Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Girl About Central America

Ardent spirits sent from heaven,
Whoa! You batter me and thrill me

Knock me to my knees and kill me
I don't care! It's you I'm drinking.

The above are translated lyrics from a song they sing in Costa Rica called "De la Caña se Hace El guaro" which loosely translates to "From the cane, they make the moonshine". The name "Guaro" came from Costa Rica, and was adopted by the rest of Central America and the South. Colombia calls it Aguardiente. Sometimes guaro is referred to as a "soft vodka" because it has a lower alcohol content than vodka. In Costa Rica, the government nationalized its manufacture in an effort to quell the clandestine production of liquor. The "Fabrica Nacional de Licores" (National Liquor Factory) was founded for this reason, and currently produces the only legal brand, Cacique Guaro. (via Wikipedia)

Jeff and I booked a 10-day tour of Costa Rica for our honeymoon. We ended up booking it through AAA, but the agency that ran the tour was Trafalgar. I will start this entry out by saying that I am NOT posting this with any endorsement/compensation coming from any of the companies I happen to mention.

There were far too many great things that we did/saw for me to chronicle here, but my main point of this particular entry is to share with all of you how absolutely awesome it was to take a tour like this. We jokingly wondered if we'd get stuck on a bus with 50 people too old or infirmed to want to do much more than while away the days in a rocking chair overlooking the ocean. What actually happened, is that we saw many aspects of Costa Rica, experienced local food, culture and activities, AND made about 50 new friends of all ages.

We went rafting with all sorts of people in Sarapiqui!

We slept close to an active volcano, in Arenal.

We ate rice and beans (gallo pinto) a LOT.

We got to play in the ocean.

If you're curious about the rest of our photos, check out my Flickr page as well as Jeff's.
We experienced Costa Rica the way I think everyone should - we saw the city, the countryside, the hot and humid rainforests, and the cool and misty mountains. Taking a tour like we did was ideal - we did not have to plan anything and were only responsible for a few meals on our own. Tamarindo (pictured above) was the only time we were on our own, with no guides at all, and we did just fine.

And we also drank guaro. Interestingly enough the label on the Cacique Guaro tells you to destroy the label immediately after drinking - presumably so someone doesn't fill up the bottle with the illegal kind of guaro and sell it under the guise of the legit stuff. It essentially is moonshine. Cheap in Costa Rica, you can order this stuff online for 7 times the price if you're missing it that much. It's like driving to KY for Everclear, but less interesting/intoxicating.

The food in Costa Rica was simple. Strangely enough, I had the best pineapple and ham pizza while I was there. I also had a nice roasted sweet potato and plantain soup that I am itching to re-create. Gallo pinto was everywhere of course, and I admittedly was a little tired of it by week's end. I would informally like to issue a challenge to any of the Cleveland food trucks to do their own take on gallo pinto - it'd be cool to see what some of them could do with this everyday Costa Rican dish... It turns out you can even buy gallo pinto at Wendy's in Costa Rica.

If you're curious, check out Trafalgar's site for 2012's itinerary - the main difference between this one and the one we did, was that ours had a two day extension in Tamarindo sans tour guides. And if you're seriously considering this tour (which I highly suggest you do) then please ask for Daniel as a tour guide - and try to plan your trip when he's working it. It was his humor and personality that helped make the trip so memorable.

And with that, things are returning to normal in our household. Cleveland is actually hotter and more humid than Costa Rica was, but we were getting a little homesick anyway. I start a new job (in a new career field, thank god) pretty soon - I've been bored out of my mind lately staying at home so much. We did get to see The Decemberists a couple of days ago, head over to my husband's blog to read about that!

Pura Vida!