Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Sunday, May 12, 2013

In and around Esterillos Este

Sunday 3/10

We were up for breakfast with the others, and then waited with them for their airport shuttle - which despite the fact the hotel manager had called and confirmed the day before... never showed up.  Mikey, the manager, ended up taking Christine himself since she had the first flight, and Liz called a shuttle guy she trusted who came for the rest.  Yikes!  We made arrangements with that driver to return on Wednesday to get us to the airport.

So the others were all gone, and Dave and I looked at each other and said what do we want to do now?  NOTHING!

Pool at La Encantada Cottages

So we did - I started and finished a book, spent time in a couple hammocks and in the pool.

We even got out of our lounge chairs to walk next door to beach bbq that was going on to satisfy my hamburger craving that I'd been having for like over a month (given my pre-vacation diet).  Oh, wow, was that ever a great burger!  All the better for being served under palm trees.

That evening we went and got all creative with the sunset photographs.


We booked two tours, one each for Monday and Tuesday.  Since we had no transportation (the horses were gone!  LOL) it proved to be difficult to get around.  Dianna and Mikey, the managers, tried to help out.  Though I was rather inclined to agree when Dianna gave up trying to make one reservation for us when she lamented -- "I really need to learn to speak Spanish".  ummmm, yeah.  They've been in Costa Rica for a few years, and really many people speak English.  But they came on board as managers of this property a few months ago, and this level of interaction requires a bit more fluency.  In any case, we got reservations this day to go on a Mangrove tour, where the attraction is to see the White Faced Monkeys.

Mikey the manager (surfer dude on the right), took us into town to the Taxi stand to help us find a driver.

Meanwhile he introduced us to this food stand where this guy makes the most amazing skewers we've ever had!

The taxi driver kindly waited while we sampled one.  (note, these end up looking like icecream cones due to the small tortilla stuck onto the top of the skewer, but they were anything but.)

As soon as the boat turned up into the mangroves I got an overwhelming feeling of being transported back to Disney Land's jungle tour!  You have to hand it to Disney for their attention to detail.

Ah - There's one!

We searched around a while before finding a band that would approach the boat, but then we pulled up to one edge and 3 of them made a bee line for us.  Pretty soon we had 5 or 6 climbing over us and the other boat with us.

We spent probably 30 minutes?  watching the monkeys climb around and eat mashed bananas off of people's hands.

Certainly a new experience!

 On the way back our guide Rafa had grabbed some fronds and started making something.  Ended up being really cute grasshoppers!  He made several for the passengers.

And he also managed to spy this Tree Boa that we got to sneak up on.

Our Taxi driver returned and took us back home.  That night for dinner we went the other direction down the beach a few hotels and dined in this swanky place.

Where the specialty is... fried Red Snapper.  Well - ok I was up for trying it again since it was supposed to be such a big deal here.

OH MY.  This guy was swimming right through my plate!  Huum - note worthy, but I have to say not the most convenient for eating.


Our last big activity was "Villa Vanilla" day - a tour through a spice plantation.  Wow was that ever an education for folks who pretty much know nothing about where our food comes from!

Outside their warehouse they had these drying racks set up drying vanilla beans - giant vanilla beans!  But what was more impressive were their photos of this entire court yard covered with drying beans - this display is just a token amount.

They also produce cacao here - our third discussion of the process, I think we can about teach it by now.  ;-D

Allspice.  Bite into one of these suckers and your whole mouth goes numb.

More vanilla than I've ever seen before.

Sadly, these are relatively new - dried for a few months (if we recall correctly.. it's been awhile and I did not write this section there.)  But they really don't start to accumulate their aroma until having cured for a few years or more.  THIS is why you do not want to store your vanilla in the fridge - you'll stop the curing.  A dark dry glass container is best and they will continue curing for 50 years, she said.

 Ceylon cinnamon!  They shave off and discard the green bark.

And then shave off strips of the yellow bark underneath.  It was so spicy and sweet!

Pepper corns growing on the vine.  And one nibble of this was a rather dramatic pepper taste.

We were in luck in that there was a vanilla orchid blooming this morning.  The flowers bloom only for a few hours one morning, and then die.  (Don't take the afternoon tour of a vanilla plantation!).  Because of the short window of opportunity they hand pollinate all of their vanilla blooms.  Hanging behind this bloom are past blooms from this bunch.  The bean grows out of the stalk.  She said these other beans were 1-2 weeks old, and were about the size of a green bean.

These vanilla beans were about 6 weeks old.  The perspective turned out a bit wonky in this picture - they aren't quite as ginormous as they appear - they were about 14 inches long and an inch thick.  The beans take 9 months on the vine to mature, then months of drying and then years of curing.

Another operation that is a proponent of biodiversity, this commercial plantation looked just like a botanical garden with gorgeous paths wandering throughout.

It really was a lovely walk.

Cayenne peppers - cute little things!

And then we ended up at this cute little hut to sample some yummies made with their products.

The view couldn't have been better.

Vanilla bean cheese cake - seriously, they wanted me to ever leave?

And authentic traditional cocoa - with cayenne pepper and vanilla in it, all three of which are produced here on the plantation.

Getting home from the plantation we hitched a ride into the nearby town of Quepos where we had lunch at a cute little Cafe Milagro.

OK - I could have fixed this picture, but I decided against it.  WHO takes a picture this crooked??  Like she didn't have plenty of horizontal references to look at!  I could even see as she was taking it the camera wasn't level....  It boggles the mind.

But they made up for it by having the greatest fish tacos in the world!

The rest of the day we futzed around - Mikey had agreed to come pick us up so we could avoid the taxi charge, in exchange for us tagging along as he did some shopping.  The next day we managed to hook up with friends of theirs who were packing it in after 2 months in Costa Rica and going back to the UK.  So we split the shuttle ride to the airport and had a nice chat along the way.

