A DAY IN THE LIFE OF RURAL COSTA RICA
A day tour around the Atenas hills . . . with your guide and his family and friends. You will need decent shoes/boots i.e. not flip flops and an understanding that this is a very rustic visit "the way it was".
Young kids to antiques will enjoy this driving tour - the longest walk is through the "coffee jungle" which you can skip if you don't walk and sit and sip the delicious coffee made in the "jungle".
We start the tour at the Pura Vida Hotel after breakfast - your guide will drive you through the sugar plantations of Tacares and the coffee of Grecia where you can visit the famous metal church (theoretically delivered by mistake on the way to Greece but I don't really buy that).
The tour continues along windy narrow country roads by Santa Ulalia - the "home church" of your guide and then on to the village of Morazon.
LAST CHANCE TO SEE TOBIAS, OF THE TRAPICHE
Trapiche is not a valid scrabble word and the folks that run one of the last Trapiches don't know the origin . . . but the definition is a "rude" sugar mill.
This photo is one of the last active trapiches in Costa Rica that you can visit. It is in the village of Morazon just north of the delightful Atenas about 35 minutes from the Pura Vida Hotel.
This trapiche crushes the sugar in a 100 year old grinder operated by 2 oxen. The crushed juices run into a bucket and the juice is then boiled down in huge concrete vats for some hours. The syrup goes through 2 stages - impurities are removed in the first boil and become pig food or cachusa (nobody seemed to know where that word came from).
The second boil is emptied into wood forms called "molde" creating "Tapas Dulces". The only math at work in a trapiche is "2 Tapas = an Atabo" but we know not why.
The word Tapas derives from cork we are guessing as the sugar blocks resemble an over-sized cork.
One of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams, penned a book called "Last Chance to See" about species soon to be extinct. A visit to a Trapiche is a "last chance to see" of both a process and a way of life not much different from the 1800's in Costa Rica.
The Chicharonera El Trapiche is one of the last. If you look carefully at the guy on the left in the top photo, he is the owner Tobias . . .
As you drive into the lovely village of Atenas you will see a big Boyero (ox cart driver) statue at the entrance to Atenas. Tobias and his trademark Tico hat was the model for the Atenas statue.
Tobias and his family also run the lovely little restaurant that fronts the trapiche. This is an extremely rustic visit "the way it was" - no Sturbridge or Disneyville here. They do not run the trapiche every day but we can make an appointment when we do the tour in many cases.
MECO, THE YUGO CARVER
Yesterday we also visited one of the last guys making Yugos (no not the car NATO bombed out of existence) but the Yokes used to run an oxcart team.
Meco is the owners Tico name - mid 70's I'm guessing and fit as a Tico fiddle, standard Tico sense of humor. Meco makes yokes in the style of Meco from mango wood logs.
One of the last chances to see Yugos being crafted anywhere on the planet.
Meco proudly points out the improvements in his design over lesser Yugos.
Even his "chuso" space is different (chuso is the "ox prod" rest in the center of a yugo). I know at least one Boyero in Costa Rica so I'm hoping they will correct any of my suppositions and errors :-)).
Meco knows of Yugos that have probably lasted 100 years. Just ask away on your visit but hurry as this is a last chance to see.
Meco (whose real name is Fernando) learned his trade from his grandfather but has no apprentice interested in making the 2 yugos a month he is now asked for. Last chance to see, don't miss.
AND NOW TO THE FUTURE, YVETTE AND GABRIEL'S EL TOLEDO ORGANIC COFFEE FARM
Further up the hill and around numerous twists and turns is the surprise of my year . . . the delightful El Toledo Organic Coffee farm. Yvette and Gabriel have built a lovely little visitor cafe on the parents coffee finca which has been operated organically for some years.
You'll meet Yvette, Gabriel, Dad and Mom. We have been on a number of coffee tours but none that are able to elucidate the idea of farming in harmony with nature as well as Gabriel does. He also prepares and roasts coffee for a small neighborhood association.
The idea started from something rather pragmatic - Dad was using chemicals on the plantation years back and it was causing him to get ill. The family decided it was time to do something completely different and from then on, organic was the name of the game.
You can find them at the Atenas and Grecia farmers markets if you don't have time to have your mind delightfully bended by this few hours with nature.