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Broken News

Rumble Talk

Fútbol-It's In
The Blood
!

Barrio Amón

Riding the Cat

What's In A Word

ROMEO Corner

Archived Editions

Topical Archives

Restaurant Archives


In This Issue:

  1. Broken News (Nica Canal Happenings, GMO Guts Greenhouse Gases, New Miss Costa Rica, The Bombero Boys, Quepos Quickies - Landing Fees Investigated, Mangos and Mamones Month
  2. Rumble Talk (Shaky Happenings On or About the Pacific Rim)
  3. Feature: Fútbol (Forget the FIFA Problems, It's in the Blood!)
  4. Feature: Off the Tourist Trail in San José (Walking Through Barrio Amón)
  5. Feature: Riding the Cat (Cruising the Quepos-Manuel Antonio Shoreline)
  6. What's-in-a-Word (Mejenga, Bombero)
  7. ROMEO Corner (Gabriella's - Quepos)

Wisdom of the Ages


Broken News
(All the News That's Fit to Reprint)

Nica Canal Happenings

As new roads continue to be gouged out of the Nicaraguan countryside for the purpose of allowing transport of the heavy equipment that will begin the construction of the new Nicaraguan Atlantic-Pacific canal, opposition to the project continues to heat up. The line in red on the map to the left is the currently planned route.

This time the focus is on environmental concerns. The new canal, which is projected to be much longer (167 miles, of which 63 is through Lake Nicaragua), is also wider and deeper than the Panama Canal which is only 51 miles long.

The Chinese company heading the project estimates that "only" 7,000 families or 29,000 people will need to be relocated. But according to environmentalists opposed to the great ditch, the current plan is expected to destroy a large number of small communities along the route, maybe as many as 300. Nicaraguan opposition leader Octavio Ortega Arana (no relation to president Daniel Ortega) says it's more like 119,000 people in and around those 300 communities that will need to be relocated.

Lake Nicaragua With
Ometepe Island in the Center

Lake Nicaragua (right, indicated by its official name, Lago Cocibolca, on the map above) is the single largest source of fresh water in Central America and the major contributor to the underground aquifer that supplies both Nicaragua and Costa Rica drinking water. Some scientists are very concerned that digging up the long channel that is planned across the lake and operating 5,000 ships a year through that channel will disturb the lake in a major way and inevitably have a seriously negative effect on the quality of the water as well as exhaust a lot of marine life to the point of extinction. Costa Rica, obviously, is also very concerned.

The current and likely future president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, with his position now essentially a lifetime job as a result of his getting the constitution changed two years ago, is adamant about completing the project. How will he pay for a project that costs five times the total gross domestic product of the country? (By comparison this would be equivalent to the U.S. pursuing a public works program of 85 trillion dollars) No problem, the Chinese will finance it, and they don't seem to be nervous at this point that the original estimate was $30 billion, then last year it became $40 billion and this year it's $50 billion. By the end of 2019, the target opening date, will it likely be $100 billion? Many expect it will.

Hell, you might be able to buy all of Nicaragua for that price....hmmm, is that what the Chinese might be thinking? And does that make it a hemispheric issue amigos?

For a complete history of this story, go here:

Danny's Ditch - Edition 48-August 2012
The Chino-Nica Ditch - Edition 51-November 2012
Nica Canal Update - Edition 59-July 2013
Contentious Canals - Edition 74-October 2014

More Nica Ditch Drama - Edition 77-January 2015
Ditch Drama Continues - Edition 80-April 2015

GMO Guts Greenhouse Gasses

There is much talk about the purported danger of genetically modified organisms (GMO) these days, much of it unsubstantiated by anybody's science or experience. Now comes a report that one type of GMO, when applied to rice, may help reduce methane emissions, the second most significant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. That makes it an interesting trade-off for the greenies to ponder.

Cultivation of rice, which is on the increase in the world because of bourgeoning population, accounts for 12% of worldwide methane production from all sources (the number one source is from wetlands , 22%, and the second from burning fossil fuels, 19%).

