I have never been one to write, although I have tried many times over the years to keep a day to day journal for the kids’ sake (and mine) to look back on later in life. I keep thinking the fancier the journal, the better I will be to take the few minutes each day to fill the pages with the kids’ cuteness they exude whether it be with a word they mispronounced or a ‘mom, watch this’ and the foot goes kicked back and lands straight in the hand .. ‘TA DA!’ However, life seems to always get in the way and it still to this day has yet to be done. Although I have failed at a journal, I have done an amazing job at keeping up their baby books which have now turned into small baby/toddler/big girl/boy tubs, keeping what I think is the most important. After 8 years of trying and failing, just maybe a blog could be my answer. Grab your sunscreen, sunglasses and hat and be my guest as you enter the unknown journey of The Chaney’s Adventures. Please forgive any mistakes you may notice along the way. I feel a raw, unedited version is my way for you (the reader) to fully understand and comprehend as if you were there next to me. After the house was quiet last night, it was just me with my notes on my phone and I began to write to myself to document the journey that I knew was coming and more or less has already started. When you have a roaring 6 and 8 year old running around trading pajamas and underwear laughing hysterically after bath time, it’s sure hard to come by, yet you appreciate those crazy loud moments knowing it won’t last forever. So I go for my camera quickly before they decide to change back and YES .. I was able to get the moment. l realize how cliché it is that all stories start out .. ‘It all started … ” But you know, that is exactly how it happened.
Our first visit to Costa Rica was in August 2015. And Wow. When I say that out loud, I’m not sure if it seems like it’s been an eternity or just a short time? There was no reason I had picked Costa Rica, I just knew it had to be somewhere that was hot, beach-y, and possibly had surf-able waves (for the better half). I have never been one to pick a cold destination on the map to travel. I’ve always been a shorts and sandals kind of girl although I’d been snow skiing once before (mark that one off the bucket list) for a week in Ruidoso, New Mexico .. it was definitely an experience picking the ice cycles from the rooftops only to use them as ice cubes for our drinks. We rode up the gondolas and skied down the slopes. I remember thinking of Sonny Bono’s accident as it had occurred just a few years earlier. I more or less would go at a sideways slant trying to steer away from trees the best I could. I was a little scared to live at this point in my life, I guess you could say. We all had our fair share of falling on the ground and running into each other. Although I did have fun making snow angels and having snow fights, I kept finding myself looking more forward to that nice HOT bath at the end of the day. The only thing I can really remember other than freezing the entire week was having sore calf muscles, barely being able to walk in the days following my skiing adventures. Those boots. Oh my pretty pink periwinkles. They felt like bear traps that were tied onto the heels of my feet. It was more of an annoying feeling rather than a pain. For instance, take your fingernail and scratch a certain part of your forearm over and over and over again (for about a minute). Now, you can see it doesn’t ‘hurt’ per say, but it is very uncomfortable. I say ‘I’ had picked Costa Rica, because I solely did.. well, with the help of Mary, (our sweet travel agent whom is always so patient with me when answering questions of where to stay, activities we should schedule and what restaurants we should eat that have a local feel versus tourism). I went back and forth if we should stay near Arenal Volcano or if we should stay near the beach. She mentioned that most people who vacation in CR stay a full seven days and split their time in half between the volcano and the beach. It is only 121 miles from Tamarindo to the Arenal Volcano, but with some roads unpaved, it takes 4 hours to complete. I secretly planned this trip about a year prior to going. I had all intentions of giving him a surprise trip and not saying anything up until the week before, although I knew it would backfire on me, as it had in the past pertaining to a quick weekend get-a-way to Austin. That was my first.. and last ‘surprise’ trip. Being the bookkeeper of his daily work for our business, I had written down fake appointments for the day that we were to leave on, so #1) he wouldn’t schedule any real appointments that we would have to call, cancel and reschedule. #2) that way he would really be surprised. It was his 30th birthday weekend so I wanted it to be something he would remember. Austin. We loved Austin. This was our go to get-a-way weekend spot every couple of months. We loved Longhorn games whether it be football or baseball. My husband was a Longhorn fanatic, so much so, that he even talked me into naming our son after the quarterback, Colt (McCoy). This hadn’t been my first surprise attempt, however it would be the first he didn’t catch me in the act of planning by receiving e-mails or checking the bank account to notice missing money that had not been accounted for. As he was getting ready for work, I happily tell him of our exciting upcoming weekend and he.. FrEaKs out. Once he realized it was not a joke and we were actually going, he kindly told me to give him at least a months notice for future reference. I’d like to say he has a little bit of female inside of him, as he thinks he needs plenty of time for prepping like shopping and haircuts before any vacation. I may give him hell sometimes but if I’ve got to be honest, it is nice having a well-groomed good looking man next to my side. Therefore, this anniversary trip to CR was no different than before, he still did not like get-a-way surprises. At dinner one night while visiting some friends in Austin in the summer of 2015, I nonchalantly mentioned CR to him and what I had planned. I’d have to say it was quite the perfect time and place since our friends had recently visited the town of Tamarindo (near the beach) just a few short months before. (Neither of us knew we had planned the exact same trip at the time of booking.. great minds, think alike!) It was helpful to get tips, advice and the must see’s and do’s while there, although it was not easy keeping a straight face in the months leading up to me telling my husband as he would mention to me about our friends’ upcoming travels.
