Posted by: M.J. Bolstad | May 3, 2013

Luck Be A Lady: The Birthday Cruise Day Nine

The little church that had been move to the grounds.

The little church that had been move to the grounds.

Well, DW and I have officially been travelling together for the longest length of time yet, and we still are enjoying each other’s company. Hooray! We had a very early start this morning (if you don’t count the fact we jumped back in time an hour), waking up at 5:30 so we could have a little breakfast before our day excursion.  I had the muesli, which they have with fresh coconut shredded into it. It tastes fabulous.

After breakfast, I showered and got ready, then we made our way to the bus since DW and I were taking this one together. I hadn’t quite woken up yet, so tripped over an uneven bit on the pier. DW grabbed my arm and said I needed to include in my blog that she saved my life. I returned the favour, not long after, by preventing her from getting on the wrong bus. So there.

We took the bus to the Hacienda, a two hour drive up a winding mountain.  The bus had a toilet this time, so of course I did not need to use it.  I napped a little on the bus while I listened to our guide, Eduardo, talk about Costa Rica.

We arrived at the farm, and it was not only one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. This was also definitely the highlight of the trip so far. The Hacienda

The little stone maze I navigated successfully.

The little stone maze I navigated successfully.

We started by learning about macadamia nuts, which originally grew in Australia, and how they are processed from a “fruit” that is husked off, sorted, then roasted to reduce the humidity from 30% to 10%, sorted again in water (I wasn’t tall enough to see, but DW tells me big gross beetles are also sorted out), then sent for processing at a plant. The plant takes care of the nuts from several farms since it is expensive to run one (a plant, that is).  The reject nuts, as it turns out, are used as fuel for the roaster, as are the discarded husks. That’s pretty neat.produces organic coffee, sugar and macadamia nuts, some of my favourite things on the planet.  They even use a plant instead of pesticide. It is poisonous and keeps the bugs away, and though they told us the name, all I can remember is it starts with the letter “P” and is definitely not Pikachu. We started with a drink made of sugar cane juice and lemon. Very sweet. Very good.

We then got to tour the grounds a bit.  I did a stone maze. I’d heard that, if you keep your right hand on the right wall of a maze and follow that without lifting your hand, you will be able to get out of it.  I don’t know if that is true for all mazes, but it certainly worked for this one!

After that, we learned about coffee, and how the beans are picked (by workers who earn very little money for such labouring), peeled, and roasted.  We got to sample some coffee later on, and it was very good, and very smooth. The soil is volcanic, since Costa Rica has active volcanoes still, and that makes the coffee less acidic.

The sugar moulds are packaged in the cane leaves!

The sugar moulds are packaged in the cane leaves!

After coffee, we got to learn about the sugar cane. This was definitely a highlight.  We got to chew on a little sugar cane piece, then they showed us how they used an old fashioned press to squeeze the syrup out of the cane, turned by two oxen. Then they showed how the old squeezed cane became fuel for the fire they boiled the sugar on. Then they made sugar moulds. And then they made granulated sugar in front of us, since you boil it at a higher temperature then cool it down, and it granulates as it becomes cool as they turned it by hand. They let us taste that, and then they made us candy with cooling sugar syrup, powdered milk, and macadamia nuts. DW nearly took off my hand in excitement, then again in disappointment when the candy dish started basically as far away from us as it could.

After the sugar demonstration, we made our way in to have lunch. The Hacienda is nice and the grounds very beautiful. The property even includes a little church they moved to the farm when it became too small for the nearby village: they built a bigger one and saved the small chapel from destruction.  But the nicest thing of all was the hard-working, knowledgeable, and generally kind people who worked as part of the tour. Just a super tour all around, and I highly recommend it.  The lunch provided was hot and delicious (rice, beans, chicken and veggies, pasta salad, and some sugared banana-like fruit). DW and I may also have bought out the store of half their coffee and macadamia nut candies.

All the sugar we went through today - the cane, the moulds, the granulated, the candy... all so yummy!

All the sugar we went through today – the cane, the moulds, the granulated, the candy… all so yummy!

After that, it was a long bus ride home. We had a minor kerfuffle over the seats, where someone had dropped their books into DW and my seats, but didn’t know where they’d been sitting before to tell us where to sit.  It appeared all the seats on the bus were taken, with hats or books on all seats, even ours.  I think the people decided we stole their seats, but as far as I’m concerned, dropping your books into our places as we get off the bus without even a courtesy “do you mind if we trade” or leaving us a clear place to sit was not cool. DW even told them, as I tried to ask where they’d been sitting, “we did not want to steal someone’s seat”.  I’m glad she held our ground, because I always try to choose close to the front for motion sickness reasons. Considering the winding road down and how green I felt mid-trip, despite my regular regimen of medication to prevent sea sickness, if I’d sat further back I think I’d have had to make them stop the bus so I could have a breather.

Upon return to the ship (we’d spent 8 hours on the excursion, and the ship was only in port for another half hour), I went to the thermal suite and hydropool. It was pretty busy, so I ended up just having a short visit, then returning to the room to do my reading in the quiet.  DW and I dressed for dinner fairly early, and went down even though we probably could have skipped eating after our big lunch.  The food was very good, and I ate vegetarian tonight by fluke, choosing veggies marinated in a balsamic vinegar, then a chilled berry soup, followed by the vegetarian lasagna. DW had the same appetizer that I did, followed by French onion soup, then a cobb salad. She returned to the brownie for dessert, while I had the “DAM Devil’s Chocolate Cake” (the DAM being in reference to the Holland America suite of ships).  Our dinner mates were once again lovely (which was fortunately the opposite of what we’d predicted based on our experience with other tour mates on the bus and beyond today), and we even ordered a table dessert to share of Grand Marnier-soaked strawberries. Yum!

After dinner, we went to the show. It was a magic show, which is not DW’s thing at all, but she went because I wanted to. Magic shows and illusion are fortunately my thing, and this gentleman, Dave Cieran, is very, very good.  He won a gold medal in some sort of competition for magicians in Vegas where he works, though he is originally from Canada. I have no idea how he does his tricks, and though I am curious, I like the “magic” of not knowing how he makes doves appear out of nowhere, or his tiny poodles disappear.  I think the favourite part, for both DW and I, however, was when he was doing a trick with one dog, and the other was having a hard time listening to him about staying. Sometimes dogs are just going to do their thing, and it is just funny in its universality.

Now the show is over, so we’re back at the room. Clocks jump forward an hour tomorrow, but it is a sea day, so it doesn’t matter as much. In fact, we are done our excursions and it will be sea days all around until we have to go home.  This trip has flown by so quickly. I don’t know how I’m going to handle the real world, where I have to cook my own food and do my own dishes. Or at least load them in the dishwasher. But for now, I have two days to enjoy not doing all that, and enjoy them I will.

Towel animal of the day: An Ewok.  We think.

Rockstar of the Day: DW, for wrestling our seats back.

Drink of the Day: Champagne Dreams. It was good, but not as good as I’d hoped, since I thought it would be sweeter. Then again, the last thing I probably needed is more sugar today.

Gratitude of the Day: I’m grateful that DW and I are still able to like each other even this long into a trip.

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