After more than a decade of research by U.S., Swedish and Chinese scientists, a genetically modified rice has been developed which reduces methane production from cultivation paddies to almost zero. An implanted twist in the DNA suppresses the rice plant from generating methane in the growing field. In addition, the new strain has a higher starch content which is important to improving the nutritional and caloric value of the rice as a foodstuff. The new rice is shown in the photo above; the GMO version is to the right while a standard variety is on the left. See any difference; I don't.

Rice is an important staple in Central America and Costa Rica, as well as being a major source of nutrition in many other parts of the world. We have many rice fields here in central-south Costa Rica. Just drive the main route from Quepos to Jacó, about 45 miles, and look right and left, you will see many fields like the one in the photo to the right.

You may at first think that many of those beautiful bright green areas you see are actually pastures but many of them are rice fields (those are the ones without the cattle. The heavy annual rainfall here also aids in good rice production without the need for much added irrigation. Despite a good local production, the demand for rice in Costa Rica is such that about half of the demand is imported and much of that is from the U.S.

New Miss Costa Rica

A young lady named Brenda Castro (no relation to the Fidel clan), who hails from Guapiles, has become the new Miss Costa Rica.

Guapiles is 46 kilometers northeast of San José as the Google parrot flies and 137 klicks in your Toyota RAV4. The driving time between the two is estimated at three hours and fifty minutes or an average of 36 kph (22 mph). Aaah, such is Costa Rica, mis amigos, never use the scale on the map or the Google measuring stick to measure distance and always figure the time required as 2-3 times that of U.S. highway standards.

Guapiles is in Limón province so Ms. Castro is considered to come from the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Wherever she comes from, this girl is one stunningly beautiful miss (see photo left). Brenda is a 23-year old university student majoring in psychology (I'm ready for the couch, kid). There's not enough space here to show the eight runners up to Brenda but believe me, as a group they're enough to give even a gilded dinosaur like myself a psychosis.

One disappointing note. Normally Miss Costa Rica is automatically a contender for the Miss Universe title but this year Costa Rica, like a number of latino countries, has opted out of the pageant in protest of one Donald Trump's intemperate and provoking remarks about Mexicans. Donald owns the pageant franchise.

Whether that controversy gets resolved or not in time to let Brenda illuminate the world stage is yet to be seen.

The Bombero Boys

While the beauties were battling it out to become Miss Costa Rica, the Costa Rican Bomberos (firemen) were posing for their New Year's calendar (photo right). Nothing but a shameless display of tight pecs and washboard stomachs (yes, I'm jealous).

The calendar is put out each year, kinda like the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition only with our firefighters featured and no swimsuits. The calendars cost 5,000 colones (less than $10) and the funds raised go to support the Hospital Nacional de Niños (National Children's Hospital) burn unit . Good work, you shameless showoffs.

OK ladies, before you start calling the fire department to report a blaze in your kitchen that you probably and purposefully caused yourself, remember that the 14 guys above were selected for the calendar shoot from all over Costa Rica.

A random call may get a response from more typical firefighters like the dudes to the left who seem to be aiding in one of those firefighter specialties, getting a cat down from a tree. I'm sure they're really nice guys but I doubt you'll want to see the shirtless version of these bomberos.

Quepos Quickies

Landing Fees Investigated. Most people are aware that departing Costa Rica by air requires a $29 departure tax that needs to be paid before you check in at any of the international departure points in Ticoland including the biggest one, Juan Santamaria Airport in Alejuela that services the central valley.

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Terminal at La Managua Airport
sed
Traffic on the Flight line at
Greater Quepos International

It's not that other countries don't charge a departure tax, they do, but in other places it's hidden in the price of the ticket. A few years ago some local airport authorities, Quepos included, decided on their own (at the local Airport Directors Coffee Club annual get together perhaps?) that regional airports would charge a departure charge, in addition to the tax at the international airports, even on domestic flights..

