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Friday, February 10, 2012

Country Roads and Sugarcane

First it was the cornfield next door and now it's the sugarcane. Harvest time in Costa Rica! All over our barrio are sugarcane fields with ripe stalks ready for the cutting. With machete in hand, the workers are steadily hacking them down, loading them on open wagons and hauling them off for processing. The slope next to our house, previously covered in agricultural bounty, is now a bare field covered only in the dry leaves from the cane. Even that will be used, it seems, as we have also noticed cattle in a nearby pasture munching on the brown foliage. It's full employment time for ag workers here as they move from finca to finca doing the hard manual labor of harvesting crops. Layne fantasizes "skiing" or "surfing" down the hillside but with trees and a rocky creek at the bottom, it seems ill advised. Besides, he sold his skis years ago and he doesn't know how to surf!

And hauling....
Right past our front gate!
Our almost-daily long walks take us along many of the cane fields and in our explorations we have discovered some beautiful countryside and charming pueblos. On a recent hike we determined to follow Calle Vanilla (imagine! a street with a name!) to see if it hooked up with the road to Palmares, which connects to our main road along the route into Atenas, in the opposite direction. Heading east, we climbed the long hill toward the distant cell tower and school, then took the left turn onto Calle Vanilla. Then it was downhill for a ways, past a very tiny settlement, and on into a shaded dirt road, the kind you read about in Costa Rica with a rocky surface and knee-deep potholes. Only one car passed us so clearly it's not a common route. At the bottom of the long hill, we passed two boys riding bikes and a small group of people on the side of the road. After the mandatory "Buenos dias!" greetings, I asked if we were heading toward San Jose Norte, a barrio on the road to Palmares. "Si, señora," they said. "¿Mucha distancia?" I asked. "Un poco mas." A little more. Hummm.
Pueblo Vanilla
And quite a "little more" it was. We walked and walked, and as the road headed uphill, we began to wonder if we should turn back or continue on. We trudged onward, confident that if our feet held out eventually we'd come to civilization again. As we emerged from the shady jungles, we came to a gated driveway advertising "Cabinas" for rent. But no one was in sight, so on we went. As the hill leveled out, we emerged into the Pueblo Vanilla, a quiet village of neat Tico homes and the occasional pulperia with bread, sodas, tortillas and eggs.

Stopping at a pulperia for water, we asked directions and again were told it was just ahead, about 800 meters, the woman said. Each 100 meters is supposedly one city block but the measurements are quite loose. Still, we hiked on and at the pinnacle of the next hill, we spied a bus stop on a main road -- the road to Palmares! Turning left we headed toward San Jose Sur (we hoped), walking through a quiet residential area with some spectacular trees along the street. At the next curve we found a restaurant and decided to stop for breakfast or lunch, as it was already past 11:00 a.m. Lucky for us, they had just opened and we scored a delicious meal to break our fast and renew our energies. It was the beautiful Mirador El Pueblo, a popular eatery well known for its excellent seafood and panoramic views of the countryside.

View from Mirador El Pueblo Restaurant
But after our two-hour hike, we had had enough walking for one day so when we finished our meal, we asked the waiter to call a taxi for the ride home. Tired but satisfied with our adventure, we returned to the comforts of a shower and a nap!

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