Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day #12: Burnt to a crisp.

Well, it was going to might as well have been today. I finally got miserably sun burnt today. We were up in Monteverde this morning yet. About ten of us went out or a horse back tour of an area farm that had sugar cane, coffee trees, herbs, and other things. It was family operated and a family farm. Only thing was is that it's been hovering in the low 70's the whole time we were up in Monteverde that sunscreen wasn't even on the radar. Of course I've been out of sunscreen since about day 5 and have been mooching off of Gordon for the past week. Well, today I didn't think of it and of course it was hot and sunny all day. We were less than halfway done with the horse ride and I knew that I was going to get burnt. Luckily I had a hat on, so my face didn't get burnt. Only my arms and my neck a little.

So about the horse ride. Now I've been on a couple of horse rides in my day. Mostly before I graduated high school. So it's been a while since I've saddled up. But one thing I vividly remember about the horse rides is that one, we ALWAYS wore helmets, and two, we went so slow that snails would pass us flicking the bird. So when I signed up for the horseback coffee tour I wasn't too worried about Ole Seabiscuit.

So we get out to the farm, there's a bunch of saddled horses standing around, nothing out of the ordinary. We get in the building and they ask us to sign a "I promise not to sue" waiver, again it didn't surprise me. So now into the helmet line...oh wait. There were no helmets. No worries we'll probably be going super slow, I don't need a helmet anyways. So we're outside waiting to saddle up. While we were waiting, a rather ambitious horse (who later I find out is named Humilde) starts trotting away and the workers have to go run down. I made some quick joke to Clyde that that was his horse. Hardy har har. So the worker walks Humilde back up to the group and guess what...yep, he signale me over to mount up. Oh great, I've signed a waiver, no helmet, and I'm riding a barely tame rodeo horse that's going to buc me three ways from Friday. I love you babe, but it doesn't look like Daddy's comin' home!

I get saddled up, no poblem. Humilde turns out to be a great follower, once saddled up we're standing with the crowd. No the leader is getting saddled up and will probably give us about five or ten minutes of pointers as to how to control this monster I'm sitting on...oh...nope, he just makes a "Follow Me!" gesture and we're OFF! It's okay, I'm sure the trail is no big deal...probably really flat, we'll be going slow...I'll be fine. Well we come around the first corner and start heading down a hill that litterally looks like this \. Not good, but me and Humilde made it. It was a pretty shaky start, but I'm still on top and the train is going slow. Well, remember when I said my trusty steed was a good follower? It turns out that when the horse he's following starts galloping, Humilde decides it'll be fun to see if this unequipped, untrained, newbie of a handler can hang on for dear life. Sure enough, without warning, Huimilde takes off after the horse she's following. It wasn't too far, but it was up a hill like this / and when it was over my eyes went from this oo to this OO. Luckily the lead handler's daughter (probably no more than 14) rode up beside me and explained in spanish, "I'm terribly sorry for our inadequate equipment and training. But I will not let our downfall as an entertainment company deminish your capacity to be entertained on this ride. I will do everything in my power to make it right. Including, but not limited to, riding slowly in front of your fare steed to ensure his speed is agreeable to your level of comfort. And yes there are going to be some very difficult hills and passes, but through my expert experience and ability to lead, we will make it out the other side without you feeling like your life has been endangered any more than it already has." I'm sure that's what she said. I mean I don't speak spanish...very little spanish. And I can't put more than three words together to form a sentance in spanish. But I'm positive it's what she said.

Well anyways, with the young godsend of a horse handler limiting Humilde's speed, we made it to the top of the mountain that overlooks Monteverde. AND we even made it back in one piece. Final word on the horseback ride? It was AMAZING!!! It's always an amazing thing to feel like you're putting your life out there. I mean there were some parts of the trails that had a sharp grade off the edge that if you would have fallen off that side, you'd be rolling down quite a ways. But how else do you get to see the grand views and landscapes? Sometimes beauty just requires a moderate about of risk.
Before getting on the horses.
Up one of the easy sections of the trail.

At the top of the mountain overlooking Monteverde.

So the horses were cool, but after we got back the family fed us. We weren't expecting it. But we got some traditional Costa Rican rice and chicken served with fresh pineapple, watermelon, and cabbage salad. It was great. Then it was to the back to see their family farm operations.

Sugar cane one the left and the foreground right.  Herbs further back.

This farm was cool. The family owns about 100 Hectares (which is just under 2.5 acres per hectare). Of which we saw about 60% of it on the horse's back. When we walked back behind the house we saw more of what they did. Their little family has a small sugra cane and coffee tree operation. They also grow a fair amount of herbs and some rooted vegetables like radishes. When we got back to the shed, the farmer's wife was back there roasting beans on an open flame, then grinding them in a small hand grinder, then boiling water and using an old coffee maker. It was a pretty cool thing to see the whole process. And the coffee was one of the best cups I've ever had! It just tasted to clean.

Roasting the beans, boiling the water.  The grinder is right in the middle.  The coffee maker is to the left on the table.

Making coffee.  To the left is sugar that was made from this farm's sugar cane.

Also in the shed, they had an old sugar cane press and an old distiller. The sugar cane press took two people to run it and it operated just like an old clothing ringer, put them through and ring them out. The amazing thing is that in each piece of sugar cane, there is about 1 liter of water. They ran two canes through the press together, five times and each time the same amount of water came out. Then they served it to us as pure sugar cane juice and wow. It tasted like pure sugar with the aftertaste of fresh vegetables picked directly from the garden.
Getting the juice out of the cane using a machine that's 60 years old.

THEN, they showed us how the distiller worked and served us up some of that. What they do with the distiller is juice some sugar cane, take the juice in a canister and place it in the shade for 8 days. Then they bring it inside and start a small fire underneath it and let it slowly cook. It takes about 3 or 4 hours to finish, but eventually the newly made liqour drips out the spout like a coffee maker. And talk about feeling the burn. They served us just a small swallow, but it burned all the way down...and then kept burning. We asked what the usual alcohol content was and the farmer said roughly 70%...yep, it sure tasted like it.
The cane juicer in the foreground, the distiller in the aft.

Overall our tour today was very interesting. It was cool to see two major parts of Costa Rican agriculture in the coffee and sugar cane. Also, it was neat to learn about how they were doing things more than 50 years ago. A little history never hurt anywone.

The rest of the day was spent on the bus coming home. We got back to our houses around 6pm, ate, had devos, and we were left to do what we do. Tomorrow we're back in The Pits to nock off day 6 of 7 work days. Tehn Tuesday we work, then pack, and Wednesday we hop on the steel bird to come back to our darlings.

ps-I've update Day 11 with pictures.  I didn't have any pics from Day 10...we were driving all day.

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