The Quepos regional airport is called La Managua, which is the name of the area in which it is located. It's about four miles from the city center just south of the hospital. At La Managua, the amount was set at $7 per person, even if you are only taking the 20 minute hop to San José. Later it was changed to a $3 landing fee and $3 departure tax, for a total of $6 round trip.

Several other regional airports in Costa Rica are doing the same thing including La Fortuna ($7 each way) and Tambor ($2.30 - don't ask how this number was arrived at except I note that it's very close to 1,200 colones and I'm sure they won't accept 30 centavos U.S., as U.S. coins are frowned upon here).

For a family of four, it begins to add up - at Arenal it would be $48 per round trip over and above airfare and the international departure tax ($116 for four people).

It turned out that these local entrepreneurial airport authorities didn't bother to check with the Dirección General de Aviation Civil (DGAC), the national government authority that supposedly is responsible for setting these fees. The press recently reported that the local departure taxes have been "under investigation" by the DGAC since 2014.

It would be nice if the Chronicles could report a resolution of the issue but, in the tranquilo pace of Costa Rican jurisprudence, it will take more time to ferret out the appropriate bureaucratic decision. Stay tuned and have your $3 ready if you land at or depart from La Managua.

Mangos and Mamones Month. In certain months here (during U.S. summer such as June and July) some fruits become scarce, such as mangos and mamones. August brings a return to both mangos and mamones in abundance. Mangos are prolific here and. while they don't usually disappear completely, their quality drops significantly. Chopped mango, along with chopped pineapple, papaya, dates and raisins or craisins, smothered in liquid mixed-fruit yogurt has become a favorite breakfast of GG's (GG = the Golden Gringo, me).

Billed in the Press as the
“Fruit That 'Destroys' Diabetes”

Mamones, also known here as mamon chino or lychees, are a peculiar looking fruit covered by a somewhat soft, rubbery and hairy case (photo right). They are orange to deep red in color when ripe and each fruit is only about two inches in diameter before peeling. The sweet, translucent flesh surrounds and is stuck to a large nut. To enjoy the fruit as the locals do, one cracks and separates the shell in a twisting motion and then sucks out the fruit and chews the flesh off the nut, discarding the case and the nut. Great fun and they're sweet..

In recent months, GG has seen a number of commercial advertisements at the bottom of daily electronic newspapers with the picture and caption as shown to the right. They claim benefits for the fruit including "destroying" diabetes, both Type I and II (me). I clicked on the picture and was treated to a half hour harangue about how I was going to be told about a miracle cure.

But was never told - instead I was encouraged to order the cure, not for $299, not for $199, not for $99 or even $69 but for only $39.95. Hell, I think I'll just keep eating mamones because I like the taste; if they also help the medication I take to fight diabetes so much the better.

For more on mamones go here: A Curious Beloved Fruit.


Rumble Talk
(Shaky Happenings On or About the Pacific Rim)

Cotopaxi Erupting

Costa Rica continues to provide very little news on the earthquake front; no significant shaking to report. This past month we've had a few brief flutters in the 2.0 to 4.5 range but nothing producing damage or injuries.

The greater action was in Ecuador where volcano Cotopaxi, some 50 kilometers/30 miles south of the capital Quito, dormant for almost 75 years, caused local evacuations and dropped ash all the way up to and including parts of Quito.

The real environmental/weather news in Costa Rica for the last several months has been an extraordinary amount of rain that's occurred in the northeast and caribbean coast over the last three months. While people in our central Pacific coastal region perceive the rainfall here as rather light so far this year, northeast of San José there has been a continuing deluge. The following stats were put out recently after just one storm (some refer to it as a weather wave that comes in from the Caribbean):

Bridge Washout in Limón Province

• 1,585 homes flooded
• 745 persons in shelters
• 18 schools flooded
• 23 roadways damaged
• 11 bridges damaged
• seven dikes breached
• three water lines out of service

Recently, the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional released statistics that showed that the Turrialba volcano area received more than a meter of rain in June. That's almost 40 inches. This was the location with the greatest accumulation for the month. In just three days, June 26 to 28, the community received 406 millimeters, about 16 inches, according to the weather institute's report.

