I DIDN'T INHALE

Trip Start Dec 14, 2011
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15
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Trip End Jan 05, 2012


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Where I stayed
Hotel La Costa de Papito Puerto Viejo
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Limon,
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I have been sitting in the large, open-air cabana of the La Costa de Papito lodge, which sits back in the jungle just off Cocles Beach on the Caribbean Sea. We are just a couple of kilometers south of the village of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, which I will call Puerto Viejo because everyone else does. I have been re-reading the guidebook getting oriented to the area and developing a plan for the day. It is now 8 AM.

I got up this morning around 6:30 AM and went out for a long walk on Cocles Beach just across the road from our hotel. The beach was narrow from an apparent high tide and the sand was fine and soft. Unlike Tamarindo where the beach was broad and flat and the sand was fine but compact, the walking here was much more exercise; it felt great.

As I walked along the beach I watched Pelicans fly over the water. Since the time I did a report on them in school, when I was, what, maybe ten, I have loved Pelicans. These huge birds glide on the cushion of air just inches above the water the water and as the water breaks into waves, the Pelicans adjust effortlessly and gracefully to mirror the up and down movement of the water. Watching them fish is even more entertaining. Okay, so I am easily impressed---I could watch them for hours.

We left the Orosi Lodge yesterday morning at 9 AM and arrived at the Papito Lodge around 4 PM. It was a great day of sightseeing and travel; we had a little bit of everything during our journey here from Orosi.

After getting cash and gas in Orosi, we drove counter-clockwise around Orosi Lake, which is about a 30 km drive. Billed in the guidebook as one of Costa Rica's prettiest drives, we weren’t disappointed (I know, I know, I said the same thing about both the Lake Arenal drive and the Vara Blanca-to-San Miguel drives). During the drive, we failed to make a turn and lengthened the drive somewhat, but we saw just that much more gorgeous scenery.

We worked our way around the lake, through the town of Paraiso and a couple of kilometers later we saw the sign to Cristina Finca and turned onto the rutted, rocky road, which we hoped was the entry to the coffee farm. The road got progressively worse until after a kilometer we came to a few rustic, dilapidated buildings built into the jungle. Could this be it? The buildings looked more like the hovels of a convict on the run than a finca that gives tours! I got out of the car and walked toward the building. Shortly, a Caucasian man comes out of one of the tin structures further back in the jungle. It was Ernie, the American from Ohio who started this organic coffee operation in 1980. He totally reminded my of my Dad’s youngest brother, Elton. I liked him immediately.

He walked us through the shed, which now looked more (but not much more) like a coffee operation, into the field among the coffee plants. He gave us the skinny on growing coffee, including the reasoning for growing taller legume trees among the coffee plants, which shield the coffee from the sun, improve the plants production, and in his opinion, to enrich the soil. Being an organic farmer, his methods are sometimes contrary to normal farming practices---a fact he embraces. He also showed us the processing plant, which was the size of someone’s living room, and also the roasting area, which was the size of someone’s kitchen. With 20 acres, he says he is one of the largest growers in Costa Rica; most farmers have 5 to 10 acres. We bought a couple of one-pound bags of coffee and left him after about an hour. The stop was well worth it.

As we drove over the mountains heading east, the weather turned from beautiful sunny skies, to down-pouring rain.  The rain eased up by the time we got to the main highway from San Jose to Puerto Limon, but there we experienced a different issue: a tree had fallen across the road blocking traffic. It stopped us, and a whole bunch of other people, for about thirty minutes before we were on our way again.

As we approached Puerto Limon, which we knew to be a major Costa Rican port for shipping fruit, we were stunned to see thousands upon thousands of shipping containers, stacked, awaiting use. I wouldn’t think it would take that many containers to ship all the fruit in the world, let alone just the fruit from Costa Rica.

We drove through the outskirts of Puerto Limon and reached Puerto Viejo less than an hour later.

