Costa Rica

Two point five months spent traveling and volunteering at a chocolate farm in rural Costa Rica.  To fully encapsulate this much time in a few photographs isn't possible, so here are my favorites.  You can learn more about La Iguana Chocolate and the wonderful family at its core hereor connect with them on their Facebook page here.

Dawn breaking on the first morning of my stay.

One of the horses of La Iguana

Flora of the selva.

Árbol de Marañon: Another volunteer and I spent an hour picking cashew fruit, separating the fruit in one bag to make juice, and the cashews in another.  The cashews must be toasted and removed from their shell to avoid the oils.

A swimming hole within a slow-flowing river, shaded by trees of the primary forest.  We returned to swim when the organic debris from recent rains settled and the water was clearer.

Green and black poison dart frog near the waterfall

Toasted cacao beans ready to be peeled by hand, one of many labor-intensive steps in the chocolate-making process.

Cacao pod and cacao beans

The color tone of each cacao bean varies based on the type of cacao and the length of the fermentation process.  The lightest bean, Porcelana, is valued for its quality and taste, and is preferred to make dark (high % cacao) chocolate.

Chocolate Oscuro: This tempered dark chocolate is a mixture of ground cacao and cacao butter that has been processed in a special tempering machine for at least 24 hours and then poured into molds.  So. Delicious.

Clothes out to dry in the morning sun

Fire grass: one of the beautiful decorative plants grown in the garden

Terminal Atlántico Norte, a bus station in San Jose, on the way to La Fortuna.  Overall the busses in Costa Rica were some of the nicest I've ever ridden: modern, clean, and reasonably priced.

The roof of the plant nursery with a backdrop of stars

The grandchild of La Iguana, gazing intently at a visitor

In the Valley of Marañon: Jorge stands among the cashew trees with the cloud forest in the back ground

Turmeric sliced and placed on screens, ready to be placed in the solar dehydrator and then ground in a hand grinder.

Seeds from the Guanacaste tree, the national tree of Costa Rica.  La Iguana uses them to make jewelry beads, funds of which go to support the farm and its operations.

One of La Iguana's horses grazing in the moonlight.

Santiago de Puriscal, the nearest town of substantial size to the farm. Its landmark church rises out of its center, still standing after being damaged by an earthquake.

Monopatinador:  A skateboarder tricks in Puriscal's central park 

Night scene from San Jose, Costa Rica's capitol, several hours away from the farm by bus, on my last night in Costa Rica.

One of my last sunrises at La Iguana

I sat on the yoga deck in the early hours of the morning to catch this sunrise time-lapse.