On our way to the airport…

On our way from Sámara to Liberia to catch the plane back to the USA, or as it may be known next year, TRUMPISTAN.

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Free range horses, ranging freely in the middle of Sámara.

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We made a side trip to the small town of Guaitil, famous for their pottery.

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This is what you look like after driving to Liberia, flying to the US and finally sitting on the bus to the car park at 5am the next day.


Paying to leave the country?

Last Day…

After a full day of bouncing around in the car on the way to Monteverde and back, we chose a simple, relaxing beach afternoon for our last full day in Costa Rica.

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The bar/restaurant area of Rancho de la Playa. Pool to the right.

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The comfy hang-out area.  Pretty nice.  Our room included air conditioning, two beds and a full, if sometimes comical kitchen.  Friendly staff. $85/night.  Would be happy to stay there again.

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Oddly enough, this is not referred to “coco frio”, but instead “pipa frio”.

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Some light beach reading.  In case you’re wondering, the good guys won.

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Forgot my platform dancing shoes…

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Please help the fish.

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Oh yes, dinner by the sea.

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This is what you get when you order squid stuffed with Chorizo – basically chorizo with squid on the outside :-D.

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Here’s Dennis from Switzerland showing me his home-made backgammon board.  He’s traveling around looking for a good place to settle.






Steve’s Photos of Monteverde

On Thursday we headed from the beach to the mountains to check out the Monteverde cloud forest.  We went to this nature park: http://www.selvatura.com/.  Sure, we could have done zip-lining, but we had made a vacation mistake – it was simply too far a drive to do more than a long tour and lunch.  To do this place properly best to spend the night.

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Joyce following Miguel into the forest.  We had an usual sunny day.  It’s supposed to be cloudy and raining.

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Here we go…

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Yikes, a long way down.

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A photo of Joyce taking a photo.  Fascinating to see plants that in our world are small decorative things that live in pots.  Here they are giants.

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Trees in this section are small because it was clear-cut for dairy farming in the 60’s.

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So, we started our day at sea level.  At the start of our hike we were at 5,300+ feet above sea level.  In between is a lot of steep, narrow gravel road switch-backing up the valleys you see below.  Some of it’s scenic, most of it is jouncy.

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Ever heard the phrase, “you look like 10 miles of bad road”…?  This road actually isn’t all that bad.  You can do the whole thing in the standard Tico battered compact asian sedan without incident, but it’s so nice when the pavement starts again.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

We saw many unusual plants in the Selvatura reserve in the cloud forest as we walked over 8 suspension bridges over and though the canopy. It was an unusual sunny day. The adventure starts much before the preserve as you must traverse over some unusually bad roads, if you can call them that. And try to avoid the dogs, horses, bikes, pedestrians, motorbikes, giant trucks…..






Hot lips flower!



And a millipede. Which is good, no bite. Centipedes aren’t much fun as they bite.
And the eyes must have been on us as they have one snake for every two trees. And they had a lot of trees. Luckily we saw no vipers today. But we did find a slothful sloth.



They have a lot of giant plants we pay good money for tiny versions of.






And some sort of big wild turkey.
It really is a magical place. And Miguel did an excellent tour for us!

A day at Playa Carillo

A tough day at the beach. Starting with our homemade breakfast of pâtécones and egg scramble. It’s hard to pass up the bounty of fruits and veggies on the cheap. And luckily I brought my own pâtécones maker. Here’s a clue we found on the intarwubs.  Instead of frying them *twice*, boil them for 10-15 minutes before doing the big squish on them.




Packed up all we needed for a beach day only 3 miles south of town…the beach to ourselves. The coconut delivery man came once with some refreshing beverages.










Now I know why they call them howlers….


Tres Hermanas BBQ and Grill. As the sign says, “Where the bull is, that’s where the meat is!”  And it was pretty tasty. This is at the junction where you turn right to head the last hour and a half into Samara.

Samara Playa



Another haven for Steve on the way to Samara…finally cigars!

About a half-hour down Route 1 from Grecia headed towards Samara as we crested the hill at the tire-scorching speed of 30KPH (standard Coasta Rican truck speed) I spotted a sign for hand-rolled cigars.  Cigars?  I’ve only found one place in the entire country so far that had *any* and here they are rolling their own???

We eased to the side of the road to investigate.  Inside the rather basic establishment we were pleased to find two friendly men working with tobacco. Where’s the quilt store, Joyce wants to know?

