April 14th

Monday-Our first holiday, and what a busy day. Up bright-eyed and bushy tailed at 7 we had a good breakfast of fruit, juice, granola and eggs. Then we were off on Nia’s tour of Sta. Elena that gave us a good orientation to the village and its surroundings. We were surprised by the variety of cheeses made at the small cheese factory, and ended the tour sipping coffee and hot chocolate at a delightful café whose walls are covered by the paintings of Ellen Wallace a now 80 year old local British artist. We next had a most enjoyable introduction to CASEM, the women’s arts and crafts cooperative. Neri, the director, gave us an excellent talk on how they started illegally in 1982 meeting in a house and sometimes lying to their husbands on where they were legal and had moved into the building they now occupy. They had big economic problems after merging with a coffee cooperative that promised not to mortgage CASEM’s property. But they did, ran into debt and could not pay the mortgage. They were able to slave off collapse using all available reserves and dug themselves out of the hole. In the process they separated from the coffee coop, are in effect buying their property twice, and overcame strong anti-women sentiments from the men that sometimes led to divorce. Today they are fairly stable and have gone a long way to being accepted by the men. The coop has 90 members. The price of their goods is set by the member who made them. 10% of the sale goes to the mortgage and 25% to the CASEM leaving 65% for the member. The visit ended with an excellent lunch prepared by Monica- the renowned cook of CASEM.

The afternoon was spent at the Sta. Elena Reserve where we had a guided native tour in the cloud forest. First up was a white nose coati and then a semi-domesticated peccary. Alias Charlie the pesky pig, the peccary trailed with us much of the way. Much time was spent bird spotting our guide, Henry, was excellent pointing out a :
Fresciated tiger head
Three wattle bell bird
Purple throated mountain gem
Red faced spine tail
Black guan
Resplandescent quetzal
Slate throated skate
Three stared warbler
Yellow thighed finch
Ochracheus wren
Black faced solitude

It was a great experience and we greatly enjoyed the hike.

Cocktail hour was at our sister hotel where we sipped wine, dined on avocado and cheese and watched the sun go down creating wonderful red streamers in the sky. Dinner again was so much better than expected and well fed, we walked back to our hotel by 8.

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