Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

Sun, August 4

Yes we do – but we didn’t go there today. The capital of Costa Rica is situated about 70 miles from where the ship berthed in the city of Puntarenas, so instead we boarded a coach which took us on a very scenic drive through the countryside. There are a great number of volcanoes which accounts for the black sand on the beaches; the untamed jungle was green and lush, and I could imagine that if left untended, it would easily claim back the roads we travelled on. Many people waved to us as we passed by and then it was time to transfer to a boat on the Tarcoles River, which sits at the Guacalillo Estuary.

Our guide took us on a two hour cruise, patiently stopping and often turning the boat around to give everyone the best views of the many species of birds that make their home in the mangroves. The estuary is home to one of the biggest crocodile colonies in Central America, however on this occasion we only saw one! We did see a family of monkeys high in the canopy, a young hawk and several different species of waterfowl. We were pleased that we had our binoculars and thought half the fun was spotting something moving in the mangroves or the trees and then trying to work out what it was!

Of course, the downside of such a tour is that most of the wildlife is seen from a distance and it is often difficult to get good photos, especially through the thick foliage of the rainforest. So now I have to ‘fess up and admit that I had to cheat a little to get some close ups of the monkey, birds and iguana!

Anyway, we were all excited to see several pairs of Scarlet Macaws, one of the most endangered species in the tropics, and it was wonderful to see them in their natural setting. Both male and female have the same brightly coloured feathers, red, blue and yellow, very noisy and we spent some time watching them sitting together and preening each other and one was even stretching out his wing to put around his mate.

Eventually we made our way back to the boat station, where we enjoyed a delicious buffet of fresh fruit which included pineapple and watermelon, and of course, we had to try a complimentary glass of the local beer, Imperial (based on a German recipe, we were told) before heading back to our ship.

Costa Rica is a developing country where tourism seems to be surpassing exporting of coffee, pineapple, bananas and Intertel microchips, Ticos (the locals) who were previously farmers are now hotel owners, tour guides or waiters Most houses are small and square and have only two bedrooms. All properties are fenced to keep out the Brahman cows which will walk right into houses if they are left open. People are friendly and very family-oriented. There is a very low unemployment rate (which is just as well as there is no social security) but everyone is well educated and our guide told us that a typical Sunday consists of everyone going to church (mostly all are Catholic) then the afternoon is spent with family and friends, eating, drinking and everyone (including the women) plays football.

If you don’t like the taste of strong coffee you would probably not like the local coffee – but we thought it was pretty good. We were tempted to buy a bag of coffee beans to take home but decided against it in case we had a problem with Australian Customs. However, our tour guide told us that a cup of real Costa Rican coffee is not far away when we are back home – just go to Starbucks!
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Black sand beaches

Black sand beaches

Eco Jungle Cruise

Eco Jungle Cruise

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Imperial - Costa Rican beer

Imperial – Costa Rican beer

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Local market

Local market

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Nothing beats watching the sun set from the deck of a ship!

Nothing beats watching the sun set from the deck of a ship!

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