After we got checked into the Papito Lodge, we drove the two kilometers back into Puerto Viejo, parked the car and walked around. It is a bustling little village and a great place to just chill. After touring the little village for twenty minutes, we sat down at a beach side bar, Salsa Brava, and ordered a beer and some ceviche. Ceviche is popular throughout Costa Rica, but is supposed to be the best on the Caribbean side---it was excellent, and took the edge off our hunger since we had not eaten since our excellent breakfast at the Orosi Lodge.

The Salsa Brava ("spicy sauce") is named after the surfing wave of the same name. This world-renowned wave is just off the shore from the restaurant. We sat there and watched surfers crash into the wave as we ate and drank. After sunset, we walked through the village and settled on eating at restaurant called Koki Beach. It was a little early yet, but we couldn’t keep drinking without getting some food, so we ordered (an awesome Red Snapper for Gary and chicken stir fry for Linda), ate and were done eating by 8:30PM.

It was too early to head back to the hotel, so we settled into a funky bar at a street-side table. It was a great people watching spot; Linda was a little “weirded out” by a few of the dudes walking around. Several locals we talked to warned us repeatedly about theft and there were plenty of guys around who could play the part. As we sat at the bar table, the Rastafarian men seated next to us casually lit up a joint and openly smoked their ganja as people walked by. They offered, but I didn't inhale. Puerto Viejo is a fun-funky place! 

We got home about ten and crashed---or tried to. Our cabana at the La Costa de Papito was labeled the “budget cabin”. It is a stand-alone cabin with its bathroom in a separate, stand-alone structure, about 20 feet away. Both structures are open to the air above six feet or so, having only screens. Our unit and bathroom are only about 20 feet from the open reception/dining area, and unfortunately the same distance from the kitchen. Although the walkway from our bedroom to our bathroom is shielded a little bit by landscaping, making the trip requires planning because you need to be dressed. The proximity to the kitchen means we are able to hear the staff cleaning dishes until nearly midnight and that we were able to hear them preparing for breakfast before daylight. That explains my early rising this morning. Budget cabin, indeed! But it is just perfect for the atmosphere of the Caribbean coast.

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I am sitting on the patio of our “budget cabin” getting caught up in my journal. It is late afternoon and we are getting ready to head into the village for drinks and dinner.

We finished breakfast this morning and were in the SUV by 9 AM headed for a beach. It was sunny, and the good weather was not supposed to last. Our plan was to drive south toward the Panama border to the end of the road (the border can’t be crossed from this road, the crossing is inland at Sixaola). The road ends at Manzanillo about 8 miles away.

Manzanillo is a very sleepy place with an absolutely gorgeous beach. We decided, though, to drive back to Punta Uva and check out that beach. If we didn’t like it, we would drive the short distance back, but Punta Uva was fine and we laid out there for a while and swam in the sea. By this time clouds had come in shielding the sun. The clouds were high and thin and were a blessing; it was plenty warm, calm, and still possible to get some tan.

After an hour or so, we decided to drive north, back through Puerto Viejo to the black sand beaches of Playa Negra. Part of our mission was to check out the Banana Azul, a lodge where we had tried to stay, but they were full. We were able to lounge around on the black sand beach and use the Banana Azul’s beach chairs for the price of a coke (which Linda would have ordered anyway). The beach was great, the black sand seeming much finer than the white sand of the other beaches, but the surf had a very strong undertow. We were told that someone had to be drug out of the surf earlier.

Although high overcast had shielded the worst of the sun most of the day, we had had enough by 2 PM and went back to the Papito Lodge. We showered, and packed up for our drive to San Jose and flight to Panama tomorrow. We have learned we should plan on a four-hour drive to the airport, which means we will leave here by 6 AM tomorrow.

Hearing a dog bark now, I am reminded that dogs were barking about 11 PM last night---and a nearby rooster was crowing! What is that all about? Roosters don’t crow at night! This one did, and he didn’t miss his sunrise revelry either.

My Review Of The Place I Stayed



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