Thank goodness for Facebook and its sweet memories it lets you preserve. I was able to go back in time to see when we were doing what. And then .. the eye rolls begin, honestly not believing I was living my life in the same motions over and over and over again, year after year. The Houston Zoo, Moody Gardens, The Childrens Museum of Houston, SeaWorld, Great Wolf Lodge, NASA, you name it, we have most likely taken the kids to experience it. I don’t like to think of my kids as spoiled, I feel they are very well-behaved, deserving kids and we make sure of that. Like every other ‘normal’ parent, I want to give my kids things I didn’t have. BUT, the thing of it was, we had visited these places more than once and I’m pretty certain we have made AT LEAST 20 trips to the zoo. I’d actually like to think that’s almost on the border of insanity. I’m pretty sure that nothing has changed since our very first visit when my now 8 year old was 6 months old. I remember when it used to be $1.00 to get in. Now, its $1.00 just to go to the restroom. No, not really, but it is quite ridiculous. You can’t leave the zoo without spending a good $75-$100 and that’s possibly without food included, depending on the number of people and ages of your group. Times that by twenty.. that’s $2,000 spent, just at the zoo.
August 14, 2015 was the week before my life would change forever. Here I was, living in my careless ways blowing and going not thinking of how much we spent on what, just because we had it readily available. My family (which consisted of my husband, daughter and son this particular weekend) went to Schlitterbahn Galveston, just like many other families do for summer vacation. Again, for some, it may be there first visit; this was our 5th. Of course we had a fantastic time which consisted of cotton candy, popcorn, cokes – you know.. all the fun carnival foods and even got the $20 – 5×7 photo they take as you stroll around the lazy river. Who cares if your hair is sticking to your sunglasses or if you have a boat load of people in the photo you don’t even know, you buy the photo anyways only to place it in an unknown spot that you still have yet to find.
The week my life started making a little bit of sense was August 19, 2015. (Facebook post reads) “No-one ever said it would be easy, but it’s been a fun and adventurous ride. This week we celebrate 18 years together and 10 years married.
I wouldn’t trade my partner in crime for the world.” We have traveled for the past 10+ years together from Hawaii, Belize, Jamaica and Mexico just to name a few. This particular morning we loaded the car, headed to airport, boarded the plane and were on our way to COSTA RICA.
Who in the hell ever knew that this one flight would be the one that would take us on a different path in life than we ever even planned? Getting closer to the arrival time, knowing we must be closer to landing, we lean our foreheads together to look out the small 8′ x 12′ airplane window.
The first thing that you notice is the blue water. The closer we got to landing, the bluer and clearer it became. The colors of the water went from electric blue to cornflower blue to ice blue. (referring to eye colors) It was so bright, if you weren’t wearing sunglasses, you had one eye closed only to switch before it began to water. It was simply, beautiful. The hills ran together with the mountains which were filled with different shades of green. The trees and shrubs were big and tall, completely covering the land below. One could only wonder how many people before and after will make this exact trip and see what you are seeing. What would be their description of this luscious piece of heaven on earth? Three short hours and thirty minutes later, the wheels of the airplane hit the ground in Costa Rica. It was like the cables that are strung between pylons emitting magnetic and electric fields throughout our bodies from head to toe. Everything was awakened and was ready to come out of what seemed like a type of personal hibernation. After going through the normal customs routine of making sure we hadn’t smuggled anything with us, we made our way outside. With every step I took, I felt more and more anxious to see what lied ahead. To know that we had five days of sun, sand and each other away from phones and the crazy hustle and bustle back in the states was very calming. Knowing good and well how fast this time was going to go, I wasn’t rushing anything. And little did I know – they weren’t etiher. The air was fresh, clean and crisp; the energy of the people was like lightening bolts reaching out to touch you with their Pura Vida lifestyle. (I once ran across a t-shirt that read: Pura Vida not just a pretty phase … but also a lifestyle … a positive aptitude towards life … a philosophy of happiness … a happy way to live … that simply says … IMPOSSIBLE TO BE BETTER IN THIS LIFE!)