Maybe that's what cooled down Turrialba from its recent spate of eruptions? Probably not, but one professor at a Florida university has a theory that major earthquakes follow major rain events within four years. And GG can testify that the second greatest earthquake in Costa Rican history, the Nicoya shaker on September 5, 2012 followed the very major rain events of 2010. Coincidence?

If the professor is right in his theory, you folks around Turrialba. better hold on.

Check Out Recent Earthquakes Around the World
Posted by the U.S. Geodetic Survey:
 Today's Quakes

Fútbol
(Forget the FIFA Problems, It's In the Blood!)

While the FIFA controversy plays out (see FIFA Flim Flam), the game as it's played locally and amongst the 209 professional teams spread across the FIFA world landscape, continues without pause. Fútbol is in the blood, amigos, it's in the blood!

Training Starts Early
Your Basic Hockey Pick-Up Game
A Beach Mejenga

There is nothing more natural and pleasant to watch than a kid, perhaps barely able to walk, easily learning how to kick a ball. It's a natural movement and, in the world of little people, it's as fun as it gets. Fútbol (this is the standard term worldwide, not soccer) can easily be played barefoot on a grassy plain or at the beach or on a hard surface with the only accoutrement required being one ball. Not needed are gloves, bats, or fancy equipment, although on real or artificial grass surfaces, many opt for special shoes similar to golf shoes. And most play without protective equipment with the possible exception of plastic shin guards stuffed into their socks.

The simplicity of what's required to play the game, basically just a pelota (ball), makes it more easily adaptable and affordable in the less affluent parts of the world where, let's say for example, hockey would be prohibitively expensive. In his yoot, GG did play hockey in his home town (Newburyport, MA - pop. 17,800) after school and on weekends in the wintertime on a pond or a field that had been flooded by the good men of the fire department and which was subsequently frozen solid by the good mother nature. For those pick-up games we used only shoes for goal markers but it still required rather expensive ice skates and hockey sticks (masks or helmets were rare back then).

In fútbol, a pick-up game is called a mejenga (mah-heng-ah). You will see them everywhere, in the neighborhoods, anywhere there is a sizeable grass area and even on the beach. At the beach, conch shells or sticks stuck into the sand are preferable to shoes for goal posts. An adjustment in kicking style may be necessary when the ocean wets down the ball but the fun continues.

Aaron Gibson,
Detroit Lions 386 lbs, 6'6"
Cristiano Ronaldo - Real Madrid, 6'1", 176 lbs
Lionel (Leo) Messi - FC Barcelona, 5'7", 148 lbs

I've been watching local fútbol in my barrio now for almost seven years. One of the things I've come to like about this type of ball game, as opposed to north american football for example, is that a smaller player is not necessarily at a disadvantage by being small. In fact they are often faster and more elusive compared to their heavier counterparts. It's all about running and passing, not about crushing into each other, at least not purposefully.

In football, the number of players in the NFL weighing in at over three hundred pounds has accelerated dramatically in the last 20 years and now exceeds 400. Four hundred players at 325 lbs each is equal to 65 tons of flesh coming at you. Aaron Gibson (photo left) holds the record weigh-in at 386 lbs. If I saw him coming at me I'd decline playing and run the other way which I'm sure is the idea - intimidation. I gotta believe also that all that weight is not very healthy for the player in the long run.

By contrast, check out the two top paid FIFA players (photos also left) - Cristiano Ronaldo of the Real Madrid team at 6'1", 176 lbs and Leo Messi of FC Barcelona at 5'7" and 148 lbs. All that running produces rather strong, healthy bodies wouldn't you say?

Remember, the fútbol game consists of two 45 minute periods (2-30's for indoor) separated by a 15 minute break (5 for indoor) with a lot of running and no time outs. The only break in the action occurs for a "falta" (foul) and then only for a few seconds. An injury will also cause a brief stoppage but the clock keeps running. They might also pause briefly for someone to tie their shoelace, considering it a safety concern. The referee can and often does extend each of the two periods by a few minutes if he feels that the teams have been shorted by delays.

