the country. In a country where the signs are posted in Japanese (obviously) I often ended up somewhere far from where I planned to go so my mantra became â€œIf you canâ€™t get to where youâ€™re going, go to where you are.â€ This has served us well here in Costa Rica. While a GPS is sometimes useful, it is not always totally reliable. This was the case when we set out to find the Peace Lodge and La Paz Waterfall Gardens on northeastern slope of the PoÃ¡s Volcano. We thought we were getting close although we had no specific directions when the GPS told us to take a turn. Although it was counterintuitive, we had nothing else to go on so we decided to follow the GPS directions. As a result we found ourselves on the opposite side of the volcano, driving on some of the most twisty, steepest roads we have ever experienced. The scenery was stunningly beautiful and the air was crisp and cool. Terraced farms dotted the mountainside and the road took us almost to the top of this active volcano. (elevation: 2700 m.) Â Just when we were wondering where we were and in need of a rest, we happened upon a beautiful compound with an open gate. We drove in and met, Donais, one of the owners. She informed us that they were closing in a few hours but we were welcome to go to the back garden and view the waterfall.
Ward and I (Hetty) have just returned from an excursion to Tortuguero which is situated on the Northern part of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The interior and coastal region of Costa Rica is very lush and agricultural. We drove through miles and miles of banana plantations and pineapple fields â€“ all destined for the Port of Limon which is a major container shipping port. Along the way we saw a few large Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita processing plants. I will never view a banana in the same way! The drive to the Caribbean coast, although only 260 km, took about 5 hours. The road is a busy one with a lot of truck traffic destined for the port of Limon.
We recently went and spent the morning at one of Costa Ricaâ€™s most popular national parks – Carara National Park.Â We pilled in the car with Joe on the scooter behind us and made our way to Costa Ricaâ€™s northernmost region of Pacific rainforest.
As part of our 3 day trip to Arenal, six of us (two couples and two 4 month old babies) travelled to see the Arenal volcano. The volcano has not been active since 2010, but it is still a sight to see and there are lots of other local attractions. One such attraction is the Arenal Hanging Bridges walking tour. Located up one of the longest modern roads paved with individual bricks I’ve ever seen, which starts just under the Arenal dam. The dam caused the Arenal Lake to triple in size when it was built and provides water to a hydro-electric station which provides somewhere between 40 to 70% of the countries electricity.
Brittany Oliver and I (Joe) went on a three day trip to Arenal with another couple that was also staying here at the Hermosa Bungalows. They have a daughter that is just one day older than Oliver so going on a three day trip made for the same baby-mindset and also gave us an opportunity to have a few minutes of alone time when we one couple would take care of both babies.
On Tuesday & Wednesday of this past week, we took turns venturing to Tortuga Island on a Calypso Cruise. The day started off with a 6:50a.m. pick-up at out bungalow and a drive to Puntarenas a port town an hour and half north of Jaco. Puntarenas (Pointsands, from “punta arenas”, or “sand point” in Spanish) is the capital and largest city in the province Puntarenas, Costa Rica, at the Pacific coast. Once we arrived at the dock, we enjoyed a typical Tico breakfast of gallo pinto, ranchero eggs, corn tortillas, sour cream, fruit and coffee at El Shrimp.
We embarked upon Manta Raya, our catamaran and began our almost two hour long voyage down through of Gulf of Nicoya to our destination of Tortuga Island. Isla Tortuga is Costa Ricaâ€™s most visited island. It consists of 2 islands, one of which is a Wildlife Refuge. The island used to not be privately owned and as a result, was near ruin until it was bought and made private. Tourists are now only able to remain on the beach, no overnight stays are allowed and nothing is allowed to be taken off the island. Now an uninhabited island, the clear turquoise waters afford excellent snorkelling and diving, and the white sand beaches lined with swaying palm trees provide the most sought-after setting in the world: a tropical island paradise.
Ward and I have just returned from a little adventure. We decided that it was time to explore another part of Costa Rica so we rented a car and set off for the Nicoya Peninsula. We chose this as our destination because we had heard about a small town named Montezuma and were curious to see it and the Peninsula on which it is situated.
Today I headed down to a Red Bull 70s Style Surf Competition here in Hermosa Beach Costa Rica. I was there for 6 AM and the event was setup, but the heats didn’t start until about 7AM. There were a number of photographers, pro and amateur all shooting the event including two in water photographers. I used google translate on the Spanish event page and have pasted it in the quote below. The surfers would go out initially on longboards, then on fish boards and then on guns. At each 10 minute mark of the 30 minutes the Red Bull girls would run the different board down to the water and the surfers in the heat would exchange boards.
The rest of the family came down at around 7:30AM at which point I was happy to join them for a Tico breakfast (a traditional Costa Rican breakfast).
Yesterday Ward and Hetty went on a day long excursion to Tortuga Island travelling across the Gulf of Nicoya by catamaran. Brittany and I did the same excursion today. There are lots of photos from the island, and probably enough footage to do a video. So I’m going to take a few days to put that together. In the meantime, here are some photos from the yesterday when Hetty and Ward were away.
Today I (Joe) and another couple from Canada took an intro surfing lesson here on Playa Hermosa from Brian, who runs Hermosa Surf Vacations. The surf was unusually small today for Playa Hermosa, so there were no ‘real’ surfers in the water but it was perfect for someone with almost no surf experience like myself.
We started out in the white water close to shore, feeling how the wave surges the board forward ahead of the wave, and then catches up with it and steadily pushes for the remainder of the wave. Then we moved on to try to find some of the smaller waves to ride, which gave better speed and stability than the white water, but also meant that you had to wait out the larger waves (large waves for an unusually small day).
We all headed down to the closest bar, the Backyard Bar which holds a local surf competition every Saturday. Below are some photos from the afternoon and the competition.
We have only been subjected to two power outages while here in Costa Rica. According to our neighbours, who are from Orange County, CA and have lived here for several years, power outages are quite common and occur frequently. The first one lasted only an hour; however yesterday, we were without power for about 6 hours. Because of this, we were â€˜forcedâ€™ to spend the late afternoon at the pool as the house was far too hot to spend any length of time in. We then had to eat our dinner out on our deck while watching the sunset. Seeing as we had no means of cooking dinner, we ordered in. Pizza and empanadas; both of which were delicious! The sun sets at precisely 5:30 every night and all is dark by 6. We were all willing to retire for the night except Gabriel kept yelling â€œpartyâ€ and insisted that we light the candles.
Only half of our villageâ€™s power was out so we headed to the poolâ€™s cabana. The cabana provided us with hammocks, light and fans. Unfortunately, it also provided us with mosquitoes so after a quick stay (5 minutes) we returned home. Soon after our return to our HOT bungalow, the power company arrived with a new transformer and a cherry-picker truck. Ward applauded and Gabriel watched excitedly as the men, whom he all called â€œBobâ€ did their work. He enjoyed himself so much that after about half an hour of viewing, he fell asleep in his Zaidaâ€™s arms.
Being forced to play at the pool, have a sunset dinner and lounge under the stars. Just another day in paradise.