Dzień dobry (good morning in Polish) and Guten Morgan (and in German)! I love rolling with people with different backgrounds! If I know some words in another person’s language, I’ll always try to practice them. The smile I get in return always brightens my day. Even if I make mistakes, I find the interaction of correcting my error much more fun than if I said the foreign phrase perfectly! Remember, connecting with people is always an adventure. And when mistakes happen, as they say in English: “it’s the thought that counts.” : )
Off the topic of rolling with people with different backgrounds I start the day off with my Polish partner-in-crime at 5:30am. We take a stroll to the “Chinese-Grocery-store-where-they-don’t-speak-English-but-are-expert-charade-players” to pick up some snacks for the rest of the day. We were going to sit by the pool and look at pictures from our trip but this little cutie showed up:
It’s Bridgette! We noticed quickly that there was a wound on her left hind leg which caused her to limp. Not the best way to start the morning for Bridgette. Especially when she is looking for breakfast. Remember on my Day 2 post I said that helping someone would give me a unique experience? Well here’s my chance!
I distracted Bridgette with some breakfast cookies while my teammate wrapped the wound on her leg. Definitely not Vet-level care, but at least we cared : ) Voila!
MOMENT OF ZEN: In Costa Rica there are tons of stray dogs. Every town I went to I saw dogs of all sizes (some rib thin) wandering around without collars. I learned that there are about a million street dogs in Costa Rica. Ticos tend to not leash their dogs and allow their pets to roam around the neighbourhood. These dogs are fed and cared for by the community. This may sound very like a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” type of tale (pun intended), but that is not always the case. Many of the dogs are not spayed or neutered. So when unsupervised dogs meet other unsupervised dogs of the opposite gender . . . . well you know . . . and then puppies are born. The owners of the new canine parents will often kick the puppies out. These strays are left to fend for themselves in the world where they will often eat garbage and scraps in alleys. The National Animal Health Service (SENASA in Spanish) in Costa Rica states that there are not enough resources to conduct a major rescue operation and/or control the stray population. Not a good news story by any means, but there are groups that are striving to help these dogs and control the pet population in Costa Rica. I encourage you to check out CR Dogs on Facebook (give them a LIKE!) and the McKee Project (LIKE them too on Facebook and make a donation! I know I will: ) ) . Like Immanuel Kant said: “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” If you ever feel heavy hearted during the day because of work, school, relationship, or your-hometown-hockey-team-losing-4-to-1-OMG-I-can’t-believe-we-lost, try helping someone out. We all know our limits of how much sh*t we can take from the world, but try to see how much you can give back to the world. I promise it will be an adventure ; )
So what’s the first adventure today? Three hours of mountain biking! With LOTS of hills! Great. I’m still feeling the seat on my a*s from the day before. At least this bike is more friendlier for me to shift. Let’s do this!
Something about today made me want to be . . . . reckless. I wanted to get dirty, cut up, bruised, battered, and sore the next day. I wanted to feel ALIVE. Every puddle (and I mean EVERY) puddle I ran through, I really tried to stay at the front of the pack (not very successful but at least I tried), and I always took the path off the main road. What a great bike ride! The endorphins were definitely released this day!
We had tons of opportunities to take pictures of the dreaded eyelash viper of Central America!
The eyelash viper is one of the most beautiful snakes in the world because of the variations of colours they come in: yellow, green, red, grey, and brown. They can also have patterns on their skin in a variety of colours. But don’t let their beauty mask how deadly they can be. One bite can be fatal. Beautiful and venomous . . . just like some women I’ve met in my life ; )
And for not being killed by the snake we celebrate by taking a bad ass group shot in front of a volcano! PURA VIDA!
The volcano pictured above is the Arenal volcano. When it used to be active the Ticos used to sit at the spot where we are in the picture and watch the lava flow at night. Our guides described that it was one the most beautiful scenes they’ve seen. Imagine that . . . sitting with a cold one in your hand watching the red glow from the mountain light up the night. Quite the contrast to a lit up downtown cityscape at night.
The 2 hour or so bike ride ended with a stop for drinks (cerveza at 11 am? Don’t mind if I do!), snacking on pineapple and lechee, and taking some great shots! What a great opportunity to give a shout out to one of my favourite sports . . . football!
The Kaepernick pose (49ers suck) . . .
and The Tebow (he sucks. 47.9% passing percentage? Horrible. But it’s still fun to at least believe in him) . . .
Another great adventure with a fun group of guides! We bid our farewells and hop on a new mode of transport on this trip . . . I’m on a boat!