Other than the short interruptions mentioned, the players on the field keep running for the full 90 minutes of play. The field for (professional) fútbol is approximately 50% greater in area (115 yards by 75 yards) than an NFL football field (100 yards by 53.3 yards) - that's a lot of area to cover for a long time. Substitutions do occur in fútbol but not nearly with the frequency of football.

While fútbol is not designed to be a contact sport, having 22 men running around a grassy field willy-nilly with minimal body protection almost continuously for 90 minutes does result in collisions, and injuries do occur. As the sport has become more popular among kids in the States, more effort is being expended on what kinds of injuries will cause what problems for them in the future. Will this result in more protective equipment? Perhaps, for young people, but because of the nature of the game it's quite unlikely that helmets will catch on for professional games (I can't see players doing a "cabezazo" - a header, in a helmut).

Playing on the Barrio L. A. Outdoor Field (That's the Indoor Fútsal in the Background)

In the Quepos/Manuel Antonio region, (i.e., Quepos/Manuel-Antonio plus Inmaculada and Paquita-Damas), an area with a population of only 7-12,000 depending on who's counting and who's being counted, there are at least three indoor fútbol arenas (the one in Barrio Boca Vieja is reportedly larger and permits games with 7 players on a team). There are also at least a half dozen public outdoor fútbol fields in the area. There is plenty of opportunity for a kid from Quepos to grow up playing fútbol indoors, outdoors or both and they can easily find a game within walking distance of their home.

 
A Typical Evening Game
at the Barrio L.A. Futsal (1 min)

In my neighborhood, Barrio Los Angeles, we have a field just a block away from my apartment which the local kids are always using for mejengas and which periodically is home to more organized teams and games. Adjacent to the outdoor field is a fútsal, an indoor arena which I visit frequently in the evening during my after-dinner walk for half a game or sometimes for the whole hour if the action is good.

At the fútsal one constantly runs into neighbors, initiating a barrage of "Como le va's?, Todo bien's? and ¡Pura Vida!'s" or, if the action is too mesmerizing, maybe just a few fist bumps will do as a greeting on the way to the bleachers.

The video to the left is a clip of a typical game at the Futsal, complete with cheering fans and screaming small kids in the background. The fútsal is a great place to meet your neighbors. I got on the bus the other day at the Quepos central station and just in front of me was a rather small lady, who I would guesstimate is in her thirties. I recognized her and she did me - she plays on a ladies team on Wednesday nights (and has a hell of a kick I might add).

Playing on a Blue, Hard Surface in La Sabana Park - San José

Once you've been bit by the fútbol bug it stays with you, I was in San José a few weeks ago and found myself walking along the city's very large park called La Sabana (this park is so large it also contains the national fútbol stadium). I noticed a hard, blue surface with a bunch of kids playing on it and, at first, I thought it was a basketball court but, oh no, it was in fact a fútbol field with an asphalt top.

Doesn't matter what the surface is amigo, you got a pelota with you?

Let's have a mejenga.

¡Solo Bueno!  

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Off the Tourist Trail in San José
(Walking Through Barrio Amón)

NEW: Listen while you're driving to work!
Click HERE for talking version of this article.

Last month I mentioned having an excellent ceviche lunch in the heart of San José (see Delfines con Amor) with a friend who writes and publishes an English walking guide of the city. Mike Miller is his name and after lunch he offered to give me a personal tour of a nearby section of our capital city. How could I refuse? After lunch we headed out on foot for Barrio Amón on the north-central side of Chepe (Chepe is a nickname in Spanish for Joseph so the town itself is often called Chepe; after all, it is San José).

Don't know about you amigos, but San José has always been a little confusing to me with odd and even numbered streets separated on opposing sides by a Calle Central and odd and even numbered avenues separated by an Avenida Central. Actually it's simpler than it seems at first because the town is laid out roughly on an east-west, north-south grid system. Odd numbered streets run east of Calle Central while even numbered ones go west. Odd numbered avenues run north of Avenida Central and even numbered ones run south.