I loved everything about PURA VIDA and what it meant. Since we were on vacation in another country (Costa Rica) and just had some friends take this exact trip a few months before with stories of how they got lost even with GPS, we decided to spend the extra $300 for personal transportation to and from the airport. It was sort of priceless knowing we would actually get to the hotel rather than running the roads the entire vacation trying to find our way. Again, to us, we were on a vacation just like any other trip we had taken over the years, just seeing another part of the world. We then followed the tico holding a sign with ‘BRADLEY CHANEY’ written in big black bold letters, to the transportation van.
He helps us with the luggage and proceeds to ask us if we want to stop at a store for cervezas. ‘Well HELL YA we do’ I thought instantaniously.
After the transportation driver made a quick stop at the Super Mercado for a few six packs of beer, we continued on our way. I remember as he went inside, I kept dodging my head through the van seats to try and get a glimpse inside. The roads seemed to be perfect. Nice and smooth. It was an hour ride to Playa Tamarindo from Liberia Airport. I am one to believe everything happens for a reason, good or bad. Riding, listening to the music from Spanish to old country rock. Pacing myself taking in all Costa Rica had to offer, we hear an Aerosmith song make its way into our ear drums. Our eyes automatically connected and bigger smiles beamed over our already smiling faces. We didn’t have to say anything. We just knew. The song ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ fills the stereo speakers. I hang onto each word as Steven Tyler sings and it feels like I were there in concert watching the words utter from his lips. I feel one of my legs on my lower thigh right above my knee being squeezed. I automatically look down realizing it was the hand of my love gesturing his love to me. I think we both went back to the moment of our first kiss (1998) listening to the song while the credits rolled up the big screen at the movies. I’ll never forget that moment. The feeling of butterflies fluttering in my stomach never goes away when it comes to him expressing his love for me. Still to this day, my favorite thing that he will do is stop while at work, park on the side of the road and pick fresh flowers to bring home. I will keep them sitting on my window seal to let the sun gleam on each petal while in a cup full of water until they are crisp and have no more color to them. I’ll usually wait for as long as I can before I throw them away, which normally results in a smelly, dirty, watery, mucky mess. Making our way towards Tamarindo,
(just that word alone gets me excited thinking of all the happiness, good energy and good vibes), where we stayed for five short nights at the El Capitan Suizo. Sightseeing, not believing I had just been in Texas three hours before, I felt like I was plucked up with a crane and literally placed inside of the Travel Channel. It was the most unreal moment of my life. Making our way farther from the airport, traveling into and out of different towns, the first thing I notice are all of the older model vehicles and the number of motor bikes.
Vehicles like we would see in the 1990’s or earlier. It was almost like I going through a time warp. And I loved every bit about it. Passing the fruit stands that are parked on the side of the road, I notice bananas hanging on the corners of the tarped roof, pineapples that are neatly placed in baskets along with many of various other types of fruits – mangos, coconuts, papayas, cantaloupe, berries, lemons, guavas, passion fruit, watermelon just to name a few.
I remember thinking as we passed each fruit stand how much time and work that had to be put into each day, not only collecting the fresh fruit, but also putting it on display each morning in hopes of a passerby stopping. I was in complete awe to see so many people from newborn babies to great grandparents outside soaking in the sun, seeming to be actually living life in the moment. We passed kids on bicycles and motor bikes that were riding 2-3 people deep. They weren’t worried what their friends might think, they were just trying to get from point A to point B, no matter what it took and I admired that wholeheartedly. We arrived at El Capitan Suizo which is the very last hotel that sits on Playa Tamarindo.