It was a pretty relaxing boat ride. The memory that I will cherish the most about this day was writing my name with my hand as we sped across the water. I also had a chance to get into a splash fight with my teammate from the Netherlands. Big shout out to her . . . WOOP WOOP! Aye Caramba! (I know that’s not Dutch, but it’s her saying — and that’s all that matters to me) : )
Eight days into this vacay and I am DARK. I’m usually dark but this is intense. You can barley my jaw line in the above picture! Oh well . . . maybe the Ticos will think I’m a local and try to recruit me as a coffee bean picker. That would be funny! Off to our next destination . . . Wait a minute . . .
Now visiting a sugar, coffee, and chocolate farm isn’t a death defying adventure like my last few treks, but after another hard, uphill bike ride, my body welcomed the slower pace. Besides, who isn’t a fan of sugar, coffee, and chocolate? I think these Ticos planned it this way so they could lead me right into the employ of a coffee farmer. . . .
The first thing we saw on this tour was a sloth and her baby doing what sloths do best . . . just hanging out!
Sugarcanes were up first. I remember seeing them cut and ready to chew when I went to Philippines when I was a boy, but I’ve never seen an actual sugar plant in person before. I learned that the leaves had little spines on them like a cactus (FYI “spines” are modified leaves whereas “thorns” are modified branches). This is the plant’s defensive mechanism against animals that would attempt to chew on its leaves. If you ever have an opportunity to munch on a sugarcane I strongly recommend that you take it. Chewing on sugarcanes is definitely one of life’s simplest joys : )
Next we got to see the process of harvesting a coffee bean! I LURVE coffee and I know I’m not alone when I say that. The smell, taste and touch of that warm concoction of cafe con leche (that’s how I take it) always gets my day off on the right foot. So seeing the origination of one of my favourite drinks was intriguing to me. In a nutshell (coffee bean?) there are four stages (I think . . .) : picking, striping, sorting, then . . . making them look like coffee beans (I was high off of sugar! I had the attention span of a 5 year old).
After eating coffee beans and sugarcanes I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime . . . jump on the back of a cart and get pulled by two cattle. This tour had everything! Being someone jacked up on sugar and coffee at the time, I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass me by. Ready my chariot!
After our bumpy ride through the farm, it was time to start learning about how to harvest chocolate! And 10 year old Chris says F*CK YEEEEEEEEEEAH!!! So here’s the process: you take the cocoa bean from the plant, do some stuff to it, then POW chocolate!
Tasting 100% Cocoa Chocolate is heaven! I swear it tasted exactly like Nutella! What’s up next you ask? Let’s make some caramel and fudge! Here’s the process . . . never mind . . . . here are the pics:
The tour ends with the best way to end a tour . . . food and alcohol! We slam shots of moonshine, have tortilla’s stuffed with frioles and carne, and chase the snack with an espresso. This tour had EVERYTHING . . . sugar, coffee, chocolate, cattle, alcohol, meat, beans, and more coffee! This tour totally destroyed every wine and beer tour I’ve done in Canada.
Off to our fifth home of our trip . . . Monteverde — a major ecotourism spot in Costa Rica. It is one of the Seven Wonders of Costa Rica because of the Monteverde Cloud Forest and surrounding rainforest. Newsweek called this town the #14 Place to Remember Before it Disappears.
We stayed at the Hotel Amanecer (which means “Sunrise” in Spanish). This place was like a cabin and we had the whole place to ourselves! We could see and shout to each other from the first and second floors. My German roommate commented “It’s like jail.” I laughed at his comment but then I thought “Where the hell did he come up with that? Was he in jail?” This is where I slept with my knife close to me, and decided to never drop the soap. : )
The team went out to dinner to a local place called Sabor Tico. Whenever I go out to eat in a foreign country I love just picking something from the menu that I can’t pronounce, never eaten, and/or could never get back home. This usually leads me to choosing the weirdest (in a good way) cuisine possible. I find that this is a great way to learn about the new country you are visiting. I overheard someone shockingly say “cow stomach” on the menu. After perusing said menu for 0.5 seconds, I thought “I’m game. Cow stomach it is!” Never be afraid to expand your mind with your tastebuds : )
Pretty eventful Day 8 for us in Costa Rica . . . I started out the day with teaming up with someone to help a poor dog, got lots of exercise by going mountain biking, enjoyed a boat ride with a views of a volcano and jungle all around me, had some really great food, and best of all . . . shared these new experiences with my (no longer new) friends. : )
MOMENT OF ZEN: Never discriminate against food, alcohol, or people. Pure and simple. : ) PURA VIDA!