Mr. Muse and I had the privilege of visiting Puerto Limón, commonly referred to as Limón, on Wednesday, February 13th, 2013, as one of our stops aboard the Carnival Freedom with the Bare Necessities cruise. We’d never been to Costa Rica before and we wanted to make sure we got a flavor of the culture while we were there, so we decided on the “Nature & Traditions” tour that took us to the Bocuare Resort.
We noticed almost immediately that our tour bus was being tailed by our Police escort; this appears to be the standard operating procedure in Central America, and was not cause for alarm. They are trying to bring more tourism dollars into the area and therefore they want to make sure the tourists are safe – understandable.
Our tour guide was fantastic, and stopped at a small, family-owned (not his family) fruit stand where free samples were laid out for people to try of a variety of fresh fruit, including coconut. There is nothing to compare to the taste of fruit fresh from the trees they were grown on. After our stop for fruit, for which tipping is encouraged, we got back out on the narrow highway and made our way through small towns and up into the mountains of Talamanca caton (county).
The majority of the roads are paved, however, one area of mountainous road initially appeared to be partially washed-out, but then we saw road crews working down below. Was it washed out? Had they removed the section of roadway to make improvements? We’re not sure, but we do know that at least one other tour in port had been cancelled because the road had washed out. Regardless, we drove on and then turned onto what amounted to what we would call a “Forest Road” up in Northern Wisconsin – unpaved, rocky and one-lane. A log-hauler was pulled off the road as far as they could and our driver gingerly passed, being sure he didn’t tip us over into the encroaching grasses.
I actually enjoy the adventure of these kinds of tours, even though other passengers were exhaling with nervous laughter. The drive was “safe enough” and while the suspension on the bus had a bit to be desired, it wasn’t like we were being catapulted up into the ceiling. The roadway was pretty enchanting, winding its way through tall copses of bamboo as big around as my thigh that created dark tunnels of near black interiors. I love the jungle, and I was keeping my eye out for interesting flora and fauna, but the vegetation was so thick I didn’t see much.
We arrived at a Bocuare Resort and were greeted by Marlena, who was wearing a traditional dress. Our group was shown the location of the bathrooms and we then had our attention directed to the bar where we were introduced to a local liquor called guaro, a brandy made from sugar cane juice. It was delicious; you drink it like tequila: salt, lime and liquor. It’s doubly delicious when mixed with fresh sugar cane juice. Marlena performed a tradition dance and “call” – explaining that the call was used to tell the men working up in the mountains that it was time to eat. Then some guests were wrangled into joining Marlena in another traditional dance – leaving smiles and laughter in its wake. Which leads me to our next part of the adventure…
A jungle nature walk and juicing sugar cane!
Our guides took us on a walk around the plantation that they are in the process of reforesting. The buildings are near the edge of the property and the adjacent property owner had clear-cut the jungle to raise cattle. It was pointed out to us the difference in vegetation, flora and fauna but also in temperature; there was a considerable difference in perceived (and actual) temperature when you were under the trees as opposed to being in areas where the trees had been removed. Lesson: The Earth NEEDS her forests, Rain and Boreal, or we’re all going to fry like ants under a magnifying glass! There wasn’t a lot of wildlife out that day due to the high temperatures, but we did see an iguana, a basilisk running across the water and a few varieties of birds and butterflies. We then made our way to the cane juicer.
At Bocuare they have a small, two-person mechanization to wring the juice out of the sugar cane. A couple men of our group went ahead and ran a stalk of sugar cane through and started to fill a pitcher. Each cane is run-through a few times to get everything out that they can. Our guides called for more volunteers and Mr. Muse and I stepped up as they pulled out a piece of cane that was nearly as big around as a Pringles potato chip can. Oof dah! But, we muscled our way through it, complete with getting sugar cane juice in our eyes – thankfully it didn’t sting and that which landed around our lips was very tasty. They gave another two volunteers (I was the only woman who stepped up!) the opportunity to do some squeezin’ and then we all got to enjoy the fruits of our labor: fresh cane juice. Adding a squeeze of lime really perked it up and then came the guaro. That is a down-right delicious concoction!
After the juicing and drinking, we were loaded onto a wagon pulled by an old tractor and were taken on a tour of the reserve and then to the town of Bocuare. We passed fields of cattle, homes that here in the USA would be considered “run down” and were then taken to a quiet area of a river to a waterfall where we got to see more birds and were told about how the village children cliff dive from the top of the waterfall into its basin. I don’t think you’d catch me doing that! We then were turned around and were taken back to the resort to learn to make corn tortillas which we were going to eat with the lunch that they made for us.
Corn tortillas are really easy: masa and water. That’s it. I talked to Marlena about my gluten concerns and she smiled and reassured me that what I’d be eating was safe. Good enough for me! We made our corn tortillas, marking them with our initials so we know who made what and once they were done, with our hot tortillas fresh off the iron and laden with spoonsful of a salsa made with potatoes, we headed to the tables to enjoy them. As we munched, platters were brought out with our meals and the food was so very good.
We had a little time after our meal to walk about, take photos and enjoy the jungle before heading back to the ship. I highly recommend this tour and I was sorry to see that there were so few people who signed up. Marlena and crew were fantastic!
P.S. – Mr. Muse looked up Cacique guaro and the chances of buying it stateside. To his, and my, delight – you can purchase it directly from Cacique and have it shipped. YAY!!!