((About El Capitan Suizo – The hotel owes its name on the one hand to the small island ‘El Capitan’ which lies in front of the hotel and on the other hand to the fact that the family owning the hotel is from Switzerland ‘Suizo’. In 1992, the owners of Capitan Suizo left Switzerland and moved to Costa Rica with their two children in search of new challenges and adventures. They fell in love with an untouched piece of land full of tropical vegetation and beautiful old trees directly on the beach of a sleepy little fisherman’s town. After three years of ‘hand made’ construction the small jewel, in touch with nature and in harmony with the country and its people’s philosophy, was born.)) The Beach Front Boutique Hotel consists of 35 units nestled between lush tropical gardens. Our room (#4) was far beyond what I have ever imagined it to be.
I can remember walking down the concrete walkway and coming up onto our room. My mouth just dropped, literally. To me it seemed like I had to pick it up off of the floor, but to the rest of the world it was probably just barely open. I kept thinking “are we sure this is for us?” Glass windows lined the walls of the room from ceiling to floor.
The furniture was all white and the walls (ceiling more or less being as the walls had glass windows) were that of a light red sand. A sofa and two chairs with two side tables and lamps greeted us right as we walk in. The ceiling was tall and came to a peak with a fan that watched over the king sized bed. It had four tall bedposts that hung with white curtains at each post. This bed. It was like sleeping on a cloud. To the left of the bed sat the coffee bar and mini fridge. Making our way into the bathroom, the first thing that catches our eye is the massive bathtub. Holy mama. I think 3 grown men could have easily fit. I climb in the tub, clothes and all just to get a quick feel. To the left of the bathtub was a 4 ft x 6 ft glass window. Directly out the window was a concrete wall to block any passerby. You look above the wall and see the tree tops and blue sky. You can’t help but feel apart of the nature that surrounds you. It stayed nice and breezy our entire stay at Suizo. Next to the bathtub sat a double sink that shared its space with a mirror which hung above the sinks. Adjacent was a smaller stool seat one could use to hang up towels, hold a suitcase or sit on while drying off. Directly above was another half length mirror. In between the bathtub and stool seat, was a small set of stairs that led us outside. We went down the red tiled stairs, open the back door and it takes us a second to notice, but see there is an outside shower.
The water spout nozzle laid hidden amongst the ivy and tropical plants that were growing on the concrete wall. If you keep following the walkway out of the shower area, it leads you back onto your front patio which is directly facing the ocean. Directly in front of the front door, hung a big rope hammock.
To the left of the hammock sat two lounge chairs alongside a table with a lantern. I remember shaking my head at this point in disbelief that this was my life for the next five days. I felt like a kid at Disneyworld. We didn’t even take the time to unpack our bags before we headed to the bar. Little did we know that we were about to meet friends that we would hold near and dear to our hearts. Diego, Leo and Brando.
There are simply no words to describe these men, but I will try my very best. They truly care about you. They want to hear your story probably just as bad as you want to hear theirs. They are dedicated, present in the moment, selfless. Some would think they would be doing it all for the tips however, I strongly disagree. I believe they do what they do, because they love doing it, not just because it’s what pays the bills. They are genuine and you can feel it. After having our fill of migulito and gwaro sour shots, we made our way down to the beach. The ocean went on for days for as far as you could see.
Standing in the water letting the waves lap up on my feet and ankles, felt like heaven on earth. The water wasn’t cold nor hot, it seemed to be just perfect. Everything did. You could notice where the water had been making its way onto the sand. The sand was wet and soft and if you stood there for just long enough, your heels and toes would begin to sink below the surface. The weather hot, sunny and 85 degrees, the view, only a few clouds in the sky, the people.. it was all just breathtaking. The few clouds were slowly turning from pinkish yellow to grayish blue as the sun began to set over the vast horizon. It could not have been any longer than about 3-4 minutes before it completely disappeared. I did not want to take my eyes off of it, it was so big, bright and calming. Once the sun had escaped from Tamarindo, my eyes wondered around from left to right. Laughing to myself, I had been in the moment so focused, I hadn’t even noticed how many people had been right next to me trying to get the same glimpse. I honestly think this was the very first time in my life, I had put everything aside and was truly present. I wasn’t worried about the missed calls I needed to return, I wasn’t even worried about what our next move would be after watching the sunset. It was nice to just be for once. Breathing and living. I could have stayed there forever.
