Breakfast today was a rerun, though it remained the most important meal of the day.

Costa Rica’s geography explains why it has such an amazing climate. It also explains why it has volcanoes, and today’s adventures began with a long, winding drive up into the hills to see one. By winding I mean enough switchbacks and hairpin turns to make you glad that breakfast was fairly basic. It’s been a while since this volcano blew its top, but it is rumbly enough that the peak is closed to guests. There’s a good chance that when the lava starts flowing again someday, the area in this photo will be covered in lava or ash or brimstone or dragons or other bad things.volcano

Fortunately (afortunadamente in Spanish) the only thing that rose out of the peak today was some steam. Lunch was served at a small roadside restaurant with open air seating, and it was delicious. I’m not sure how balanced the food is here, but it is quite tasty and very cheap. I don’t have a picture of this meal, but here is a photo of some Costa Rican food. Plantains are first cousins of the banana (and sworn enemies of green beans, but that’s a story for another day).

They are often served sliced, smashed, then pan-fried, and are a staple of diets in Central and South America, as well as Africa and the Caribbean. They are very starchy even when ripe, with the texture of a green banana, so they are almost never eaten raw. Not sure how healthy they are, but they taste great.

After lunch we visited a dairy and cheese-making operation. This small farm is home to a dozen cows and a few humans who trade the cows large amounts of hay in exchange for gallons and gallons of milk. Fun facts: a dairy cow weighs around 700 pounds. Each day it eats around 70 pounds of feed, delivers roughly six gallons of milk (and must be milked twice), and deposits 50 pounds of manure (which must be cleaned up). In other words, keeping cattle is a lot of work, and that’s before you make cheese out of the milk. A couple of our crew got to milk, and two others got to make cheese, which was delicious.

cheese

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have added dairy farming to the list of farming types I don’t want to do, which is pretty much all of them. Also, like the butterflies, this seems to be more like ranching than farming, but what do I know? I do know that California dairy farmers claim in their ads that “happy cows come from California,” but these seemed pretty content to me. Except one, but there’s one in every group, right?

In my experience, some of very best experiences in traveling are the things you did not (and could not) predict. Today we had one of those amazing experiences. And I’ll tell you all about it…….in the next post.

Travel tip: If you go in the gift shop looking for a volcanic souvenir, don’t be fooled by this offering:lava