Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Costa Rica 6.2 Earthquake ... January 8, 2009

Last Thursday Costa Rica had a major earthquake. The current information is 23 are dead, 11 are missing and 2,300 people have been left homeless. The epicenter was near Poas Volcano just a few hours from my home in San Ramon. President Arias declared some areas uninhabitable in the future. There were photos of people walking away with just a garbage bag filled with a few possessions with all else lost. The planet seems to be reacting strongly with extreme weather all over the world and natural disasters on a regular basis.

Fortunately, there was no damage or impact to the people, property and landscape of San Ramon and La Paz. Janet and I were out for a walk during the earthquake/terremoto and didn’t feel a thing. Others in our community felt the tremors, but fortunately little else. We were with our friend and neighbor Falo, showing us a property he wanted us to help him sell. A joyful afternoon of discovery followed while less than 50 miles away chaos ruled.

One thing I learn over and over again is trying to make plans in Costa Rica rarely works and is often frustrating. But lots of cool experiences occur when just taking a walk and being open. As we walked with Falo, he brought us to see the Trapiches in La Paz. Much of the Central Valley is planted with coffee but La Paz seems to be mostly sugar cane/cana. Our neighbors fill up their carts with harvested cane and with their oxen bring it to one of two local Trapiches. (Life and work here sweetly resembles that of 50 or more years ago.)

At the Trapiche the cane is pressed for the pure sweet liquid, then boiled and finally formed into cones of brown solid sweetness, tapa. Agua dulce is a traditional drink made by combining boiled water or milk with the dulce/sweet. At the Trapiche they also make candy that is mixed with yerba buena/mint. It was fun meeting more of my new neighbors and learning about what happens to all the sugar cane that grows here.

We walked home on a stone road thinking our day was winding down and in the middle of absolutely nowhere we discovered Panaderia La Paz. Like wanderers in the desert finding an oasis, we were greeted by 5 women baking and an assortment of sweet and savory breads just out of the oven. They offered us stools and we proceeded to sample their treats. We learned that they bake on Mondays and Thursdays and then package their goods and distribute them at pulperias/corner stores in the area. We now walk by on their baking days, hang out awhile and bring home a few bags of pastries and breads.

I thought I might get bored moving to the country after 8 years living in the center of San Ramon. I find with each day I’m enjoying my new life and connecting with my neighbors in La Paz, 20-30 minutes outside San Ramon. I’m learning a lot about simplicity, community, nature and a joy that doesn’t require a lot of money, things or complex thought patterns.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Trout Farm Restaurants in La Paz, San Ramon Costa Rica

Rincon Poeta in San Ramon was my local hangout while I lived in the barrio these past 8 years. Many thanks to the owner Alonso, Sergio, Jason, Gigi, etc. for great service and to Carla and the chicas in the kitchen for great food. Out in La Paz (20 minutes into the country outside San Ramon), the 3 trout farm restaurants are becoming my new regular spots.

A cool Costa Rica tradition is trout farms that double as bars and restaurants. Fresh fish is one thing, but eating a fish that was alive just minutes before eating it is another realm.

Mi Tata is the closest to Bajo La Paz center. Located down a dirt road, it has a down home local feeling with it’s open air wooden structure overlooking two trout ponds. When we entered, Johnny Cash was playing followed by “Born to be Wild” and other popular American music…. Kind of surreal. The owner and waitress, who we met on earlier visits, warmly greeted us.

Janet and I started our meal with a few shots of Guaro (Costa Rican sugar cane liquor) and a beer. The Guaro set us back C600/$1.15 a shot and the bottle of Pilsen a mere C800/$1.50. A 1lb. whole Trout dinner with yucca and banana cerviche was delicious, fresh and very satisfying ($5.00). In the USA, people pay big bucks for a fresh fish dinner. In these tough economic times, it’s a real treat to live so well for so little $$$$ and lots of welcoming spirit.

Nearby is Rancho Carrucha which seems to be more family oriented. The first time we were here, it was a busy Sunday and quite the scene. Local families bring their kids for a pleasant day of catching and eating fish, playing pool, a cool time just a short ride from San Ramon.

CentroEcotouristica, the most exotic of the 3 settings, is at the end of the road in Bajo La Paz. After a couple of miles on a stone road you arrive at the edge of a reserve that stretches all the way to Monteverde. A hand painted sign reads, “Mundo Sin Explorer,” loosely translated as, “The World Not Explored.” This is the end of the road for cars and becomes bird, plant and animal paradise beyond this establishment. The air is clean and fresh and the river is perfect for a swim.

The meals are pretty similar at all 3 places. Explore and decide which spot feels best to you.

As I was paying my bill at Mi Tata and walking to my car, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cindy Lauper was blasting from the speakers. Great meal, fun scene … and many adventures ahead.