August 20, 2015 Town was within walking distance from our hotel and I loved walking, no matter how far, I felt like a local. There were two routes you could take to get to town, the beach or the road. The hotel had advised us to take the road after dark, although they did have 24/7 security that roamed the property, there were no lights that lined the beach so you could not tell how high or low the tide was. The road that led us into town reminded me of a road you would take coming onto a construction site, unpaved, rocky, dusty. Similar to a road that one may think of when you hear the words ‘Costa Rica’, rugged, hot, sandy.. so this did not bother me one bit.
I liked the whole non-American-feel atmosphere. There were no sidewalks that lead into town from Suizo, so one could either brave walking on the road and jump up on the curb if you see an oncoming vehicle or walk on the grass that had sprinklers that would go off at unknown times only to shoot you in the face. I had this happen twice this trip. Pura Vida, Baby! We walked passed the Super 2001 (convenient store) and made our way into the town of Tamarindo. Girls in bikinis. Men in speedos. And everyone going about their carefree ways. It was a nice blend of happiness, I felt fortunate to be in the mix of it all. We strolled down the streets looking in each shop we would pass taking in all they had to offer. Souvenir shops lined the streets, some lucky enough to have air condition, some outside taking in the breeze from the ocean. You could find hammocks, kids instruments from wooden flutes to small handheld coconut guitars, magnets, purses, shirts – you name it, they most likely had it waiting for you to purchase with your colones, Costa Rican money. Making our way through town, we stop at a pizza parlor – Nari’s.
What caught my eye was the brick oven that sat outside only to have the guest watch as each pizza was made with care. We make our way towards the beach from the road and decide to sit at the beach bar to take in the view.
We listening to Bob Marley on the radio while the ocean waves crashed in the background. Does it seriously get any better than this? I remember sitting, drinking my Pilsin, watching an older gentleman who wore a white and maroon color surfer hat that lay on top of his salt and pepper grown out hair that rested mid way between his shoulders and chin. He sat with his bare feet placed on the bottom of the tree while sitting on a bar stool, hands resting on the man-made circular picnic table that was nailed into the lower end of the tree trunk.
He wore bathing suit trunks, no shirt, no shoes. I sit and watch my surrounding environment for the moment and breath. We take notice of the tables that are placed closer near the water for those who want to enjoy a nice cocktail, beer or a bite to eat or simply just want to sit and watch the sunset. We watch the restaurants employees gather things from the tables as happy guests leave. I envied how calm and collected the employees were carrying what their hands would hold to the back to be washed, only to be placed again on the tables for the next guests that would arrive. The employees uniforms consisted of the company shirt, black shorts (longer length to the knee) hair in a bun and flip flops. Another ‘awe’ moment that struck a heart chord. The gentleman that sat around the tree had now finished his beverage and was gone just like that. He hopped on what looked like an older Schwinn bicycle and peddled away leaving imprints of the wheels in the sand. We finished sipping down our beers and headed back up the beach-y road to the (convenient store – a smaller version of the super mercado) Super 2001. I was dying to go inside. Everything I hoped it would be, it was. And more. Walking down each isle wondering if we had any of the same things. Think about your local Dollar General .. It was very similar to that. It was about 3,500 square feet, air conditioned and had about 5-6 long isles that were stocked with products that are frequently used and replenished, such as snack foods, health and beauty aids, cleaning supplies. Roaming the store from front to back slowly, I was trying to pronounce every item that would catch my eye with a fancy label. We picked up some ‘real cokes’, (I say this because I love the Mexican Cokes are made with sugar cane) water, chips, salsa and a package of oreos and head to the surf shop which was on our way back to the hotel room. I always say that I want to go surfing yet I end up getting a boogie board. The waves were no joke. Truth be told, I had the most fun watching surfers from beginners excited to have made it standing on the board and plop into the water smiling from ear to ear to pros catch and ride the waves for what seemed like days. We walk into the surf shop with the bag of items we just purchased from Super 2001 in a white plastic bag with both of the handles placed around one of my wrists. Hundreds of surfboards lined the walls, upstairs, downstairs and even outside. From long boards, short boards, boogie boards to surf attire like hats and shirts. I remember the shop being full and waiting about 15 minutes before it was our turn in line. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little jealous of their work attire. From head to toe, this particulars female attire consisted of hair pulled back in a messy pony tail that was pulled through a surfers hat. She wore a khaki colored rope necklace that looked somewhat like a thick type of twine. It laid just barely touching her surfer tank top muscle shirt which showed about an inch or two of skin from her stomach. Last, I notice her bare feet and the shorts that had hung just barely on her hips. She was beautiful without even trying to be. Male employee attire consisted of a surfers hat, no shirt, no shoes, loose hanging surfer shorts and a twine type of choker necklace. The males were also in great shape. Matter of fact, there were more people that seemed to be fit and healthy rather than not. We decide on one boogie board and one surf board and continue our walk back to the hotel by road. By now we are taking notice of our surroundings and see the houses that are lined along the road that lead up to the Suizo. We admire how cozy they must feel being nestled right on the beach. We quickly admire and continue as the boards are getting a little bit heavier with each step. I would say that it was a little more than half a mile walk. We say ‘hola’ to the hotels employees standing at the front desk and make our way down the concrete pathway to our room. We drop the surf board and boogie board next to the big bushel of bright colored flowers in the grass that laid in front of our patio. We take a quick moment to notice that even the grass is a different color and texture than we are used to. The blades were happily dancing in the wind. We finally make our way to say hello to our new friends at the bar, grab a drink and pick their brains about Costa Rica. One thing we truly enjoy whether it be in CR or anywhere else in the world, is hearing about the locals and their lifestyles. This trip was no different. We drank our beers while watching Brando and Diego blend tropical drinks for the hotel guests that would come and go from the beach, pool or their hotel room. I look around taking in my surroundings, realizing I had been so in the moment. To the left of me sat a gentleman a few chairs down. We make eye contact and smile. The first thing I notice is his beautiful long red hair that laid neatly upon his shoulders. His eyes were bright and blue, almost hypnotizing. We all introduced ourselves and realized a simple conversation turned into a three hour ‘party’. Barrett.
We all three just clicked. You can’t plan something like that, I feel it was a higher power that had control. It’s so hard to come by truly good people this day and age. And I could tell he was. Carrying on our conversation, he tells us about his parents just purchasing a home just a few steps away from the hotel, right on the beach. We instantly wonder if it was one we could have passed on our walk from town. Knowing we would meet up again in the following days of the trip, we exchanged contact information.
August 21, 2015 The following day, on our 10th anniversary day, we visited El Viejo Wetlands which frames Palo Verde National Park. When we arrived, we were greeted by a vibrant young lady and a gentleman whom I will never forget. They had glowing attitudes that were so full of life. Dressed to the T, their outfits were magnificent. Hers consisted of a beautiful bright yellow flowing dress that draped along the floor as she walked, with a tucked in white blouse and a red bow tied around her waist, hair high and tight in a bun. His consisted of black dress pants that seemed to be pressed neatly with a tucked in crisp clean tuxedo shirt that was white with thick black rimming around the bottom. Around his neck hung a fluffy black bow tie that reminded me of those worn during a bull fight.
Their love of life was infectious. They reminded me of a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, shining so brightly that you almost have to look away. We were guided onto a big patio area that overlooked green luscious trees and mountain landscapes. As we waited for others to join the tour, we were shown the bar area. It was 5 o’clock somewhere although it was only 10AM where we happened to be. While we were finishing our refreshments, we stood on the patio taking ‘us-ies’ with the camera that was on our cell phone.
After snapping a couple shots, the tour guides, along with the transportation driver, asked us if they could take one of my husband and I. We handed over our camera and they kindly captured that moment on camera. As I was going to grab my camera back from him, he started to take ‘selfies’. I loved every second. Before you knew it, we were all five standing posing for a photo.