I have always considered the Teatro Nacional with its accompanying Plaza de la Cultura as dead center of the city for orientation purposes, although in reality the intersection of Calle Central with Avenida Central would mostly likely be the official center and is located several blocks away from the Teatro. Whatever floats your compass needle will work amigos. And, thankfully, these days most of the streets and avenues are actually labeled (if they are not yet numbered - that's coming say the pols).

If you exit the Teatro from its main entrance (I diverge here to tell you that the restaurant inside the Teatro is another good lunch place called the Alma de Cafe), you will be facing west and, obviously, that means behind you is east. If you then turn right on Calle 3 you will be proceeding north and if you continue to Avenidas 9 or 11 and turn right you will be in the heart of Barrio Amón (see map right). From the Teatro that's only about five or six blocks, an easy walk; part of Calle 3 along this route is a walking street.

As we set out that day for my personal tour of the city, we immediately passed an outdoor display shown in the photo left. In the Plaza de la Cultura next to the Teatro was an exhibit of oversized ladies shoes that had been decorated by local artists and sponsored by businesses and organizations from around the city. Anyway, I got a kick out of it (sorry, I can't refuse the puns). Seems like there is always something happening at Plaza de la Cultura.

GG has been coming to San José since 2003 but I have to confess that I have not been diligent in learning more about the town. I've treated it as a place to come for the things I can't get in Quepos or a stop to and from the airport, and it definitely is that, but it's much more as Mike was about to show me.

Mora's Books (mm)
Galleria Namu (mm)

He made a point of taking me into a couple of shops along the way, places well known among the locals. One of these, Mora's Book Store has an amazing inventory of used English books. The other shop, Galleria Namu, has the most extensive collection I've ever seen of indigenous, ceremonial masks that have been a tradition among the indiginas in Costa Rica (indiginas is a Spanish word for indigenous people which is a better term than indians).

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Hotel Don Carlos (mm)
Castillo de Moro
Hand Painted Tile Depictions
Restaurant Cafetal de la Luz

Barrio Amón is a residential neighborhood that was home to many of the coffee barons of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In fact at that time, much of the area was actually the growing land for coffee plantations. The barrio is still peppered with grand, turn-of-the-19th-century homes that have now been renovated and converted into boutique hotels and B&B's.

We stopped in one of those hotels, the Don Carlos (right and left), to get a look at the interior because, as Mike pointed out, the place is filled with art. In this converted mansion (actually three mansions together), like many of the upscale homes of that period, you can find courtyards and gardens in the middle of the building that are quite charming and many of them are strewn with various and sundry pieces of art.

Just walking around Barrio Amón is a treat. Suddenly you may come across an old castle like Castillo de Moro (right), which was actually someone's home less than 100 years ago and which is now an historical landmark and restaurant. Designed in the Catalan Mujadin style, it has details, forms and gargoyles similar to La Alhambra in Spain.

Hemingway Inn (mm)

Turn almost any corner in Barrio Amón and you will come across an interesting building, like the Hemingway Inn (left). This is another boutique hotel that is a converted coffee baron mansion, in this case dating back to 1920. The Hemingway theme is carried throughout the hotel and its 17 guest rooms.

While walking through the neighborhood, Michael pointed out a number of hand painted tiles inlaid in various walls. example right. These beautiful, colorful tiles show various scenes of life in Costa Rica - the one to the right depicts sellers in the open market place or mercado.

Or maybe you could stop at the Cafetal de la Luz Restaurant. The name comes from the fact that Barrio Amón was the site of the first electric power plant in the country which was constructed there to service the coffee plantations. Cafetal means "coffee growing land" or plantation and this restaurant was built on one of those cafetals near the power plant. And luz means light, hence, Cafetal de la Luz..

