Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What a Spectacular Day

The sun is bright and hot (34C by the outdoor thermometer).  While there are some clouds over the mountain top, they are mostly bright, and the rest of the sky is blue streaked with white wisps.  The ocean is glistening in the sunlight and is still.  There is a breeze from the ocean that cools the intensity of the sun.  I have retreated from the patio sofa as the late afternoon sun has reached it and both the heat and the brightness make a continuation of my reading impossible.  A complete change from the mist, clouds and torrential rains for the past 3 days - a day that - except for the mountain clouds - is more like February than August.  The only such day since our arrival 5 weeks ago.

We are dog-sitting for David and Helene, and Deezle has found a cool, shady, breezy place on the patio tiles to sleep.

 This morning we visited our friend Judy.  She has lived here almost 12 years, having bought property across the valley with her partner (now back in the states due to illness).  She has a wonderful if modest house (much more like a Tico home than ours) on 6 acres of hillside with a stunning view of the ocean and the entire village of Ojochal.  She knows how to live with the locals and get things done - a treat to visit with.  We sipped ice tea and gossiped.

Great view of our house from her front patio!

Reading the new J.K. Rowling's mystery - interesting

An hour in the pool chatting as the sun loses its intensity readying to set.

A cocktail listening to the howlers in the distance



Dinner of chicken breast and potatoes with a good glass of wine.

TV, wine, the sound of the frogs and crickets

A great day.

Food and Flight

Two MUST's

FOOD - Ylang Ylang

Just off the highway in Ojochal, but way up a mountain road is an Indonesian hideaway.  Hans and Caroline offer a spectacular dining experience.  There are only a few tables in the open dining room (read someplace they only serve 10 people each evening), so reservations - even in green season are required.  The owners are engaging - Hans out front and Caroline in the kitchen - explaining how the food is made, what the ingredients are, why the different regions of Indonesia have different foods.

Appetizers (pork skewers with peanut sauce and shredded beef formed into a log, surrounded by sticky rice and cooked in a banana leaf) were just the introduction to the amazing flavours.  The main course is served family style and consists of two 'protein' dishes, vegetables and rice.  The choices are named after the regions they come from - we ordered BALI - cubes of pork in a spicy sauce (tender with just a hint of heat) and thin strips of beef in a tamarind and sweet soy sauce (sweet and savoury - flavor beyond belief) with spicy green beans, mixed vegetables in coconut milk and yellow rice - - YUM YUM YUM!!!!

A little expensive compared to other local fare - but a delicious meal with exceptional hosts.  They even offer cooking classes and sell the spices!

FLIGHT - Superman Zipline at Osa Mountain Village
At 2.1km from beginning to end, this is billed as the longest in the world.  Add to that a descent of 300m (1000 ft) and speeds that have been recorded of 120km/hr make this adventure an exhilarating 90 seconds!

Osa Mountain Village is a sustainable community development in the mountains about 15 miles south of Ojochal.  There is already home development, a community garden, a butterfly garden, and animal sanctuary and a zip-line canopy tour - SUPERMAN is the latest addition.

Unlike traditional zip-lines where you are 'seated', Superman lets you fly - you are face-down in a sling-like harness.  The sensation is so unique, you hardly have time to take in the amazing surroundings as you go from the top of the mountain ridge (3,000 ft) to the base camp (2,000 ft) that include trees, streams, waterfalls, gardens and the restaurant.

At the end there was food - nachos, ceviche, fruit, juice and pop - then a quick trip to the restaurant where you can celebrate by buying a beer or two before the trek home.

Oh, the trek - yes - the drive in from the highway and back out is NOT for the faint of heart - steep and rocky - we encountered a slide on the way up that was just muddy ruts to traverse - you really need a 4x4, and not a BEGO!  Take their shuttle - it is worth it and the guides are great fun.

The outing took about 4 hours for our group of 10 from the pick up in Ojochal to return.  At $95 per person, it is pricey, but like nothing else you will experience here - - I expect the price will drop or value adds will be introduced.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pineapple Production

Dole Beware!!

We have had 4 pineapples (one got eaten by a Pizote).

Small (about the size of a large grapefruit) and sweet!

Took two years for the plants to bear fruit - maybe 12 of them growing.  Somehow don't think they will halt the trading of Dole stock on the markets as a result of this news - yummy all the same!

Still no Water

MaƱana!!  That seems to be the continuing answer - apparently the capacitor needed to be replaced, and then the pump shaft failed - parts from San Jose - maybe later today.

That leaves me thinking about water from other sources - rain is a big deal here and was keeping the pool full.

Monday was a beautiful day - sunny and hot - high clouds and threatening clouds over the mountains, but no real rain (sometimes get a gentle mist for a few minutes - hardly notice it except for the drops in the pool).  As we went to bed Monday night, there was the strangest mist across the valley - lights glowing in it - almost ethereal!  Laying in bed, I said, is that rain?  Lisle said it isn't raining, but that sounds like it coming.  For 20 minutes we lay there listening - it was really strange because usually when you can hear it coming, the rain moves in very quickly, but not this time.  After almost 30 minutes it was drop, drop on the roof - and then downpour - heavy deafening rain.

That lasted most of the night and Tuesday was grey and wet on and off through the morning.  Then the sky cleared to a beautiful sunny afternoon and a wonderful sunset.  We went for dinner to Villas Gaia - on the way back the sky was clear - the moon shone and the stars were everywhere - a spectacular night sky!

Today has been clear so far - blue sky and puffy white clouds, but the mountains are graying!

