Last week we went on a hike. Randall, a guy who works at the project, picked up Julie, Hunter, John Mark and me and drove all of us to his house. We met his wife, three kids, and little dust-mop dog, Chiky (just like the cookies).

Randy (as Americans insisted on calling him when he lived in the States) made us some coffee. No ordinary coffee, however. A special blend dripped though a mesh bag to perfection pot of coffee. That’s right, coffee made without a Mr. Coffee maker.

I almost never drink drip coffee without a little bit of milk if I can help it. Everyone was drinking it black though, so I decided to give it a shot. It wasn’t bad, although really I couldn’t say how it compared to a house blend from the grocery store. Certainly better than a giant plastic tub of Folger’s or Maxwell house, to be sure.

While we drank our coffee, Randy’s chorus of songbirds churned up a melodic storm. He had about a dozen birds, each in their own cage, some in the backyard and three in the front patio/garage.

EEEeeeerrreet. “Hear that?” asked Randy. “Sounds like a squeaky door, eh? It’s the birds!” They literally sounded like a pair of swinging rusty gates. Julie and I turned to each other, fooled looks on our faces. Clearly we both had thought lubricating oil was needed nearby on some hinges. I’ve never heard a bird with a song like that before.

After cafecito, we filed out to the backyard. It was walled in with concrete blocks, typical Tico style. We walked to the far side, stopping short of a red door.

It was like walking into a rugged Secret Garden. On the other side of the door we stepped into the wild. In front of us a tall mountain soared upward. A mildly visible path was beaten into the ground. Coffee plants sprang up on either side. A few red bulbs hung from their branches. John Mark plucked one and cracked it open, showing me the beans inside – dewey green like a caterpillar.

“Weird!” said Julie, “I didn’t know that’s how coffee beans grew, I thought they just came brown.”

We climbed up and up, over rocks and under fallen tree trunks. I was huffing and puffing, talk about not being in shape. After an hour or so, we came to a high meadow, breaking into a view of Cartago below. A breeze blew free in the absence of trees, and we sat on some boulders to take in the landscape.

Blooms with a View

Blooms with a View

On the way down the other side of the mountain, we past a finca. Literally meaning “farm”, a finca is actually a plot of land on which squatters live. Often they will protect crops growing there and tend to plants of their own. In return, the owners of the land refrain from kicking the squatters out. The finca houses are some of the most interesting. Ingenuity and innovative uses of building materials abound. Often this kind of thought strikes me: How is that shack still standing after that fly just landed on its roof?

The hike ended up being 3 or 4 hours long. Randy’s wife so kindly made lunch for us that was even ready by the time we trudged back into the house.

Once I was home later that afternoon, I embraced the siesta.

(See all of the photos from this trip at the photos page or my flickr site.)