La Fortuna de Bagaces -> Hacienda los Innocentes (via San Jose de Upala) -> Station Santa Rosa
We set out from La Fortuna Bagaces by bicycle on jeep roads north between Volcans Miravalles and Rincon de la Vieja.
We didn’t have to go far before our resolve was tested. After climbing to the pass against a head wind, we were relieved to start down, but our relief turned to anxiety as the rain started down too.
If you have never experienced an intense tropical rain it is hard to understand. The air feels like it is full of water. So full it is hard to breathe around the sheets of rain.
The road was soon a river and we were riding by feel and guessing where the big rocks and holes were by the way the water swirled around them.
Obviously we survived. By 9:30 we were having hot coffee and a second breakfast in San Jose de Upala half way to our destination at Hacienda los Innocentes.
The Hacienda is named after the family that started the cattle ranch 100 years ago and although they still run a few cattle their main business is now tourism and reforestation. The Hacienda house is a wonderful building and if you are at all interested in historic architecture it’s worth a stay there just for that.
Of course there is also horseback riding, bird watching and hiking so there is no excuse for boredom. After an hike and a swim, we discovered that the owners were absent and the bartender was giving mixology lessons to all of the staff.
We were recruited as tasters and I must say that I have never had a better margarita (the secret is to reach out the window of the bar and gently twist the lime off of the branch, never jerk it).
From Innocentes, we rode west to La Cruz and bought supplies for a couple of nights of camping. From there our route turned south and entered Santa Rosa National Park almost immediately.
The park entrance is about 20 km inside the park and from there it is another 12 km to the biological research station where we camped the first night. Sue and I are both scientists in the field of biochemistry so we felt right at home talking with the researchers and getting a perspective on some of their studies.
I also got an explanation for the blister that had persisted on my upper lip for over a week. We were talking with Eric Olsen, who studies insect populations by collecting their poop, when the subject of rainforest fruits came up. I mentioned that I had had a run in with a wild cashew, and showed him the blister.
When we were riding from Naranjo to Santa Teresa I had spotted a cashew fruit. I had seen pictures of the unusual structure; a egg sized smooth skinned orange lobe with what looks like a cashew nut sewn up in a dirty wrinkled leather pouch attached to one end.
I wanted to break through the leathery covering to see the nut, but couldn’t tear it with my fingers. Since I’ve never gotten past the age of two in some of the aspects of my oral development, my natural response was to put it in my mouth.
As I tore through the skin with my teeth, I felt a searing pain on my lips and gums. Even a two year old would know to spit the damn thing out, so I did and washed out my mouth with the last of our lukewarm water.
Eric laughed and explained the strategy of the cashew fruit’s physiology. As any monkey could tell you, I had bitten the wrong end. Even a two year old would have seen that the orange fleshy lobe looked more appetizing than the wrinkled leather pouch part, and that is exactly what the cashew fruit counts on for dispersal and survival.
The fruit is built like it is so that animals will pick them and eat the tasty orange fruit, then hopefully discard the nut encased in its leathery pouch some distance from the original tree. The nut is the seed, and everyone knows that cashews are $10 a pound because they taste good and are good for you.
It’s not easy to discourage animals from eating the nut, thus the unappetizing leathery covering that is filled with nothing less than a cyanide solution. I was lucky to get away with a blister, but I’m still curious what it would have tasted like if I had bitten the right end.