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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Eating and Hiking: Calories In, Calories Out

Carmen patiently teaches the Gringos

What a busy week it's been with Thanksgiving, a festive dinner party for the Santa Eulalia gang here at home (yes, another one!) and the 1era Caminata y Paseo Recreativo La Zopilota (1st Walk and Recreational Outing of La Zopilota - at least I think that's more or less the translation) held this past Sunday the 25th. Now I'm rushing to get a blog posted before I have to stop and do my Spanish homework. Layne and I have been hosting a Spanish class on Thursday mornings in our home with friends Stephen, Bonnie and Eroca. Carmen, a delightful Guatemalan friend who has helped us with organic gardening questions in the past, is our teacher. We've all learned a lot although I must admit that I started out somewhat ahead of others in the class by virtue of two years of Spanish in college and then some dedicated effort through Rosetta Stone; more recently I expanded my knowledge on, a free online language tool. Even though my vocabulary is pretty good, the problem I face is in understanding Tico friends and neighbors. Most of them speak so fast - as do all native speakers, of course - that as soon as I grasp one word in a sentence, they are on to the next paragraph. It's one of the few frustrating things about living here. I sometimes wonder if I'll ever be able to carry on a real conversation.

Thanksgiving Dinner is served!
But I get plenty of opportunities to work on my language skills, such as at the Thanksgiving dinner party I enjoyed last Thursday evening.  Held at the spectacular hilltop home of Dennis and Gerardo, the charming proprietors of Pure Life Development real estate company, the thirty-five or so guests included many members of Gerardo's large Tico family, friendly folk who are always ready to engage in sociable banter. Dennis is an excellent cook and the juicy turkey and all the trimmings was fabulous. Although Layne stayed home because of a bit of an upset stomach, I certainly enjoyed the evening and met a few new friends as well.

Almost in the clouds
The 1era Caminata y Paseo Recreativo La Zopilota mentioned above was a challenging hike through the extensive coffee finca of El Toledo Coffee, the excellent organic brand we buy most weeks at the feria. Gabriel, whose family owns the farm, is usually staffing the booth at the feria, ready with a pleasant smile and some new Spanish phrase for me to learn. For some weeks he has been promoting the Caminata, a benefit for the San Isidro neighborhood where the farm is located. We Santa Eulalia weekend hikers were eager to put our walking skills to the test and signed on for the event. During the long and exceedingly hilly taxi ride up to the farm, I began to have trepidations. Just what had we gotten ourselves into?

Had we known exactly what "La Zopilota" referred to, we might have been better prepared for the steep inclines we faced as we confidently marched off through the quaint streets of San Isidro. 

Off we go! 
La Zopilota is a huge rock perched at the very top of the Aquacate mountain range that separates the community of Palmares from Atenas. That peak was our destination! Getting there took us through the beautiful hillsides of El Toledo farm, covered with lush deep green coffee plants, each dripping red berries ready for harvest. 

Coffee plants and magnificent views
The incredible vistas from each turn in the trail made the day well worth the effort but it was a challenge. So much so that at the rest stop about 2 miles in, Layne and I opted for a ride the rest of the way up the mountain. Even that ride was a test for the four-wheeler we were riding in: dirt tracks deeply carved by rainfall into a jagged ruts studded with big rocks, climbing up incredible slopes and skiing down steep precipices, all the while passing the more stalwart hikers and bikers still on the trail. With my foot pressing an imaginary brake and my hands gripping the seat, I was mentally exhausted by the time we made it to the finish line at the top.

But what a view and what a rock! Rejuvenated by fresh watermelon and pineapple along with cool water, we enjoyed the Mariachi band and chatted with Stephen and Bonnie who had also taken advantage of a ride up. 
Yours Truly, leaning on La Zopilota

Stephen greets Seidy as she approaches the Finish Line
Marcial and Seidy, of course, along with their sons Daniel and Gabriel and Gabriel's wife Alou, made the whole trip on foot. Seidy looked like she hardly broke a sweat! In fact, they were still so energetic they all walked the long way back down the mountain to the partying taking place at the starting point, food and drink, beer and tequila, music, craft sales and a raffle.
Daniel and Gabriel on top of La Zopilota
One delightful surprise I enjoyed was meeting one of my blog readers at the finish line, as we were all relaxing after our strenuous walk. A vivacious redhead whose name escapes me, she had a lovely smile and some nice comments on my efforts in chronicling our lives here in Atenas. Of course, I've often come across newcomers to Atenas at the weekly feria who have discovered the blog in their research before traveling to Costa Rica, and customers of Marcial's Italian Sausage are sure to be given one of my cards with the blog address on it. (Marcial is my one-man public relations firm here.) But it was an unexpected pleasure to meet one of my fans on top of a mountain! Muchas gracias, señora!



  1. What a gorgeous view! Sounds like something I would enjoy doing. How many miles one way?

  2. @Sabra - the total hike/bike was about 7 kilometers, we were told. The part Layne and I did was probably just over 2 kilometers, perhaps a bit more. Hard to tell because the hills were so steep and it was mostly uphill so it took us awhile. But yes, the views were amazing!