Costa Rica Adventure, Day Four–Part One


 

People love food.  One of the fun things about travel is exploring the food.  My two favorite, traditional Costa Rican foods are gallo pinto and platanos fritos.  Fruit shows up everywhere too.

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Breakfast at El Establo just before heading down the mountain to the Pan American Highway on the way to Rio Tenorio.  The plate in the background contains gallo pinto and platanos fritos.  I have made gallo pinto three times since I returned.  See recipe at end of post.

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The final view of El Establo as we drove away.

The following photos were all taken riding along the highway, dropping altitude dramatically all the way from Monteverde to the Pan American Highway.  The beauty one passes going to and from Monteverde remains unrivaled anywhere–miles of green vistas, colorful mountain homes, cattle grazing.

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Typical country houses along the side of the road painted colorful hues.  Even here the houses have electricity and running water. Most of the way the road was gravel.  In spite of all the green in these photos, this is the dry side of the mountains, the Pacific side.

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A lot of Costa Rica is cattle country.  In the lowlands all the cattle have Brahma blood in evidence.  In the high country it varies.  Frequently, they look exactly like the common dairy cattle in the United States.

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The farther we drove down the mountain, the drier the foliage and grasses became. Finally, we arrived at a paved road and a town.

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Most places, even small towns, in Costa Rica are clean.  People take pride in the appearance of their houses no matter how small. Flowers bloom brilliantly throughout the country.

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Streams run everywhere even through towns.

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Finally, we headed north on the Pan American Highway.  In all of Costa Rica living fences surround fields.  In this area it appeared the major commercial endeavor is cattle, all distinctively Brahma or at least part Brahma.

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Looking at these photos it seems hard to believe this is the dry season.  We saw large irrigation ditches bringing water all the way from Arenal, a huge lake on the other side of the mountains, a place I visited on my previous trip.

Recipe for gallo pinto:

Enough vegetable oil to lightly cover bottom of a skillet

1 1/2 cups day old, cooked  rice

1 cup day old, cooked, black beans

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 small, sweet red pepper, finely diced

2 Tbls. chopped cilantro (optional)

2 Tbls. salsa (optional)

Add chopped vegetables to the skillet.  Saute until onions are clear.  Then add the beans and salsa.  Finally, add the rice and heat through while stirring constantly.  The mixture should be moist but not wet.  There should be enough juice from the beans to color the rice.  Experiment to see what you prefer.  I use garlic instead of onion and poblano peppers instead of the red.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica Adventure, Day Three–Part One


After lunch at the National Theatre we headed to Monteverde, a small town with only one unpaved road in and out.  One big change since I was there three years ago is the road.  It has been widened considerably and apparently plans to pave it are in the works.  The original reason for not paving was to prevent hoards of tourists from invading.  Apparently, that failed; tourists came anyway.

This town’s origination grew out of Costa Rica’s decision to disband its military in 1948, a practice which continues today.  Quakers from Canada moved here for that reason and created Monteverde, now famous for its cheese and, of course, the nearby Cloud Forest.  The hotel, where I have now stayed twice, El Establo, is owned in part by Quakers and serves a favorite of mine, fried cheese.

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Nine buildings up and down the mountain house rooms.  Previously, I stayed in one of the lower buildings; this time we were near the top way above this lake.

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The views from all the rooms provide a vista all the way to Nocoya Bay.  After we put luggage in our rooms, we headed out for a night walk in the forest, the reason we had been instructed to bring flashlights on the tour.  We saw spiders, birds sleeping, a mouse, all sorts of insects, but nothing too exciting.  Probably some of the group members were too scared and too noisy.

The next day breakfast occurred at 7 just before we took off for the Cloud Forest and a hike to the Continental Divide–all six miles or so.  I had hiked here before but on a different trail and in a huge downpour.  Luckily, it rained only a little.  However, if you are in the clouds, you get wet.

Lush does not even begin to describe the Cloud Forest, a huge reserve with numerous indigenous species of everything from hummingbirds to insects to all sort of plants that exist nowhere else on earth.

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Every tree, branch, every living things is covered with other living things.  This must be botanist heaven.

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Looking up into the branches of a tree fern.  Yes, that is a fern. So much to see, it is hard to keep up with the guide, a native Quaker whose father was one of the founders of Monteverde.

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It is difficult to know what photos to take; everything holds some kind of fascination and lots of beauty.

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Another tree fern right by the trail.

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In the clouds at the Continental Divide it’s incredibly windy yet the clouds stay and you get wetter and wetter even though it is not raining.  Water dripped off my slicker, the trail oozed mud and water, it was hard to keep my footing on slopes.

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On the way back we crossed several streams.  Everywhere in Costa Rica signs in both Spanish and English instruct people to save water.  They made me chuckle.  Streams run everywhere in much of the country, especially on the Caribbean side.  Here I live in a semi-arid environment where I see wasted water running down streets in town and in Costa Rica they conserve water and recycle things I did not even know were recyclable.  Hotels provide recycling bins and some even turn off lights automatically when you are not in the room.

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The name for this flower translates from Spanish as hot lips.

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This looks like a tree but it is not.  A giant, parasitic fig plant surrounded the tree, eventually killed it, and this is the result.

After we finished the hike, we walked over to a shop that feeds hummingbirds, hundreds of species of which live in Costa Rica, many only in the Cloud Forest. Took a video of them, but it refuses to upload here.  Some were incredibly iridescent and much larger than any I had ever previously seen.