This past weekend we opened The Gecko at La Cusinga, our first stab at opening up our jungle and ocean view dining room to the public. Previously only the guests at the Lodge were able to enjoy the fresh local cuisine but we felt that it was time to share the bounty and the surroundings with our friends here in the Uvita/Ballena/Ojochal area. We decided not to overwhelm the public or ourselves and opted for a three night a week schedule, with one seating at 6:30 and a daily changing for course menu for a whopping $18 per person, before tax and tip.
It may appear on the face of it that this is not a particularly giant leap. We had the Chef, we had the kitchen, we had the dining room and we had the food. However, this being a remote and rural part of Costa Rica, nothing comes easy.
First there was the issue of how to let the locals know that we were indeed open. People in our community live up and down the coast, up and down the mountains and in a variety of not necessarily "tuned in" spots in between. It's not as if we can go to the local press (although, in a way we did), a website is not particularly viable, and there are no TV or radio spots from which to create a buzz. Almost anything that anyone wants the public to know about is posted on a 8 1/2"X 11" flyer and scotch taped or stapled to a store window, local bulleting board or even a telephone pole. Primitive? Yes, but sooner or later, everyone needs to go to the grocery store.
I asked Geinier, our General Manager, to help by creating a flyer with a logo and all the pertinent information. No problem. He put together a nice package and emailed it to me to get printed. This is where it becomes interesting. I have no printer for my laptop and while La Cusinga has a printer, it doesn't print in color. The hunt was on for a color printer in our tiny village. Using what little common sense I have remaining, I first went to the Uvita information center, where Sonia handles, car rentals, excursion packages, mail deliveries and sundry other community related tasks.
Sonia knew of two people who had color printers but first there was the issue of getting the downloaded email into a printable package. I went to see Tra, my good friend, and owner of the Tucan Hotel, a hostel/hotel and community center. Tra hooked me up with a zip drive key and I was in business. Maybe, and not yet. Neither of the two shops I visited that had color printers had any toner. Uh-oh. It was appearing that an hour drive each way over the mountain to Perez Zeladon was in my future if I wanted to get the word out. I stopped in at Marina Ballena restaurant and bar, a local watering hole and another community center. Over an icy club soda it was suggested to me that I go see Tom. Tom had, I was assured, a state of the art color printer. Tom is a local character; a big bearded burly bear of a guy, but also a photographer, somewhat of a recluse, and like me, an expat from the San Francisco/Bay Area.
I needed to get this done and I immediately hopped into R2, my 1991 Toyota Tercel (and what would appear to be the national car of Costa Rica) and bumped and dodged my way up the rocky road to Tom's house in deep Uvita, just before the river. I should take this opportunity to point out that as soon as one leaves the main highway, road care and efficient grading are not always available and four wheel drive is preferred. But I had needs, big needs, and I desperately wanted to avoid another trip up and over the big hill. And Tom did have the