Thursday, November 08, 2007

Freezing my butt off in Costa Rica

Ok, it's final: I do not think esposo or I will be able to tolerate the Canadian winters (sorry, Mom). Yesterday a cold snap blew through the Central Valley here from Nicaragua. That's right, Nicaragua. I always have imagined that Nicaragua must be one of the hottest climates on Earth, because when Nicaraguans first arrive in Costa Rica, they stick out like a sore thumb, bundled up as though they've just landed in Alaska, while the rest of us are in t-shirts. Don't tell me global warming is a big myth. The weather has not been right here for at least the past year. Something is going on.

Anyway, we froze. I think the papers said it got down to 17C in the city (which I think is in the 50sF for you Norte Americanos). Brrrrr.... If it was that cold there, it had to have been twice as cold up at El Silencio Lodge where esposo is the new head chef. We went up yesterday to drop him off, purportedly for a several-day stay to start training staff, etc., and it turned out the building was still behind schedule, so we just had a look around and came back home.

Going up into the cloud forests is always colder than one might imagine. I had on a jacket and seriously wished I had gloves (speaking of which, Mom -- can you send a pair of Isotoner driving gloves?). Esposo says they call the rain "horizontal," because the wind makes it blow nearly sideways. My feet were freezing (silly me actually thought about wearing flip-flops because I usually do, and my hiking boots have been destroyed; thank goodness esposo talked me into borrowing a pair of his shoes!), and at the end of the day, killing me from wearing shoes several sizes too big.

However, the place is beautiful. I mean, beyond words beautiful. The photos on their website do not do the lodge justice. The website pictures of the guest cottages look like shacks, but in reality they are just gorgeous. Everywhere we walked, we spotted amazing plants, like wild orchids just growing out of the side of a hill, and wild raspberries that are surprisingly sweet, akin to alpine strawberries. There was a plant that produced a berry of the brightest blue, a blue very rare in nature. The wildlife up there is also supposed to be amazing, but of course yesterday was too rainy and cold to see much of anything. The river was raging, though. Esposo says the water has been lab tested and is purer than any in the country.

We stopped in to see esposo's new kitchen, and it's just amazing! The dining room tables are made by artisans in Sarchi, and I want one for our next dining room table. They are inlaid with handmade mosaics created from photos of flowers taken at the lodge site. Very nice. Before we left, we stopped at the little commissary where a couple of local ladies make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the whole construction crew every day, and had gallo pinto and hot black coffee (son had two big slices of locally-made cheese and orange "drink" instead). (A side note: If you use dry beans down here, you must always make sure to wash them and pick through them for rocks. For some reason, if there is one tiny rock to be found in ten pounds of beans, I will chomp down on it, as I did yesterday, and I'm pretty sure I cracked my tooth. Agh. I usually only buy canned beans for this reason, although the best thing to do is to buy organic dry beans and cook them yourself. That's because commercial growers use a big cake of some type of aluminum phosphine to kill bugs that infest the beans. Aluminum is one of those things often connected to Alzheimer's disease, and personally, I do not want to get Alzheimer's if I can avoid it. So always eat organic beans. And don't eat anything cooked in traditional Costa Rican aluminum pots -- very dangerous. And I should start taking my own advice. Getting off soapbox.)

As we were heading back home on a very narrow, windy and winding mountain road in the clouds and rain, we noticed that traffic was stopped. Esposo got out of the car to see what was up, and I insisted that he take the camera (remember when I said take your camera everywhere? You never know!). He walked up ahead, where a truck was in danger of sliding off the road and down a steep cliff. Fortunately, a couple of other truckers had winched the sliding truck and were in the process of pulling it back up on the road. In fact, they were short a few winches, but the guys in the pickup ahead of us (construction workers from the lodge, in fact) had some in their car and went down to lend a hand. It took about 45 minutes of sitting in a cold car in the rain (did I ever mention the Haunted Hyundai has no heater? or air conditioning?), but they finally did get the truck back safely on the road, and we were on our way.

Traffic backs up on a windy (and winding) mountain road.

The blue Isuzu truck is in danger of sliding down a perilous cliff.

Have no fear, though, other truckers lend a hand!

The view out of my car window as we sat waiting for the truck to be pulled back on the road. The beauty of the cloud forest!

Later that day, we went in search of a vegetarian Asian soda in Grecia's central market that esposo had heard about years ago, and actually were able to find it! In the words of RR, delish. I had a fried rice and salad combo, with egg rolls on the side, and esposo had noodles with egg rolls. We shared everything with son, of course, who seemed to like the noodles best. The people that run the place are quite nice, and esposo really hit it off with them, talking about being a vegetarian chef in Costa Rica, and giving some random customer advice about the various ways in which one can cook tofu. That is one of the things I do like best, when random people can share ideas and discuss things that interest them. It's something I thought was wonderful about Portland, Oregon, where honestly, I have never met more friendly people in my life. Anyway, if you're a vegetarian in Grecia, stop by this place, it was quite good and inexpensive (all that food with drinks was about $8).

And I have to say, it was a good day. I didn't even have to use my A.K.

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