Barrio Amón is definitely a neighborhood worth seeing for anyone interested in the history of San José or if you just want to get off the well beaten tourist path and explore a charming section of our capital city. Mike tells me that if you do a little shopping online you can find rooms in some of the interesting properties here for as little as $50-60 per night.

I want to thank Michael Miller, not only for my personal tour but also for providing some of the pictures above (the ones identified by "mm"). I can heartily recommend his guidebook, The Real San Jose and you may also want to explore his website at www.therealsanjose.com. Thanks Mike.

¡Pura Vida! 

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Riding the Cat
(Cruising the Quepos-Manuel Antonio Shoreline)

The Ocean King Catamaran
The O.K. from the rear. The slides are great fun for the kids.

One of the more popular tourist diversions in our area is a boat tour of the shoreline north and south of Quepos. The rugged Pacific shoreline of Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful GG has ever seen and several companies offer either catamaran or sailboat tours of the area leaving from the Quepos marina.

So when a friend called recently and said he had an extra ticket to a half day catamaran tour leaving from Quepos and would I like to join him, I jumped at it. This was the fourth time I've been on a boat tour here (there were two other catamaran day tours and a sailboat sunset tour) and I've never failed to enjoy them, free or not.

We left the main Quepos dock at Marina Pez Vela at 9 AM aboard the Ocean King, a modern cat which bills itself as the largest catamaran operating in the area. Between the two decks that offered seating and the trampoline-like net in the rear deck area, it looked like the cat could easily handle 100 passengers, but we had only about 20 since it was the middle of the low season.

Our first stop was slightly north of the port as the captain spotted some dolphins and we putt-putted (a nautical term for slow motoring) into the middle of them for a better look. After a while we turned and headed south and some of the dolphins followed us, weaving in and out of our wake, racing at our bow and often diving below the boat. Flipper looked like he was having as much fun as the tourists (watch out for the props, my fishy amigos).

Near Quepos Point
(Punta Quepos)
Want Your Own Personal Beach?

The rainforest jungle here comes right down to the ocean and often terminates in cliffs, bluffs and some starkly barren and beautiful beaches. In addition, there are many rock islands that dot the waters off the coast and the shoreline along Manuel Antonio is no exception (for a complete list of the islands as seen from the MA main beach see Manuel Antonio Rocks!).

The islands we passed were uninhabited except for sea birds and were virtually impassable to anybody wanting to land on them with a boat or even a helicopter. The terrain is so rough and rocky, and the sea so violent at the base, that attempting to land on the islands is very dangerous. That makes it easy for the Costa Rican authorities to enforce the ban on visiting them as the islands are protected conservation areas by law and not open to humans.

We ended up, at our most southern point, near Punta Catedral (Cathedral Point in Manuel Antonio National Park). Talk about sheer cliffs. It's equally impressive walking up to the edge of it at the top when visiting the park. After floating around for a short time, to allow people to snap photos, we headed back up the coast.

Playa Biesanz from the Shore

After passing by Punta Quepos again, we headed into a cove that is near Playa Biesanz, one of our hidden beaches that is a fairly difficult place to find by land. Passengers were encouraged to snorkel and/or use the large slides for fun. A couple of the more adventurous started to jump off the top deck but that brought immediate frowns from the staff. One young lady managed to drop her camera-on-a-stick into 8 meters of water. One of the cat staff dudes jumped in with only a snorkel mask (and swimsuit of course - it wasn't that kind of a cruise) and retrieved the camera despite the water being a bit murky at the bottom.

During the stay in the cove we were served a platter of fried fish accompanied by the three starches on one plate in conformance with what apparently is required by law in Tico cuisine. Nevertheless, it was fresh, tasty, nutritious and a lot of fun. We were notified on our departure from the marina that we were entitled to a total of 8 free drinks during our cruise including beer and rum mixtures (where were these people when I was imbibing?). Being prudent, I cut myself off after three glasses of mango juice.

We arrived back at the marina about 12:30, blood pressure down by 20 points, and slightly groggy from the salt air, wind, sun and mango juice. My travel companion and I looked at each other and, without saying anything, we both knew a nap would be called for that afternoon.

