FIRE IN THE NIGHT - robmellors

LABRADOR REVISTED

It was wonderful to be back at Labrador and with our friends Andy and Ana, catching up on our travels. Andy had some consular work to attend to on Friday morning so we took off with Ana to give him some space. Ana wanted to go and see people throw themselves off a cliff above Caldera. It took us sometime to realise that she was referring to a paragliding spot not the local Lovers' Leap! Of course, I was all fired up at the thought of being able to paraglide over the Nicoya Peninsula and so we took the car on one last journey up a dirt track to the flying site. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the wind was dead on to the face of the hill and wasn't above about 12 knots there were no pilots there so no chance of arranging a pleasure flight. Damn.

In the afternoon we had to return the car to the miserable Thrifty car rep in Roble. He proved just as difficult as he had when we rented the car and wanted to charge us an extortionate amount for exceeding our rental period by one day. I pointed out that I had phoned the San Jose office the previous Sunday to arrange the extra day and said it should be at the rate I had hired the car for in the first place. We argued back and forth and, once again, we had to call on Andy and Ana's skills to get a reduction. The moral? 'Be Thrifty - Rent Elsewhere'.

The following day being Ana's Birthday we did what she wanted. Marie Julia, her sister arrived on an early bus from San Jose and we took off for the local swimming pool, which was oddly quiet - we had it almost to ourselves. But it was great to be in the water to escape the heat and we spent a happy few hours there until our skin became too wrinkly. For the evening Jane and I treated the others to a meal at a Spanish owned restaurant in Caldera. All of us, except for Andy, opted for the Paella which, when it arrived, was stuffed full of fish, inluding no less than 6 lobsters. We all agreed it was one of the best Paellas we've ever tasted.

Sunday was again Ana's choice of treat and she opted for a trip to an Oyster fishery on the Nicoya Peninsula. This involved taking a morning ferry out of Punteranas and being picked up by a little boat the other end. Oyster farming is only just starting in Costa Rica and there is an increasing demand for this normally expensive commodity from restaurants. Our guide, Alexandra, explained some of the logistics of Oyster farming. They are grown within rope 'bags' on long lines suspended in the sea. This fishery doesn't use artificial feeding just the natural micro-nutrients that are in the sea.

After a time Alexandra announced it was time to eat fresh oysters - 10 each for the five of us. Now Ana is a great oyster fan - the rest of us were oyster virgins. Unfortunately for me, I had been feeling just a little unwell following the ferry crossing. I don't as a rule suffer sea sickness and I wasn't sure that I had it now but I was feeling definitely off colour and when Alex started shucking oysters I wasn't that interested in trying them. But, I did try chewing on a few. I found them very salty and also very sharp from the lemon juice squeezed over them. And, if I'm honest, I can't really see what all the fuss is about. Yes they tasted of the sea and they weren't gross but I can't say that I would pay a lot of money for them.

Ana, on the other hand was in 7th heaven and declared these the best (and certainly freshest) oysters she'd tasted. Marie Julia also developed a taste for them and between them the sisters polished off most of the shells. Like me, Andy and Jane found the oysters OK but nothing to write home about. One of the things that amazed me about this trip was the size of the oyster when it is a 'baby'. It's about the size of a grain of sand and I guess there must be hundreds of thousands oyster spawn floating about the ocean at any time.

So that was the weekend and we looked forward to spending our final two days with our friends in a relaxed manner; except that on Monday evening, before we'd had time to prepare dinner, a neighbour spotted a fire at the bottom of the casa's garden. There was a large pile of leaves and wood piled up against the boundary fence and stretching towards the house and it was burning merrily. Labrador is out in the sticks and the nearest Bomberos (firemen) were miles away so it was all hands on deck to tackle the fire. We didn't have much to fight it with and so, whilst Jane and Ana filled a dustbin with water from the car washing hose, Andy, me and Jairo (a neighbour) rushed back and forth with buckets of water trying to damp down the flames and embers. It was a serious business. Everything was tinder dry and if the fire had got hold it could have threatened all the mango trees not to mention the house.

Ana phoned the fire brigade whilst we dashed to and fro like mad things. The Bomberos took over an hour to arrive - because they couldn't find us - they obviously didn't have sat nav and Jane had to dash up the road to guide them in. By that time our efforts had brought the fire mostly under control and they were able to finish the job for us with their high pressure hose.

After all of that I think we were all feeling tired, even the youngster Jairo, and a little shaken. We didn't know how the fire had started but, as they say (in the best Miss Marples voice), foul play could not be ruled out. To add to Andy's woes, a leak was discovered in his car radiator and a replacement could not be found in time for him to take us to the airport for our flight to New York on the Wednesday. Once again, Jairo steeped into the breach and took us there with Andy and Ana coming along to bid us farewell. So with hugs, kisses and few tears we said goodbye to our friends for the time being. We'd had a great trip, seen many new things, visited different places and fought both heat and fire. Here's to the next time.


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