My Hiatus— and Costa Rica

By Jamie • Uncategorized • 12 Jan 2013

I have taken quite the break from blogging. It’s been…months. Months of travel, reflection, and journaling. Personal journaling, not on the Balanced Palate.

Funny thing is, I went to Costa Rica during this break. And before I went, I had every intention of blogging while I was there. Writing about the people I met, the new foods I tried, the places I stayed at, the farms I volunteered on… Problem is, being a first time backpacker, I opted against bringing my laptop. Thought it’d be a huge hassle. Now, I can’t say I’d be happier if I had it. But the chances of me blogging would have been higher.

Sometimes though, things just happen for a reason. I had the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Costa Rica with just a camera and a travel journal, and very little connection to the “outside world”. It was actually kind of nice.

Now that I’ve been back for a while, and am getting back to the reality of life, I am ready to start blogging again. About food and sustainability. About my business and experiences at local restaurants. It’s time. But I don’t feel it’d be right if I just got back into that without first writing about my trip to Costa Rica. Because although I didn’t write about it, it’s worthy of a blog post. And a detailed one at that.

So, here goes.

Costa Rica- the Rich Coast, literally. And that, it is. It is simply a mix of beautiful beaches- sitting between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean- mountains, valleys…and all around lushness. Everywhere. Water streaming, greenery, wonderful fruits and vegetables… it’s a paradise really and truly,

My first stop was at Villas Mastatal. It was really the only plan I had before leaving for this trip. Recommended by my friend, Jenna, it is an organic farm that is based in the permaculture farming method. Villas Mastatal, as seen in the photo above, sits way up in the mountains. A small town called Mastatal. It was about a 2 hour ride from Puriscal, up the mountains at sunset in a rickity school bus. The bus ride was an adventure itself, especially not knowing where I was going. And being alone, I had to just trust in myself and my language skills. But, it was well worth the “scary” adventure when morning came and I could look out. Villas Mastatal sits in what they called a cloud forest, and you can see why. If you’re not in a cloud, literally, you can see them, at eye level, floating so “low” you can touch them.

I thought the set up  of this farm was so cool. All open- the sleeping area and the kitchen/ hang out area. Hammocks all over the place, a library to select books. Paradise, really!

The owners of the farm, Javier and Raquel are from Mastatal, and they provided such a local experience. Raquel taught me how to cook Gallo Pinto (pictured later) and empanadas, amongst other things…

I also had the opportunity to work with 2 boys from France and a girl from England.  Besides learning Costa Rica cooking, I got to learn how the French make crepes!
I also had my first go at…well at two things. Using a machete and also opening up a Pipa, or a young coconut. It was… intense. Not easy.

So many layers to get to the water inside, and the “meat”. On these young coconuts, the “meat” was actually…for lack of a better term… blubbery. Not hard and drier like you’d expect. And like the ones seen later on in this post…

I spent about 12 days at Villas Mastatal, then I said adios, and made my way to Manuel Antonio. That was the place I decided would be best based on location and things I read in my VERY HELPFUL guidebook, Lonely Planet. Thank god for Lonely Planet! I stayed at Vista Serena. It was about $10/day, and I LOVED it there. Loved.

Look at this view from the balcony! 

They also served coffee and “breakfast” every morning. Well, it was free fresh bread and jam/butter…but you could order breakfast from a pretty good and cheap menu. And the chefs were awesome! It’s always a plus to have this option. Especially when the view is this good.

One thing I did in Manuel Antonio was kayak in the Mangrove Forest.

My tour guide, Jason, and I picked up some fresh fruit before heading out. He cut it open and we ate it in this beautiful location…

He was great at pointing things out, especially these tiger faced crabs!After working up an appetite, Jason took me for lunch where I enjoyed my first of many Casados. A Casado is a typical meal in Costa Rica and it includes…a lot. Some sort of meat (I got fish), salad, rice/beans, fried plantains, and a drink. So good. In Costa Rica, mayonaise is a regular condiment.

This is at the beach in Manuel Antonio. I think this is what heaven must look like…

I loved Manuel Antionio because there were so many monkeys..just everywhere! Like here, just on the beach. Crazy!

After 5 incredible days there, I headed for La Fortuna/ El Castillo. To see the volcano and Lake Arenal.On my one day in the town of La Fortuna, which was pretty touristy, I woke up early and headed for a desayuno tipico- a typical breakfast. Which, like a Casado, is cheap and filling. Below is gallo pinto- which is rice and beans pretty much- tortillas, eggs, and plantains. And black coffee. Yum.
A perfect and necessary fuel for the trek I did to this beautiful waterfall…I made my way up to El Castillo. A small town that I was recommended by some friends I made at Vista Serena. They said that since I love cooking , I NEEDED to stay at this hostel called Essence Arenal. That’s why I love traveling this way. Without a plan and only with a backpack. I am able to pick up and listen to suggestions. Essence Arenal sits right on Lake Arenal. It’s this beautiful hostel on an organic farm. The best part is that a chef, Chef Ronny, cooks 3 course, organic, DELICIOUS meals every night for only $14/person. Wow. And you get to enjoy the meal in an intimate setting with other hostel guests. I also got my own “tent” there and ate like a queen for 4 nights. Plus, Ronny teaches you something about the meal every night. It was truly awesome. I almost returned there later in my trip…Next I made my way to the Caribbean  Two boys from Amsterdam at Essence were driving there, and instead of taking the bus as usual, I hitched a ride. So much easier, and pretty fun to navigate. I stayed at Pagalu hostel for 4 nights. Again, such a great hostel. I loved the people and the fact that there was a kitchen to cook in. Makes it easy to budget when you can shop and cook with friends.

Puerto Viejo was all about the beach cruisers and beaches in general.

I loved the Caribbean vibes! The people are WAY different than on the Pacific, as is the food. So much coconut milk, ginger, etc. Delicious.

I headed to Punta Mona which is still in the Caribbean, but far more remote. You can only get there by horse, kayak, or foot. I went with a friend I met to volunteer on this organic farm. I absolutely had the greatest time here. It’s also permaculture based, but in a much bigger way. It’s actually an experiment in fully sustainable living. Completely off the grid.
To fall asleep to the sounds of waves and jungle animals, and sometimes heavy rains, is a dream. Not to mention the sights of a basically private beach daily…

The kitchen they had was also incredible. Fully stocked with healthy ingredients plus the local harvest from the land… this is my paradise no doubt. I got to try sooooo many cool fruits. Like Soursop and this one, a biribiri???Every morning started with making coffee and grinding coconut meat to make ginger coconut oatmeal or pancakes. I mean, come on. Can a morning be better than that?

Even the eggs were so healthy and fresh from the ducks and chickens that free ranged the property.

Check out this cocoa bean. Beautiful! This is the first step in chocolate…

I learned so much at Punta Mona, I should write a whole separate post on it…

Lastly I made my way to Montezuma…

I got to check our their farmers market where some friends and  I purchased some veggies and fruit that lasted us our stay there. This town was a surf and yoga town, populated mostly by US Ex-Pats. Definitely no local vibes, but, so great and fun nonetheless.I stayed at Luz en el Cielo. Again, loved it. Met some awesome people. And while I didn’t want to leave Punta Mona, I was so happy I ended my trip in this chill town. Let’s just say my last morning was spent doing sunrise yoga on the beach. Can’t beat that…I am so happy I allowed myself this 6 week trip alone. I had the best time, and… I can’t wait for my next adventure.

Now, back to blogging…

One Response

  1. Pingback: balanced palate » Blog Archive » Puerto Viejo

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