San Carlos, Costa Rica
After breakfast we were booked on a coffee, chocolate and sugar cane tour. On the way to the plantation , the driver took a different road from our hotel, so we got to see the town of Monteverde. In retrospect, we wished we could have stayed there because it had many choices of restaurants and hotels, it was really quaint. We were only six people on our tour, it felt very private since we were the only ones in this very large plantation. It’s quite obvious that this is low season. Our guide explained the process of planting coffee all the way to consumption. It’s take years, similar to wine which accounts for the high cost of good coffee. Costa Ricans or Tico as they call themselves use to pick their own coffee and their children used to help, now they have to hire pickers from Guatemala and Ecuador. I guess the younger generation prefers getting degrees instead of working in the field. ( I don’t blame them) The coffee beans are very small and smaller hands makes a better picker! On the other hand the chocolate comes from big pods which contains many slimy large seeds, which also takes quite sometime to produce but not as long as coffee. They even use the same equipment as coffee to dry it and shell it. As far as the sugar canes, they do not grow them but they produce the sugar from it. It was interesting to see how such a hard cane when squeezed produces such good natural liquid sugar. As far as the chocolate, our guide showed us how to take the dry seeds and squeeze it in a small machine to produce a more powdery brown substance, then he had us mix it with all kinds of spices like cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, chili and pepper , I wish I could make at home; it was 100% chocolate and had an amazing taste! We took a picture with Don Juan who had his picture on the wall , that was exciting, except that when we compared the picture we took to the one on the wall ; the real Don Juan looked much younger than the picture. What a marketing ploy to make you buy coffee! We went back to the hotel and had just enough time to change, repack and wait in the lobby for our driver. So we wait only to find out that the touring company had forgotten about us! It’s Sunday so maybe they’re all in church! So they provided us with a young driver with a 4×4; who was delightful, he was driving so fast all the way down the mountain on dirt road to Arenal lake. It was like an E ride in Disneyland..The topography was so green so stunning! We took pictures along the way. My favorite was the one I took of the cow with a breathtaking background Then we boarded a little boat in Arenal lake ( which is man made), a half hour later we were in Arenal. Our driver on the other side got us to the Kioro hotel earlier than we were scheduled to arrive. So it’s a good thing the tour company forgot about us after all! The Kioro is a beautiful hotel with wonderful service and they have 8 thermal pools. We decided to use them, we even practiced a little yoga in the warm waters. We then jumped into the cold pool which was invigorating after a few minutes. For dinner, we went to the main dining room, we decided to get a fried red snapper with all the condiments. It was a bit dry but the presentation was quite appetizing if you didn’t mind looking at the whole fish while you were eating! It was delicious. We had a nice evening talking about the day and feeling like we’ve been gone for much more than 3 days.