So with that our trip comes to a close, and we'll leave you with the Costa Rican motto:  Pura Vida!

Pura vida! Means that no matter what your current situation is, life for someone else can always be less fortunate than your own. So you need to consider that maybe...just maybe, your situation isn't all that bad and that no matter how little or how much you have in life, we are all here together and life is start living it "pura vida style".


Trek Day 6, our final day riding

Saturday 3/9

Saturday - another early morning!  Low tide is best for riding because it's difficult and hard on the horses to ride in softer sand.  So you want to go at low tide and ride on the hard pack.  Low tide was at 6:30 am.  So, up by 6.  The horses had just stayed on the hotel lawn overnight - the owners had brought in construction fencing to keep them in over night. 

The next morning they were tied where ever a convenient tree was found.

Back to the beach for the short ride back to the restaurant where we had dinner the night before for a quick breakfast.

And then we headed north up the beach for a few hours with the morning sun at at our backs.  It made for great photos!

It was fun - the group spread out and did their own things.  Those that wished to canter could hang back and canter up to the leaders. 

Pony Roundup!
Liz immediately turned Blackie, one of the pack ponies free so that she wouldn't have to hang on to the both of them. (they weren't packing anything since most of our belongings went with the luggage to our final destination).  Blackie stayed right on Beauty's (Christine's horse) hip.  So aways down the beach Liz decided to turn Brandy loose too, thinking they would stick together with Beauty (the three were acquired together). 

However, the ponies had a different thing in mind.  They immediately paired up, and took off at a leisurely walk - back the way we had come.  When it was clear they weren't concerned in the least that the herd was moving on without them, Teri, Ariel, Kayleigh and Samina went back to collect them.  Brandy stayed on line the rest of the trip.

At our mid point we stop at Leo's for just an incredible traditional Costa Rican fish dinner.  While it was cooking, we took off the horse's tack and went to play in the surf.

Some of the horses really enjoyed being out in the water!

Sox couldn't get enough rolling in it!  Every time we looked out he was down on the ground.

Beauty also was having a fun time and kept Christine out there a long time.

Lincoln and Montanes?  Eh - they really couldn't have cared less.  Actually Lincoln really enjoyed rolling in the hot, dry sand at the top of the beach more than anything.

So we returned to shore to dry off

And goof around a bit.

Then brunch was served: whole fried Red Snappers with fries and cole slaw.  And you know, it didn't even matter to us that it was only 9 am in the morning! 

Liz had told us that many of her guests think that this stop is the best meal of the trip.  We agree.

After brunch we had another hour or so beach riding.

Lincoln was really the most fun on the entire trip on the beach - he frequently picked up a trot spontaneously, and would canter with the others.  Dave's horse, Montanes, is a GOer, and trotting was not good enough.  Thankfully he has a beautifully slow canter, so Dave probably got more cantering time down that beach than during the rest of his riding career.

It was really a shame when we arrived at our hotel.  We paused and Liz offered us the opportunity to dismount and head to our rooms, but we both opted to stick with the horses to untack and put them out to pasture one last time.

Gosh it is amazing that just a 100 meters off the beach it can be unbearably swelteringly hot!  We got the horses settled and headed to the hotel...  when disaster struck:  Dave realized that his fanny pack zipper was entirely open, and nearly the entire contents gone.  The contents that he needed with him all the time - including his wallet, phone and a few day's of medications:  OH CRAP.   He had no recollection of having opened that zippered compartment.  Liz said that with all the trotting and cantering sometimes they just bounce themselves open.  So I back tracked to the stable, but found nothing, and by now figured that it most likely had been open since we stopped to play in the waves, so I just went back to the hotel.  But Dave wasn't there - and no one knew where he was.

Someone suggested that maybe he'd gone to the beach to search for things?  I didn't think it was likely to find anything, but sure enough he was half mile down the beach or so.  As I walked I figured I ought to at least look around.  Remember that we were specifically riding during low tide, so the tide had been coming in all day and was about to  reaching about high tide level by now.  But I'll be darned if I didn't come across a piece of electronics that I didn't recognize as his phone until I was about to pick it up.  Wet and sandy, but tucked into it's Otterbox cover.

It took me quite a while to catch up with Dave, who by that time had found his wallet! Unbelievable! The meds were all in a plastic baggie which I'm sure floated rather well.  Fortunately it held only a few days worth, so we gave up looking for them.  That really was some piece of good fortune there.  Well that and perseverance - because it was Dave who went out to the beach to look - I had already written them off as gone.

At the restaurant that night the hostess looked at us like we had two heads when we asked for a cup of uncooked rice... but then she said - OH, you have something to dry out!  Extracting it from it's case we were happy to see that the case had protected it's ports from getting packed with sand.  We packed the phone in rice overnight, and the next day it was happy as a clam!

So we had the afternoon to shower and then lounge around the pool - a very welcome change of pace!  Dinner was just two hotels down the beach where we again got to monopolize a cute beach side gazebo.  The service here wasn't the greatest, but, well -- we were in no hurry!  We set up a laptop at one end of the table and watched several people's worth of slideshows by the time dinner arrived.

And thus our riding trek came to a close. We admit it was quite a bit more physically demanding than we had anticipated.  Never once did I regret skipping the ride on Tuesday, and rejoining for the last three days was also fantastic.  It's the last trek of their season - soon the horses will be going out to pasture for several months and Liz is headed to India where her family is residing.  Everyone else was getting set to catch an airport shuttle in the morning, but we had tacked on 3 more nights at this hotel.  So we went to bed thinking about where the next couple of days would take us.

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