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"Tica Tico Taco"
  Crew Member:  C and J
  Location:Gulfito on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
  Photo Album:(2008-09-01) Costa Rica

Chili Flower

Shake it Girl

Painted Bark Tree

Coffee Plantation
Tierra y Mar

A nice combination of land and sea touring during our stay in Costa Rica. Hadn’t particularly planned on lingering here for long; I spent a good deal of time here back in the 90’s. In fact, Costa Rica was my first trip ever out of the ole U.S. of A. I remember it being such a big deal for me at the time. It was when I first learned about the necessity of light travel. My overpacked suitcase was pilfered and then lost somewhere in Guatamala and resulted in delaying my whole planned exploration of Costa Rica by a few days while the airline sorted out my claim. I eventually was reunited with my stuff (most of it) and have traveled with a pack on my back ever since.

We landed in the southern town of Gulfito after a handful of days sailing from Panama. Round about the 3rd day out from Panama City we experienced some seriously heavy exhaust leaks from the engine. Everything in the boat, from the engine room to the cabinets in the galley, looked like something out of Dicken’s London—totally blanketed with soot. We knew we had a major boat issue on our hands so opted to pull into the first Pacific port that came along.

I often wax on and on about Jason’s serendipitous-fortuitous-giant-well-of-karma-good-luck, and this stop was no exception. We’ve had a few minor leaks and tweaks that needed to be addressed since leaving Florida back in January, but this latest problem was one that required professional assessment. As Jason’s luck would have it, Tierra y Mar Marina, where we picked up a mooring ball, had a Czech born diesel mechanic extraordinaire on hand. And he was affordable! Roberto identified the source of our current problem and spotted our other neglected leaks straight away. He quoted us a reasonable fix-it schedule and price, and we promptly seized this repair time to do a bit of inland touring.

We rented a car and ventured from the lowland Pacific coast over coffee-rich mountains to the capital city of San Jose. Our guidebook to Costa Rica lists the drive from coast to the northern highlands at 6 hours. (it’s also worth noting that a small asterisked notation in said guidebook describes Costa Rica’s highways as “some of the deadliest and most underdeveloped in Central America.”) Two mudslides and 10 hours later we found ourselves facing sundown and we were curseworthy lost in the capital city of San Jose. After driving the same major thoroughfare for what seemed the 6th or 7th time, I noted that our trusty guidebook mentioned that citizens of San Jose “seldom rely on street signs of any kind.” Turns out locals depend on landmarks for navigation. Ask a local cab driver for directions and you’ll be steered towards the nearest café or church. Helpful, unless you’re little known hostel is not situated near a café or church. Two hours later we hunkered down in the colorful, comfortable, cheap, and highly recommended “Kap’s Place” hostel.

Kap’s was a great staging ground for exploring the nearby central valley and Volcan Poas. We spent two days hiking the fertile farmlands north of the city. The hike of Volcan Poas produced some stunning views of fumaroles and a semi-active crater. We wrapped up our time away from the boat with a walking tour of a local coffee plantation. Harvest is typically October through Feburary, so we saw little active picking of coffee berries, but our guide shared some rather interesting facts:

  • The typical Costa Rican coffee picker is an indigenous person from the highlands of Nicaragua who travels home when the season is complete.
  • Most plantation workers travel as a family to maximize the money they are able to make.
  • The average picker fills 8 baskets a day. A “good” picker averages 12 baskets a day.
  • A Costa Rican coffee picker is paid $1.50 U.S. per basket of coffee beans picked.
  • The total average pay for one day of work (sun up to sun down) is $12.
  • Costa Rican law requires coffee plantations to intersperse fruit trees throughout the rows of planted coffee. Banana, palm, avocado trees prevent deforestation, keep animals from consuming the colorful red coffee berries, and provide food for the harvesters.
  • Most large-scale coffee producers (Starbucks, Peaberry, Folgers) purchase coffee beans that are unroasted. The roasting process is done by the company that sells the coffee and not the plantation. An accomplished barista considers coffee that is past two weeks roasting to be “old.”
  • There are typically 3 grades of beans that are harvested. The most sub-standard coffee bean is what is purchased by commercial peddlers like Folgers.
  • I am glad that I do not pick coffee as a means of survival. The conditions on the best of plantations is ramshackle would give the Joad family grey hair. Buy free-trade where you can!

  • Our return trip to Gulfito was filled with less time in the car (only one mud slide, hurray!). We stayed a night in the surfcamp town of Dominical, spent the night watching the pros hang their ten little digits off of a left breaking point, and then headed back to our newly repaired boat in the early hours.

    Oh, I nearly forgot, our trip across the central valley and mountains was indeed filled with less time in the car. However, when we were a mere 5 kilometers from Gulfito we found ourselves driving in the middle of an Independence Day parade. Not much to tell. It was colorful but VERY slowgoing. See album photos for the full effect.

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    Other Blog Entries:
    The Last Voyage (10/7/2009)
    Holiday Hut Trip (12/1/2008)
    How We Got are Arses Kicked by the Dreaded Mexican T-Pecker (10/4/2008)
    Tica Tico Taco (9/1/2008)
    Locking the Panama Canal (8/12/2008)
    Back to the States (7/15/2008)
    Lingering at a Latitude of 9 Degrees (5/31/2008)
    In Search of Red Footed Boobies (4/15/2008)
    A Bad Case of Swimmer's Ear (4/3/2008)
    Blogging in Belize (3/30/2008)
    Isla Mujeres (2/10/2008)
    I'm Dreaming of a Sunny Christmas (12/25/2007)
    Turkey Day Networking (11/27/2007)
    Massachusetts Daytrippers (10/1/2007)
    Best of NYC (9/5/2007)
    A Passage to Oriental (6/25/2007)
    The Great, Wet Retreat (6/5/2007)
    Mr. Southern Hospitality (5/31/2007)
    Navigating el Golfo de Mexico (5/26/2007)