As we both had dermatology appointments in Cartago, and hadn’t been to the Caribbean shore here, we tacked on a few more days to explore.
We both had a few actinic keratosis frozen, the apex on my scalp was frozen since he had to remove the scab and did not want another one to form, and did a biopsy of a spot on my chest which he doesn’t think is a cancer but wants to be sure. Bill got some meds for his skin fungus, which is better here than in the States. I have to go back Nov. 5 for the biopsy results and have a toenail analyzed for a fungus. The labs he uses for that are not in Cartago so back to San Jose it is.
After spending the night at Sanchiri Lodge again, we took a small circular route to see the Orosi Valley before going onward to the beach. Orosi is down the hill from the hotel in a river valley and is a quaint town. We both felt we could live there. We walked around the square with the oldest used church in the country, built by Franciscan monks in 1743.
A school with a band practicing was in session, and as Bill commented, it was a good thing they were! Lining the square were ficus trees, house plants in my former life!
Coffee is by far the largest industry there. Everywhere you look there are coffee plants! There must be millions! The numbers of workers it must take to hand pick the beans several times as they collect only the ripe ones each time has got to be staggering!
We took a detour towards Tapantí National Park but decided to enter another day. The fee is ten dollars for foreigners and about ten percent of that for nationals. We hope that once we get residency we can pay the much lower fees.
Eventually we made our way around and connected to the route heading east towards Siquirres. Oh, Siquirres. The last time I was there was after a rescue by the Red Cross in 1984 after a whitewater rafting accident on the Pacuare River.
We drove around town but couldn’t find the Red Cross building. I asked a gentleman who told me where the building is, but since he spoke in Spanish I didn’t get the full directions. We headed in the general direction but decided to ask a transit policeman who was standing by the side of the road. He was very helpful and seemed to enjoy the interaction. I explained to him that we were looking for the Red Cross building because thirty years ago the Red Cross had helped my friends and I after an accident on the Pacuare. He was rather amazed and wanted to know my name. After introducing ourselves he said his name was Freddy. He began to give us directions but decided to show us by leading the way! So, there we were following Freddy in his official truck with the red and blue lights flashing! The building was just down a side road and clearly not thirty years old! In fact, his friend there told me it was built just a year ago. Fortunately she knew where the one was from long ago, but it is now a pharmacy. I guess he didn’t have anything better to do as he gave us another escort with lights flashing to the center of town and showed me Dr. Pio’s Farmacia just off the square. He pointed out we could not park there due to yellow markings, so Bill went around the block while I took pictures.
This is thirty years ago…
Time to head to the coast, but needed to stop for gas. Well, guess who are also there? Freddy!
We drove towards Limon which is not a place I would want to hang. On the way we passed banana plantations with large blue plastic bags covering the bananas. We later learned this is to prevent black spots from forming on the peels from anything or anyone touching them. The bags are sprayed to keep insects off, as well. Apparently, if the bananas are not perfect looking no company, such as Chiquita, will buy them. After being cut off the tree they are placed in open bins which are on a pulley system activated by a donkey and taken away. After harvesting while still green they are put in containers for exportation. These containers are kept at a certain cool temperature to prevent the fruit from ripening, which could be for years!
Speaking of containers, we also passed lots with hundreds and even thousands of shipping containers! Limon is a port for exportation as well as a landing site for cruise ships.
The Caribbean Sea was a welcome sight after the commercialism and depressing city of Limon. Forty-five minutes further down the coast we came to Cahuita where we spent the next three nights, specifically, Playa Negra. The guesthouse was a private quiet oasis with lots of greenery, a pool, and trees full of iguanas. Even toucans came to visit the last afternoon we we were there!
Dinner that night and the next was at the Trip Advisor top rated restaurant in the area, Sobre las Olas. We dined outside right by the beach with the ocean at high tide. The first night had a lovely breeze. As dark descends about five-thirty we ate only with lights from inside the restaurant. Candles were pointless, but would have added to the romantic atmosphere. The food was delicious and generous. There was the right amount of service and attention, too.
Playa Negra is a quiet beach. Horseback riders came through when we first visited though we did not opt for that treat. I did get a massage from a German woman, though, as my neck and back were a bit tight. There is a range of modest housing and downtown Cahuita is small but quite the happening place with restaurants, stores, and tour companies.
The first morning we ate breakfast at Bridgette’s. Banana pancakes were the specialty. They were served with honey as real maple syrup is extremely expensive down here. We have seen it in one store for thirty-two dollars for a cup!!!! The pancakes were ok, a bit heavy.
Afterwards we took a personal tour of an iguana ranch where they are raised and released. They are homebodies so don’t venture far. The young ones show their green which is lost as adults. I got to hold a small one, though a bit tentatively as can be seen in this video. Some even get a bit orange. They sure do love red flowers for a snack! Eggs are kept in a nursery, for protection. While we were there one of the woman who runs the place told our guide there was an earthquake just before we left! Johnny checked on his phone and eventually found out that it was in Panama and felt all over Costa Rica. We three hadn’t noticed it, but the woman who told him said the calabash tree was shaking quite a bit! When we arrived and left he showed us a sloth up in a tree.
Afterwards we stopped by a cacao farm where a young Bribir woman explained the process of making chocolate. It seems they remove quite a bit of the cacao butter which they use on their skin which leaves the chocolate a bit dry for my taste. What was most fascinating was her information about Bribri woman giving birth! Those who follow the old practices will go off into the forest and stay in a little fort they build. No one is to enter to help her with the birth. If she needs anything they will pass it to her in a halved bamboo stalk. She cuts the umbilical cord herself with a machete she purifies in a fire. Ouch!!! A shaman will come visit her after the birth which could be a couple of days or weeks later! The shaman purifies her body from the pregnancy and birth. Then she is able to rejoin her family and community.
Bill and I tasted the raw stuff around the cacao seeds but did not taste like much.
Monday morning we drove to Puerto Viejo which seems liked a fun town. Just on the other side is the Foundation Jaguar Rescue Center which we toured for almost three hours. It was started by two biologists who had met in Puerto Viejo and returned to Spain. They decided to return to Puerto Viejo where they had fallen in love. Now a married couple the residents began dropping off injured animals hoping these biologists could help them recover. It wasn’t long before they became a rescue center. They are truly committed to treating the animals and returning them to the wild if possible. They are not just trying to make money; all tour fees go towards the animals. Rght now they have two deer, some birds, a margay and an ocelot, sloths, raccoons, kinkajoos, and monkeys. There are snakes in cases, but we weren’t sure if they were for show or not. The husband is a snake person, so……They also have a frog pond for the red kind, and there is a poison dart frog living there as well. The female deer is pregnant and loves to lick human appendages rather than the salt lick bought just for them. Both Bill and I were found to be tasty though I think my sunscreen was a bit funky for her. The monkeys were Bill’s favorite, of course! He got to play with one whose infected eye had been removed and hold a baby who just wanted to sleep.
Afterwards we stopped in town to quench our thirsts. My chocolate monkey was chocolate drink, banana, and peanut butter. Very tasty! The beach is right off the town and has white sand. Boats were moored there and a reef was right at the edge. There is even a police station so decided to park our car right across from it to get some free security.
An interesting few days; it is so different from the rest of Costa Rica it could be its own country. Perhaps we will go back one day and go further south from Puerto Viejo, even into Panama to renew our visa, if need be….