Vie quotidienne au pays du café en 5 faits

Fait n°1 : Le café pousse partout, le long des routes, dans les montagnes, dans les jardins, sur les ronds points…et c’est magnifique!

Quelque part entre Santa Maria de Dota et Frailes, dans la région de Tarrazu, Costa Rica.

Même endroit, la café pousse tranquillement à l’ombre des bananiers et autres arbres fruitiers.

Montagnes recouvertes de plantations de café dans un des plus beaux villages du pays, Santa Maria de Dota, 1650 à 1800m d’altitude, Tarrazu, Costa Rica.

Fait n°2: Entre décembre et mars, la saison de la récolte, tôt le matin ou en fin d’après midi, circulent des pickups remplis de gens à l’arrière portant d’étranges chapeaux leur couvrant la nuque et des bottes en caoutchouc. Ce sont les récolteurs de café! Pas de photo, je n’ai pas encore osé les photographier…

Fait n°3: Au bord des routes, presque à chaque kilomètre, il y a comme des petites (ou grandes) cabanes, la plupart du temps en bois, ce sont des “recibidor”, c’est-à-dire des abris pour rassembler la récolte des plantations alentour au fur et à mesure dans la journée.

On voit ici un camion venant délivrer le café ramassé de la matinée ou de l’après-midi. Chaque “recibidor” appartient à un endroit spécifique où le café sera emmené plus tard dans la journée pour être traiter. Ici dans la région de Tarrazu, Costa Rica.

Camion rempli de cerises de café attendant de décharger dans le “récibidor”.

Fait n°4: A la fin de la journée, la circulation peut-être bloquée par les camions qui viennent collecter le café ramassé dans la journée à chaque “recibidor”.

Un “recibidor” se compose de deux ouvertures : une en hauteur pour délivrer le café récolté, une autre en bas pour que la camion qui passe collecter les cerises de café passe en dessous. Il y a comme un tunnel que l’on ouvre pour vider le contenu du “recibidor” dans le camion. Ici à San Gerardo de Rivas, Perez Zeledon, Costa Rica.

Parfois il y a plusieurs ouvertures dans les grands “recibidor” appartenant aux grandes coopératives comme ici à Tarrazu.

Un autre grand “recibidor” appartenant à Coopetarrazu.

Fait n°5: Remarquez les arrêts de bus! Les grandes coopératives ou autres entreprises liées au café sont une source de revenus importante dans les petits villages environnants, parfois la seule. Il est courant qu’ils aident au financement de biens pour la communauté.

Arrêt de bus à San Pablo de Leon Cortez, Tarrazu, Costa Rica.

Un autre dans le village

Un autre exemple, une autre coopérative à Rivas, Perez Zeledon, Costa Rica.

5 daily-life-facts about a coffee growing region

1/ Wherever you go, it is gorgeous and there is coffee absolutely everywhere.

Somewhere between Santa Maria de Dota and Frailes, Tarrazu, Costa Rica.

Same road, coffee growing in the shades of banana trees and other trees.

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Hills covered by coffee trees in the shade of banana trees in one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica, Santa Maria de Dota, 1650-1800m of altitude, Tarrazu, Costa Rica.

 

2/ Between December and March, early in the morning and late in the afternoon you’ll see pickup trucks driving people around with strange hats covering the neck and rubber boots, they are coffee pickers. For some reasons I didn’t dare taking pictures of them.

3/ Along the road, every kilometre or so, you will see (most of the time) little (often wooden) huts. In Spanish they are called “recibidor” and are used to gather the coffee picked in the area.

A truck is delivering the coffee picked so far in the day in a “recibidor” belonging to the mill where the coffee will be brought later on to be processed, here in Tarrazu, Costa Rica.

Truck waiting to deliver coffee at a recibidor, Tarrazu, Costa Rica.

4/ By the end of the day, you won’t be slowed down by traffic jams but by trucks collecting the harvest of the day to bring the coffee cherries to the nearby mill where they will be processed.

A recibidor has 2 openings : the upper one where the coffee is delivered and the lower one where a truck fits underneath to receive the cherries going through a small opening. Here in San Gerardo de Rivas, Costa Rica.

Sometimes there are several openings like this one in Tarrazu, Costa Rica

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Big recibidor from a major cooperative in Tarrazu, Costa Rica.

5/ Check out the bus stops! In small villages where most of the income is made by coffee, cooperatives or mills tend to sponsor public services.

Bus stop in San Pablo de Leon Cortez, Tarrazu, Costa Rica

Another one in the same village.

Other example in Rivas, Perez Zeledon, Costa Rica.

Happy new year’s hike in Cerro Chirripó

If you ever are in Costa Rica, want to escape from mass tourism and be surrounded by nature, you can either help out in coffee farms, or climb the highest mountain of the country. Today I’ll tell you about the latter where I decided to go for New Year’s eve and day 2013.