Come to find out, it was a personal tour with just my husband and I. With that we were ready for our tour. We felt there was a connection with our tour guides, we just didn’t know how. As they led us through our tour, we learned that they were brother and sister. They knew enough English to be able to carry on a conversation and that alone was admirable. I look forward to the day I can do the same in Spanish. We got to live the experience of the Costa Rican Trapiche, extract sugar cane juice and taste a South American candy, dulce de leche (which was a lot to me like Bit-o-Honey or camamel squares candy back in the US) with the help of Ox Puntalito. Most artisanal sugar producers use a simple crusher consisting of three metal rollers. The concept of cane mill is over 1,000 years old and has changed a little over the years. This is driven by either animal or diesel power. A crusher driven by a single ox (which was the only process known to use in the younger years of the world) can be expected to process around 50kg of sugar per hour. A 5HP diesel set could increase this to 300kg per hour. The cane must be crushed within 24 hours of being cut. After this period of time, the sugar begins to ‘invert’ into different sugars that will not set solid. The juice should then be filtered through a cloth before boiling to remove any solids such as dirt or particles of cane. The juice boiling is done in large pans over open fires or simple furnaces. After removal from the heat, the pans of juice are usually stirred rapidly to incorporate air and promote an even crystallization. The cooling juice is then poured into pots or moulds to set. I stood smiling ear to ear, watching and recording my husband as he held onto the sugar cane stem waiting to be told what to do next. Our guide grabs a second sugar cane stem and walks over to the sugar cane grinder. Four 4×4 post are placed in the ground, spread out about a foot and a half making a square and measures up about chest high to an adult. Two smaller 2×4 boards are cut in half and nailed around the 4×4 post holding them all together. On top of the post, laid facing the sky, is what reminded me of the inside of a pitching machine. Above the grinder was what seemed to be a 24 foot pole, similar to a telephone pole, that rotated around and around in circles, allowing the inside of the machine to spin and crush the sugar cane stem to make to juice. The guide pushed the stem into the hole of the grinder while the ox (horns tied to the pole allowing the pole to rest on top of his head) walked in circles.
It took a few seconds and then we hear the juice start to trickle from the crushed stem into the cup that rested on the ledge of the grinder. Being six foot tall, my husband would have to bend his knees each pass so the circling pole did not hit him in the head. Luckily, it only ended up gracing his hat once. Although we did not have an open fire to boil the impurities from the sugar cane juice, the guide filtered the juice through a cloth and let us each have a drink out of what looked like a small paper shot glass. It was sweet and delicious, somewhat like sugar water. We glanced at each other and notice we were both licking our lips in hopes of getting one more taste. The guide then gave us four pieces of dulce de leche to taste. It was sweet, soft and chewy. Each part of the tour keeps getting better, just as you think it’s simply perfect already. We then made our way to the next stop; making homemade tortillas accompanied by Costa Rican coffee with the locals. On our way, we got the opportunity to walk inside of an older style CR home. We strolled from room to room noticing what they had and what they didn’t have. The homes were so simple .. a bed and a couch (if you were more fortunate).
The stove was placed outside which reminds me a lot of a big brick oven similar to what you might see in a pizza parlor. My favorite part of the tour so far, had to be getting to make homemade tortillas with a local.
It was quite impressive following her every move as she did not speak a lick of English, I could just tell by the look of her face if I was doing it right or wrong. I never did get ‘the look’ which was a plus. I was happy with the end result of the tortilla. It was hot and fresh. We put a little butter on top and devoured them. We also got to see their simple process of making coffee.
About twenty years ago almost every home, restaurant and office kitchen in Costa Rica was equipped with a coffee making device called Chorreador de cafe. It consisted of an unvarnished wooden frame about 33 cms. tall, with a round hole at the top where a wire rimmed cloth or strainer was placed. Fine ground coffee was placed in the filter and boiling water was poured in filtering down to the coffee pot below. I admired the effort and tranquility of the process, however I do not like coffee and did not want to offend them by making ‘yuck’ faces, so politely went for the water that had been previosly placed in front of us. B.J. loved every drop and even poured a second cup. No matter which way I turned, everything was picture-esk and could have been on the cover of a postcard or a magazine for that matter. We then were taken back up the walkway, past the ox, through the patio area and up to the front where we first had met our tour guides. We were then greeted by two more tour guides we hadn’t seen until this point. They drove us by van to the Tepisque River. Arriving at our destination, we hopped out of the van and walked down to the river where three boats had went by boat to the Tepisque River. We saw monkeys flying from tree to tree using their tails to catch the next branch, we heard birds singing their songs, crocodiles big and small slither and swim like we weren’t even there, and iguanas basking in the sun.
There is nothing more peaceful and beautiful than to see the wild in its natural habitat. I will never forget a question that the tour guide asked us, ” how many sounds can you hear?” That question opened my mind like a seed opens up a flower. I had never been asked that. It was quite a very intelligent question to ask. It definitely gave me an ah-ha moment. I remember him stopping the boat and turning off the engine. We were counting the sounds.. 1..2..3..4..I think we got to about 11-12 different wildlife from birds chirping to monkeys howling and iguanas nestling in the trees. At one point we counted how many iguanas we could see. I stopped at 6 while the tour guide made it into the teens pointing them out to us as he would spot them. He had quite the eye.