The great thing about this time of year is that the sky is seldom clear - and the sky is the most amazing thing about this place - light and clouds on the mountains, or the ocean - and sunsets through the clouds that are unbelievable - - these are from the last few days!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Water Water Everywhere ...

Except out of the tap

Seems the pump isn't working again.  One of the challenges of the jungle - not a municipal water system.  It is great and pure from an artesian well, but of late the pump and the related piping to the storage tank has been less than reliable.

So it is drinking water from the store and pots from the pool for dishes and toilet flushing.

Guess we should start catching the rainwater - - more than enough of that!!!!

Pura vida en la jungla!!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Cold as ICE

That isn't ice as in frozen water - it is ICE (ee-say) as in the Costa Rican state-owned electrical and telecommunications monopoly.

They are the ones who provide electricity, phone, cell, cable to most of the country.  Needless to say, service isn't their strong suit.

Things like electricity are pretty simple.  They have that down pat - nothing fancy of complicated really.  But the rest is a different story.

In San Jose, again things are relatively straight forward - land lines, cable internet, 4G/LTE cell service and rocket sticks.  In the OSA it is a bit of a different story.

Land lines exist in the village, but don't extend beyond properties on the main road - those of us in the "Phases" or the more rural Tico homes have no chance of that.

Cell coverage has improved in the past 5 years - used to be there was a single spot on the highway where you were guaranteed service - now the whole area has some coverage (only 3G) but you often need to be strategic about how you maximize reception - one of our friends only gets reception on the roof top terrace (so don't call us, we'll call you), while our best reception is at the far end of the pool (great except when it is raining).  Most of this depends on whether you can see the cell tower next to El Castillo - which we cannot due to the ridge on the other side of the road.  Our Costa Rican cell works fine, but our North American phones are useless, even thought they work fine out by the highway.

Internet is the latest challenge.  For the past several years, satellite based service has been reliable but expensive - $69/month for 512k service - - think dial-up!  1M for $130.  Faster is available, but anything resembling cable speeds is over $300/month.  In May, Lisle bought a rocket stick, and a chip for his old iPhone4.  Both offered pay as you go voice/data service with an option of unlimited data for $20/month and speeds of 1M.  Seemed reliable although speed varied greatly depending on the number of users (forget doing anything on Sunday when everyone is at home!).

All seemed well until August 1, when with little fanfare ICE changed its plans.  No grandfathering like in Toronto, and very little clarity on what changed, how it works or what it costs - even by the ICE staff.  So after loading the stick on August 1 as per usual, on August 4 it just stopped working. Monday off to ICE in Cortes (the main regional office).  The verdict - there is no money on the account - explanations that it was done as instructed were of little use - another $20, message sent all good.  2 days later, no service - back to ICE, this time the satellite kiosk in the credit union in Uvita - no money on the account - huh??  So, no unlimited data plan on pay as you go anymore - $20 gets you 1.5G of data.  Unlimited service is now only available post paid for $24/month - new chip, new number, have to pay each month, but a small price overall - we'll see how this goes.

BTW, there is a new cell tower going up at the highway - we can see it directly from the living room - ICE 4G/LTE, supposed to be operational next month - guess we will have this advanture all over again next time we are down!

Cloudy with Chance of Meatballs

Seems like an apt headline for today - it has been raining on and off since this morning - very overcast - meanwhile the meatballs are in the fridge and the tomato sauce is simmering on the stove.

This has been a very wet couple of weeks - with the exception of a couple of very nice days, there has been substantial rain every day - early morning, stopping for a couple hours and starting again - overnight with a sunny morning but rain again by 9am (today) - unusually wet.

Yesterday was the rain that was coming down so fast it was slopping over the eaves!  This morning was almost that again, but now is a gentle but steady shower.

With the rain comes the clouds.  Sometimes you are right in them and can't see past the hedge 20' away.  Other times, like today, they are higher up.  Things are misty in the valley and the clouds dance on the tops of the mountains - sending swirls down along the ridges that suddenly disappear - all the while it is clear over the ocean.

Sunset has not been much of an event, but sometimes when the clouds are cooperating you get wonderful sights.

Friday, August 2, 2013

After a glorious morning with sunshine, blue skies and monkeys a gentle rain has begun – the sky I still bright to the ocean but dark over the mountains – nothing too ominous, so an afternoon swim in the rain is a likelihood.

A week into vacation, and I am only now beginning to find the rhythm of tropical life – something that until this trip has been very easy to come by – visions of incomplete construction and psychiatrist reorganizing everything have filled my dreams while the ceiling fan stirs the warm night air.

As a result, I have done little besides read and chat with our friends – comfortable dinners or morning encounters on a walk.

The house is still comfortable – although showing signs that there is need for some maintenance – the gardens are wonderfully lush – our own pineapples ready to eat – hard to think you need more than this.

Nature continues to amaze:

This fellow was living behind the cushions on the couch and spending evenings eating bugs on the wall

Giant grasshopper has been lounging in the palm for days

Birds built a nest inside the glass dome of the ceiling fan


Something you really need to see - on the Tarcoles river about 100 km north of us

Monkey Day at the Orchid House

The Male Howler has been waking us each morning for the past week - sometimes right outside the window, sometimes a bit deeper in the jungle.  This morning was no different - just past 5 am he started, but was brief with his welcome to the day.

About 7:30, he started again - very very close!

Outside and follow the sound - there he is in the tree right outside the kitchen window.

After 30 minutes he decided to stop hanging around and sit quietly a little bit away.  It was only then that we saw the rest of the family - 2 females and a baby - in the adjacent tree.

Nice way to start the day!