A tourist or visitor should not miss taking a ride like this when coming here, and residents need to do it occasionally also to remember how lucky we are to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.

¡Solo Bueno! 

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Travel Quote of the Month

From a Southwest Airlines employee....

"Welcome aboard Southwest Flight XXX to YYY. To operate your seatbelt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seatbelt and if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised.

In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with two small children, decide now which one you love more."

 


What's-in-a-Word

Mejenga (mah-hen-gah)

In English, "street soccer", in Spanish "fútbol callejero". Basically just an impromptu pick-up game.

Bombero

A firefighter. A female firefighter would be a bombera. A bomba is a pump and firefighters are pumpers. A bombero is also the term used for a gas station attendant that pumps gas into your car. 

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ROMEO Corner
(Retired Old Men Eating Out)

Gabriella's - Quepos

Location: Marina Pez Vela, Main Building, 3rd Floor
Hours: 11 AM to 10 PM daily
Parking: Plentiful as part of the marina.
Contact: Tel.: 2774-9000; Email: N/A; Website: N/A

Reviewing ROMEOS: Brian M., Bob N.

To Review Our Rating System and Procedure, go here: R.O.M.E.O. Rating System

This is a new restaurant and a sister to Victoria's in Manuel Antonio.

The main advantage of this restaurant, atmosphere wise, is obvious when you first sit down; it's the view. It overlooks the marina from its high perch on top of the building and the yachts and Pacific Ocean beyond. We arrived at 5:30 PM and caught the stunning sunset (i.e., it was a clear day). It's hard to feel anything but gratitude when you watch the sunsets in this area and the third floor dining room at Gabriella's gets a splendiferous angle on the setting sun.

The restaurant itself is rather sleek and modern. There is very little in the way of decoration but it's well lit and the chairs are padded for comfort (lighting and seating comfort is important to us old dinosaurs). The "mesas tipicas" (local wood tables - I made that term up) only had place mats and a small candle of the floating type. The place is sleek, modern and, what we would learn later, was also an efficient restaurant when it came to the kitchen and service. For atmosphere we give Gabriella's four sloths.

What Gabriella's is about is the food. The menu fits their sleek, efficient model; one page, two sides, laminated but it contained a good selection of steaks, seafood and pasta nonetheless, just like their sign above says.

My dining partner ordered a shrimp dish that consisted of fresh plump shrimp deep fried in a light batter with a spicy tomato cream sauce. We shared the shrimp dish and it was excellent.

One menu item stood out in particular: the steak section boasted U.S.D.A. (choice or prime I don't recall). My dining partner ordered a filet and shared a piece with me. It was served with steak fries and broccoli. We agreed it was the best, most tender beef we've yet tried in Costa Rica reminiscent of a good U.S. steakhouse. I had a penne pasta with (huge, tender) shrimp and mildly spice italian sausage in white sauce - excellent.

For dessert I ordered a cheesecake that we shared: fresh, creamy and delicious. For food quality and presentation we give Gabriella's five sloths.

$$$$$
Value Index = 100

Our waiter was very friendly, very polite, efficient and attentive. I must say also that the kitchen, easily visible from out table was quite efficient at getting out the meals quickly, at the same time for the both of us, and well presented. Again, five sloths for service and that gives the restaurant overall five sloths for atmosphere, food quality and service.

Since we shared appetizer and dessert, in essence we both had two courses. The total bill for the two of us came to about 52,000 colones (just over $98 at current the conversion rate). So it's fully priced and we'd have to give Gabriella's our highest cost rating of five $ (I joked to Brian that this was now our standard for a 5$ in the area and we'll need to compare others to it). Five sloths divided by five dollars gives Gabriella's a value index of 5/5x100 = 100.

So, if you want to enjoy some really good food in a very pleasant atmosphere, try Gabriella's; just bring a bunch of colones with you.


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Amazon link: GGC, the Book. (Kindle Edition available)

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