After the tour had ended, we hopped on our transportation bus and headed back to the hotel. Sitting in the passenger back seat feeling the air condition on my face, I would take in all my eyes could possibly see before making it back. Quite a bit the same scene as before from the airport to the hotel.. interesting road signs I didn’t quite understand, people walking or riding bicycles, fruit stand owners waving letting possible customers know that they are there, taxi drivers looking for tourists wanting to ride versus walk. We arrive back at the Suizo and head to the bar for a quick drink before getting ready for our anniversary dinner that was at The Langosta beach Club. Wanting to look and smell the best I could, I hopped in the outside shower and lathered my body from head to toe. Just as quickly as I got in, I was out.. I lined my top eyelids with black eyeliner, darkened my lashes with onyx black mascara, added a refreshing pop of color to my cheeks and applied a nude color of lipstick to my lips. I blow dried my dirty-blonde hair which reaches half way down my back, brushed it after what seemed like playing hair vs. brush tug-of-war, parted it to the left side and placed a bobby pin on the right sitting just above my ear. Once I slipped on my ultramarine blue colored dress and buckled my tan colored sandals, I was ready to go. Looking quite spiffy himself, dressed in long dark blue jean pants with tan color Sperry’s, a pigeon blue t-shirt that had three buttons only taking advantage of the very bottom button which would leaving a few chest hairs to show if he sits just the right way. We walk out the door, down the pathway, through the main Suizo office and onto the road. The Langosta Beach club sits just 100 meters north of the hotel.
The Langosta Beach Club is located on the ocean and is much more than just a restaurant. It is a meeting place for people from all over the world to dine, grab a quick delicious lunch, sample fine wines, relax and enjoy diverse music, or peruse works from local artists. The Langosta Beach club features a cosmopolitan and uniquely French approach to service, quality and style while catering to all walks of life. I remember walking into the club and thinking how sleek and modern everything seemed. Everything, belonged. We are greeted and led to a beachside table to have a beverage while our table is prepared. I sit in silence listening to the waves of the ocean and take in all Langosta Beach Club has to offer. As you make your way through the enterance, palm trees gently lay over and shade the lighted concrete walkway. The first two things I noticed was the bar sitting underneath a palapa and the beautiful infinity swimming pool. The water was sky blue and crystal clean. You couldn’t help but have the itch to jump right in, clothes and all. Set in a tropical paradise, under the swaying Tamarindo trees in beautiful Playa Langosta, the Langosta Beach Club is impeccably landscaped and designed with comfort and privacy in mind. Simply, the true pleasures life has to offer. The feel is serene and calm with impeccable service at you r fingertips. Complementing the look and the feel are the marvelous furnishings that can be found in the private dining areas and poolside lounge chairs. The infinity pool is reserved for the exclusive use of members, however day passes are available to the public. Comfortable chaise lounge chairs abound poolside and the architecturally designed infinity pool gives the feeling of an endless ocean, as it blends with the ocean in the distance. The dining area is placed discretely apart from the public areas, surrounded by lush vegetation and set with impeccable tableware and furnishings. The private cabanas epitomize luxury with their luxurious seating arrangement, coffee table surrounded by champagne buckets, beautiful fixtures and ceiling fans.
Once we finished our beverages, the waiter approaches our beachside table to let us know our dinner table was now ready and waiting for our arrival. We are seated directly next to the bar looking at the ocean and watching the sun slowly set. The food was incredible. I requested The Famous Markus Chicken – chicken breast ‘saute’ with a creamy Gorgonzola sauce, white truffle mashed potatoes and vegetables. O.M.G.!! If I was eating in the comfort of my own home, I probably would have licked the plate. Once we finished devouring our five star food, we walked back down to the tables that sat on the beach to watch the sunset. You couldn’t have asked for a better ending to a perfect day.
Aug 22, 2015 The day our life would change.. forever because of two simple questions “What do you do for a living?” “What do you WANT to do for a living?”. Join me in the next blog as I keep writing, telling about our amazing adventure and the people we meet as we embark on our next chapter in life.