Friday, November 1, 2013

Day 8 & 9 - Chocolate and the Bumps

For our last day in the Nuevo Arenal area we head back towards La Fortuna to find the Rainforest Chocolate Tour but since we can't find it on the GPS we stop at an information booth and Felix helps us out. He shows us on the map where to go and calls ahead to make sure they will be doing the tour. He finds out that the tour is at 10:00 and we can make it there in enough time. Adios to Felix as we head out looking for chocolate. The tour is located at the site of Las Cabinas Catarata (waterfall cabins) and while we wait for our tour, an nice older Spanish gentleman tells us that we can look around the grounds and the garden. He doesn't speak English and Dave is a little leery as he follows us around and then he asks if we want to see one of the cabins so we of course say yes. The one he showed us was a cute little two bedroom cabin with a sitting area and small kitchen. The back opens up to a beautiful view and the sound of the running river below. I ask how much and I think he tells me "cuarenta y cino por dos personas con desayuno" - $45 for 2 people with breakfast???? If that's true, it would have been a steal and I would have stayed there had I known. He then takes us further into the garden because he wants to show us the river but on our way we run into a lady whose renting the last cabin long term who greets us as if we are long lost relatives and begins to talk our faces off...nice lady but luckily the tour is about to begin so we have to go.
Tiziana is our guide and the tour is basic but informative as she explains to us how the cacao tree grows and then eventually how the beans are harvested, dried, ground and used for baking and/or making chocolate bars. It's a hands-on tour in that you can grind up the beans, separate them from their shells, and further grind them into a powder. They also make a chocolate drink that was most notably used only by royalty many years ago that you can experiment with by adding other flavors such as cinnamon, vanilla, chili peppers and even hibiscus and eventually you get what you really came for...some good chocolate to sample. The plantation has only been giving tours since February so for that they are doing a good job but I thought the price was a little steep for a 75 minute tour.
After this we head to the town of LA Fortuna and walk around a bit, we're not too impressed with this but we find a place for a quick sandwich and then head back to our hotel. On our drive back we see coatis in the road and they are even a bit curious and we are also stuck behind a herd of cattle in the road that seemed to broken out of their pen. Luckily some horns beeping quickly get them to retreat and the road is one again open.
For dinner we eat at the hotel and once again the food is very good. Our host Eyal does know how to cook and he loves to feed people. We have to get half portions of our entrees and it is still almost too much to eat but we force ourselves and go back to our room full and happy.
The next morning we have breakfast and then start our trek to Monteverde. Our GPS states that we should get there in 90 minutes but we know better. First of all, a good portion of the road to this area is unpaved and even though we saw the speed limit posted as 40km, there is no way anyone could have gone that fast. Every time we looked at the GPS we were still 30 minutes away from our destination......ten minutes later, still thirty minutes to go....I felt like we were in a Twilight Zone episode.
Finally we are in Monteverde and suddenly the roads are paved and for once our GPS isn't lying about our arrival time.
Here we are staying at the Hotel Belmar and our room is gorgeous, so big and with a huge jacuzzi tub which will be welcome after that long bumpy ride.
Tonight we scheduled a night walk at Santamaria forest and our guide Johnny tries to get us a few good sightings even though at  one point it is raining pretty hard. We are able to see a couple of birds sleeping in the trees, some walking sticks, some leaf impersonators and even a couple of tarantulas. At one point we see what Johnny believes is an olingo but we see him so quickly and briefly that we will take his word for it. As the night walk is ending, Johnny is bummed thinking that his sloth sighting record will be broken tonight but as we emerge from the path onto the dirt road he catches one curled in a tree across the street, then right above us, one is moving down the power lines down the road, and as we follow him, an armadillo comes out onto the road as well.
Who knew we could have just stayed on the road to see the most things?

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