It is 3820 meters high (12533 feet) and its name is Cerro (mount) Chirripó (meaning “Place of enchanted waters” in the Talamanca Indian language). From the capital city, San José, you need to reach a town called San Isidro del General which is 3 hours away to the south in the Perez Zeledon region. It’s a nice journey and hopefully you will make it through the beautiful Cerro de la muerte (3491m). Once you are in San Isidro, you need to get to San Gerardo de Rivas (a tiny quiet village I fell in love with as soon as I arrived in the country) some 20km away but it will actually take you an hour and a half since most of the road is a path. Once you are there, I would recommend to stay in one of the hotels situated 2km away from the village, so that you feel even more disconnected. Besides they are right next to the entrance of the National Park, which saves you a 2km walk uphill for the big day.

Practical detail (and my only complain about Costa Rica): you need to be a little organized. Since a maximum of 40 persons per day are allowed in the (huge) park, you need to get a permit to enter it and stay at the base camp.  One day in the park will cost you 15$, add to that 10$ for a bed at the Crestones base camp, which you might consider unless walking 40km up and down in a day is an option for you. If you are Costa Rican though, the trip will be a lot cheaper, like any hike in any park in the country. I have been asking many people why such a big difference, and even though everybody will tell you it is unfair, they will also tell you it has always been like that, and it will probably not change by fear of a general rise.

The surrounding nature is stunning. It changes at almost every kilometer. At the beginning of the trail, you walk through tropical rainforest, then cloud forest and then it turns to dry tundra where the sun shines hard since you are not protected by the trees or the clouds anymore.

I won’t describe the hike in details but I can tell you why I enjoyed this hike so much. Even though it is well marked (every kilometer is given a name according to the surrounding landscape), it was quite challenging. On the first day, most people walk 2/3 of the hike to get to the base camp, that is to say 15 km uphill, the first 5 km and the last 2 km being the steepest thus toughest part. You walk from 1500m to more than 3000m, and you definitely feel the altitude oppressing your lungs. The morning after, it’s a 5 km hike to the summit and then many trails around to discover.

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Those perrots were loudly flying around in big groups eating up guavas

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Red punk birds

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km 1, the monkeys! Didn’t see any that day though.

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But there were squirrels

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Upside down bird

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I like those beautiful yellow and black birds

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Big black bird

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Landscape at around 1700m early in the morning

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Unfortunately, no quetzal to be seen that day!

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Old man’s beards!

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Endlessly huge trees

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Bamboos

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Another kind of punk bird

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Couldn’t agree more!

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High trees in the cloud forest

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At that point, you should be sorry you made it

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Mountain flowers

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Lots of lezards

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Almost there!

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View from the summit

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Another panoramic view from the summit

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Don’t forget to write in the book before you walk down!

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Bon voyage!

The apology of slowlitude

I once read on a t-shirt somewhere « the best ideas come while walking ». I just spent 3 days on my own, walking through Costa Rican mountains, I had time to think. A lot of time.

I have been travelling around for four months now and one of the first thing people ask me, even before asking me where I am from or what my name is, is “are you on your own?” It seems to trigger many people’s curiosity to see a woman travelling alone, whether It is in Europe, in the United States or in Costa Rica. When the answer is “yes, I am”, I observe two kinds of reaction. Some people treat me like some sort of super hero, other like a poor lonely thing. That surprises me since I don’t consider myself as one or the other and it gets me thinking.

There are two things that I highly appreciate when travelling alone. One thing is the solitude. I find this word very interesting in English. The notion of time seems crucial to define it, a short-term solitude being a positive thing, while a long-term solitude leads to loneliness. We don’t have that differentiation in French, and “solitude” is used for both solitude and loneliness, and as far as I know, bears negative connotations. So when I went back to my hotel, I googled it. The first hits are about personal development and learning how to love yourself, then comes dating website and forums. Interesting, isn’t it?

The Wikipedia definition of solitude in English says that as far as health is concerned, complete isolation leads to distortions of time and perception. My case is not that bad, but travelling does affect your notion of time. Everybody has experienced loosing tracks of the days of the week while on holiday. That brings me to the second thing I enjoy while travelling, which is taking my time, not jumping from one city/country to another. Many tourists like me go on a Central America tour in a couple of weeks, sometimes a month or more. I considered doing that myself, but quickly forgot about it. I wanted to take it slowly, I like to slow travel (sometimes to the extreme, like living in Norway for four years, still don’t know how that happened!). This is somehow a luxury, since most people don’t have the freedom to take months off to travel (then again, I can argue with that), but as far as I am concerned, I find it extremely frustrating to not have/take the time to get to know a place and its people. You can’t sum up a country and even less a culture in a week time. To me, travelling isn’t about “doing” a country, but actually trying to learn and understand in order to put things in perspective.

That’s how I came up with the idea of slowlitude. What is nicer than taking the time? Taking the time to walk slowly on your own through unknown places and listen to whatever is going on around you, whether it is people chatting in a café or birds flying around you in a forest?  “Freedom is considered to be one of the benefits of solitude” says Wikipedia again, I would say freedom is one of the benefits of slowlitude! Have you experienced that before?

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