My brother-in-law and his wife LOVE Costa Rica, and have been encouraging us for years to visit. This cruise only stops there for one day, so we planned to make the most of it by splitting up so that we can get a taste of the biodiversity, culture, and history.
Ted was very excited to see what his new camera could do, so he had signed up for “A Walk In The Clouds”, which would take him along several suspension bridges into the rainforest canopy. The hope was to see a wide variety of birds, butterflies, and monkeys.
Having missed the Lipizzaner Stallions when we were in Vienna, I was looking forward to the Andalusian horse show at Rancho San Miguel.
Unfortunately, our days did not turn out exactly as either of us had hoped. It can’t always be perfect.
There were a large number of people interested in the cloud walk, so two full buses headed out this morning. True to its name, it was raining in the rainforest, which meant most of the wildlife had gone to shelter. No mammals to be seen. No exotic birds except a few hummingbirds in an area with man-made feeders. Butterflies only in an enclosure. Four hours total on the bus (two there and two back) for a 2-1/2 hour walk in the rain. To be fair,the greenery was VERY lush and VERY green. Ted returned damp, hot, and disappointed. You just can’t predict nature.
If the horse show was just “nice” as opposed to spectacular (a demonstration of dressage by the ranch’s equestrian students, as opposed to dancing stallions), and the bus was not able to stop to give us a photo op for the huge roadside iguanas, the massive flock of pelicans, the huge blue heron, or the THREE capuchin monkeys climbing in the trees beside the highway (the sighting of which from our bus just frustrated poor Ted), at least I can’t say the day was boring.
Our first “adventure” came about an hour into the trip to the ranch, when an urgent call was relayed to us from the ship, informing us that the wife of one of the gents on our tour had suffered a heart attack and was being transported from our ship to the local hospital in Puntarenas. We needed to take a detour to the nearest small town that could provide a taxi back to the port for him.
Our second “situation” (remember there are no problems in Central and South America, only “situations”) occurred while our driver tried to navigate our huge tour bus through the small town’s streets. Picture a semi-rural town, with roads built JUST wide enough for 2 compact cars to pass each other, and with power lines not so much strung between poles as “festooned” over them in loops and droops. Now picture our bus, stopped in the middle of the road, with hydro wires caught on both its high side mirrors, and our tour guide outside the bus untangling them. We were all holding our breath for a few minutes there.
En route home, we had a “set” of “situations” involving the highway toll booths. At booth #1, after paying the toll and beginning to drive away, the huge metal toll arm came down right on top of the bus, at about 1/3 of the way down its length. So much for a beautiful tour bus paint job, as we squealed out from under the arm. At booth #2, our driver informed the toll collector about the problem we’d had at #1, and asked him to override the arm until the entire bus had passed through ….. which meant this time the arm didn’t come down on us …. until about the 2/3 point on the bus. More squealing/scraping sounds. Muttered Spanish curses from our driver. At booth #3, we were all beginning to think he was just going to run through the toll. After all, why not? Anyway…. he explained the problem yet again. This time, the toll booth operator came out of her booth and HELD the arm up manually until we were through. Applause all round!!
As has often been the case, our tour guide gave us way more information during the drive than we learned at our destination. I haven’t been taking notes (can’t do that on a bus without feeling sick – and it was a really long, really hot bus ride today) so here’s what stuck with me, along with a collage of pictures I took at the horse show.
What I learned on the bus today:
1. Puntarenas translates as “ Sandy Point”, and the beaches here really are beautiful.
2. The Pacific side of Costa Rica where we are is the “dry” side, perfect for growing coffee, mangoes, watermelons (melons of all kinds, actually), cashews, and avocados. Bananas and pineapple come from the wet Caribbean side. “Dry” is about 100 inches of rain per year; “wet” is 300+ inches of rain annually.
3. There are 10 active volcanoes in the area that erupt with ash and rocks (that can be as big as a bus), but no lava.
4. The national tree is the Guanacaste (elephant ear tree) which has large brown fruit – a legume – that really is shaped like a large ear. “Gua” as a prefix always means “tree”.
5. Costa Ricans have a love affair with horses. Almost 30% of people own a horse, even if they do not own property.
We’re ending our day with a crew musical Christmas Eve revue, and a huge chocolate buffet. It’s Christmas Day tomorrow, and a sea day. We have no idea what has been planned for us on board, but we’re pretty sure it will be wonderful. Hopefully we will be able to touch base during the day with our kids and grandkids, if the wi-fi cooperates with hundreds of grandparents on board all trying to do the same thing.
To all of our friends and family, wherever you are spending the day, and whoever you are spending it with, we wish you a day filled with joy and love.