Within moments when it was clear we were customers the older gent was lighting up a free sample (sorry – I forget his name) and gave us a tour.  They claim to be rolling actual cuban tobacco – cuban or not they certainly had a cooler full of fine leaves ready for rolling (for those of you who don’t know, growing tobacco is just the first step.  Then there’s the fermenting and aging etc.  These guys were working with tobacco ready for cigars).  We got the 50 cent tour, including inspecting tobacco seeds (tiny!) seeing a few tobacco sprouts, looking at the equipment and watching the torcedor roll the raw materials into the final product, todo a mano! Joyce was rewarded for her patience with a bracelet made from the veins of the tobacco leaf.

Who are the heck are these guys almost in the middle of nowhere doing working on cigars?  There’s got to be more to the story but we had miles/klicks to turn, hours of ass-sitting in the War Rig on the way to wherever it was we were going, and on top of that, my Spanish is still muy pobre…  There was a few newspaper articles posted on the wall, but I didn’t get a chance to try my hand at translating them, so the answer will continue to be a mystery until I remember to Google the whole thing to make sure we didn’t imagine it during a Costa Rican highway fugue state.



Note the stylish shorts and sensible shirt.


Yeah, this is the real deal.




Earlier on this trip I milked a cow for the first time.  Here I am rolling a cigar, also for the first time.


Placing the cigars into the press.


Yes, that *is* a cigar he’s holding *and* he’s happy to see you!


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What a fun surprise!  Could they be using cuban tobacco verdad?  Could be, but in any case I got a bunch of hand-rolled cigars direct from the producer for $3/per which is the bare minimum for such an object in Portland, and we got a good story, so I’m calling it a win either way.  If you saw the prices they ask for certified Cuban cigars at the duty-free you’d clutch your chest and reach for your nitro heart pills.

Pura Vida!

Steve’s Mango Valley Photos

Ah, Hotel Mango Valley, possibly the single nicest place we stayed on this trip.   Just outside the town of Grecia in Costa Rica’s central valley, and about 40 minutes from the airport in San Jose.  Of course, we met some kids from Portlandia there in the pool…  Our cabin had the best view in the place.  Not all the big inside, but nicely constructed with kitchenette, a jet-tub, friendly staff and modern plumbing!  $80/night, very happy to go back there someday.  On weekends the Soda up the street delivers for free, and frankly it was pretty darn good.


Joyce found a great coffee farm tour for us – Cafe El Toledo.  Over the last 20 years they’ve slowly converted the farm from conventional fertilizers + pesticides agriculture to certified organic and then to full bio-dynamic.  What the heck does that mean?  Our tour was lead by Gabriel, current owner of the farm.  The switch to organic was driven by his father getting sick from the chemicals they were using at that time.  The switch to organic dropped production at their farm and the family got by with odd jobs instead of going back to conventional farming which had put Dad in the hospital.  There has to be a better way, they thought.  Fast forward 20 years and their farm looks more like a forest.  A mixture of coffee plants, fruit trees, vegetables and shade trees provides conditions that naturally controls pests and fertilizes the soil.  This combination also reduces the labor needed to run the farm.  While it’s true that they get fewer coffee beans per acre than conventional ag, the farm is also producing other products that the family both consumes and sells.


The tasting room.




Yup, roasting coffee beans.


Walking the farm.




Mandarins off one of the trees among the coffee.


If I lived in Costa Rica, I’d probably want one of these.  And a scooter.  And a machete.  It would be like some kind of “Gringo Tico Starter Kit”.

Much more about their farm and how it works at their web site: Cafe El Toledo.

What I left out of the story so far is how took a wrong turn on the way to El Toledo and were driving up the mountain on some kind of goat path, being uncertain if this was or was not a road to a coffee plantain as we’d never been to one before.  Finally we flagged down a police car coming down the mountain, and yes, we were on the wrong road and yes, we got a police escort over to the farm.

Afterwards we sought out the town of Sarchi, featured in this blog post…  After that we were pooped and rolled back to Grecia, and then the hotel.  Hung out with a fun couple from Montreal that night.


Their cathedral came over from Belgium as some kind of erector set – it’s all metal and you can see the rivets that hold it together.


Sadly, we weren’t appropriately dressed, so we didn’t proceed past the entrance.  Possibly no one would have cared about our shorts, but sometimes it’s best to err on being polite.