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".



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