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Monday, February 25, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way...

Es una problema!

Heading home today after my workout at the gym, the bus unexpectedly came to a stop in the middle of a stretch of road that runs alongside the river. We passengers all looked out the windows to see what the slow-down was and discovered that ahead of us a large limb had fallen across the road. Leaning down from the main trunk of the tree, the branches were spread all across one lane of the street with just room enough for small vehicles to squeeze under the bole hanging over other side. Until that limb was removed, there was no way our bus was getting through.

Students start walking as the school bus turns around
A school bus and several cars were beginning to stack up on the other side and I knew the same was happening behind us. As I sat there wondering what I should do to get home, someone rang the bell to get off the bus. With the doors now open I realized that once I made my way up the long hill ahead, the rest of the way home was pretty easy and although it was still a distance, I knew I could hike it with no trouble. So off the bus I went and began walking on the narrow shoulder next to the traffic as it crept along to slip underneath the limb. I glanced to my left and noticed a white taxi, one of the "pirate" taxis that are cheaper than the red ones, right beside me and it was empty.

"Señor," I said to the driver through his open window, "¿Disponible?" meaning, Are you available?

"," he said, and I hopped in the back seat, thanking my lucky stars for the perfect timing.

We took our turn carefully negotiating the small opening and once past the traffic jam, continued on up the hill toward Santa Eulalia, chatting a bit in Spanish about the weather, always a safe subject for my limited language skills. You'll recall that Costa Rica uses no addresses, no street names for the most part and house numbers are rare indeed. As it turned out, this taxista apparently didn't know exactly where he was going for his fare. At the school near our home, he stopped and asked a couple of schoolboys where blah-blah was. Of course, I couldn't understand his question but he let me know that he had to turn around as he had apparently gone past his destination. But since he had saved me that long uphill hike, I was happy to walk the short distance home. When I tried to offer him some money for the lift, he said, no, no monies, instead handing me his card so I could call him directly for a future ride. And I think I will!

Dry hillsides in the distance
Our conversation about the weather focused on how dry it is right now. The hillsides are turning brown and our grass requires regular watering. But whoever said Costa Rica has no seasons just didn't recognize the kind of cycles that occur here. Right now, for instance, it's sugarcane-cutting season and huge fields of the tall plants are disappearing here in Santa Eulalia. On my solitary walk the other morning, I encountered workers with machetes, hacking away at the plants while a tractor stood by to cart away big metal cradles full of the harvest.

Gorgeous bougainvillea
Partly because of the dry climate, the bougainvillea is now in full bloom all over the neighborhood, a riot of fuchsia, orangey peach and pale pink. Our mango tree is heavy with fruit; we expect a bumper crop in a month or two. The avocado tree in the front yard is also showing its coming yield and unlike last year, I hope to be around to enjoy it in April and May.

On our Sunday hike this week we learned of another fruit in season, the Starfruit, a unique yellow oblong with parallel peaks along its sides. When cut crosswise, the resulting section is shaped like a star. The firm flesh is sweet tart and very refreshing. Marcial explained how to make a "fresco," or fresh fruit drink, by putting the fruit - seeds, skin and all -- into a blender with a bit of sweetener and some water and ice. Turn on the machine and voila! you have a delicious drink.

Starfruit in abundance
Marcial cuts up Starfruit as Bonnie looks on
Stephen's smile says it all
We retraced part of our steps from last week's "hike from hell," stopping at the pig farm to visit with the family that lives in the small shack on the property. 
A very humble abode for this family
One child was a cute little girl who spoke enthusiastically to Marcial and Seidy, although their rapid conversation was lost on me. However, I did manage to communicate a bit with the man who had a boot in his lap along with a big needle and thread. "¿Arreglar su zapato?" I bravely asked. With a big smile, he looked up and answered yes, obviously pleased that I was trying to speak Spanish.

As we started down the steep hill just beyond the pig farm, we stopped to watch some men trying to capture a boa constrictor, another chicken killer, by rousting it out of its hole. Their plan was not to kill it, they said, but just to move it elsewhere. The leader really wanted us to video his efforts but clearly it was going to take too long for us to stay and watch. Later Marcial told us that this man is a jack-of-all-trades,  catching snakes being only one of his many skills.

So we started off again down the trail but poor Bonnie took a spill on the powdery dirt injuring her knee enough to force her to turn back. She and Eroca headed off for smoother terrain while Marcial, Seidy, Stephen and I continued on, back down to the lovely little river. This time, however, we opted to walk on land instead of the riverbed but Marcial and Seidy's dog Blackie took a dip to cool off.
Marcial and Stephen enjoy the scenery
Stephen waits in the shade as Marcial hikes down
Blackie wades in!
View from the top

"Our" little valley
As we hiked through a beautiful secluded valley, we fantasized developing our own small community there. According to Marcial, it's the perfect climate and terrain for growing Plumeria; we could see a number of wild white Plumeria trees all over the hillside above us. In our imagined future, we would export Plumeria cuttings and make our retirement fortune as we relaxed in our quiet little valley by the river. Ah, Pura Vida!


  1. Enjoyed your blog. unexpected kiondes always puts your heart in a joyful way. debi Fulton

  2. Who needs a Gym. Just join your gang and go hiking all over the countryside... sounds nice and a much better view than the inside of a Gym... unless of course there is a pretty senorita there !

    Tom Duffy

  3. Will you please tell me the name of your gym and provide me with their website address?

    Can you please tell me if the burning of the nearby sugar cane fields have been a problem for you and your friends?

  4. Lovely post Kat. Yes, we have the two main seasons, but there are many, more subtle, seasons throughout the year, having to do with the various harvests, plantings, which trees and plants are blooming, and the movements of the birds and mammals. One just needs to stay in touch with it all and these sub-seasons present themselves clearly.

  5. @Mark - We go to VGym and love it! Their Facebook page is:
    You can read more about it on my post from Oct. 10, 2012 -
    There has been no burning of sugarcane in our neighborhood - and our Tico friend Marcial has said it's no longer legal. But that may be only in populated areas. At any rate, it has been no problem for us.