Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010 – Puerto Limon, Costa Rica – 86F – Partly Cloudy

Puerto Limon is just up the “road” (186 nautical miles) from Colon Panama.  The city, with a population of about 60,000,  was established in 1502 during one of Christopher Columbus’ voyages.  It is about three hours away by car from the capital city of San Jose.

The Equinox is docked a few hundred yards from the Visitor/Shopping Center.  We do have a tour in the afternoon but our plan for the morning is to head to the shopping area to see what there is to see and buy.

Equinox Puerto Limon (Small)

Celebrity Equinox docked at Puerto Limon

There is no tram and it is hot so we scamper to the Shopping center. As we enter the area, we are somewhat surprised to see that the entire left side of the entrance is taken up by several Spa type places – massages, manicures, pedicures.  A little native – only sheets separate the patrons getting massages – but we are in a tropical environment.  The places were busy with pedicures in progress everywhere.  We did a little negotiating and agreed on an hour massage for $45.  I actually did a bit better since I was quoted 75 minutes for $45.  I must admit, despite the somewhat primitive conditions, the massages were not bad.  A bit hot (there was a fan) but very relaxing and not a lot different than a stateside spa treatment.  One thing you don’t see in the states is the rubbing alcohol spray used to clean off the massage oil.  All in all, it was very relaxing.

Back to the ship for lunch and to get ready for our afternoon excursion - “Old Banana Route Train Adventure” at 1:15 PM.  At 1:00 PM, we are back on the pier and into our air-conditioned bus and on our way.  Eric, who speaks very good English, is our guide and Edgar is our driver.  Also on board is a photographer from the Equinox.

The ride takes us through the city of Limon – baseball field, shops, gas stations, lots of locals walking.  Then, out into the country where our first stop is a banana plantation. 

On the way to Banana Plant PL CR (Small)

On the way to the banana plantation

On the way, Eric invites us to try a “pygmy banana”, which is sweeter than the bananas back home.  We both try them and they are sweet without being mushy.

Mini Bananas on Tour Puerto Limon (Small)

Pygmy Banana – Ellen’s hand

Since it is Sunday, the plant is closed but we can still see the equipment.  Eric warned us not to take any pictures with kids holding wild animals (sloths or monkeys) as it is illegal to keep animals as pets in Costa Rica.  Once the bus stops, Eric tells us that there is a mechanical problem with the bus (gear shift) so we will be getting on a new bus after the plantation.  Not much to see at the plantation.

Banana Plant Puerto Limon (Small)

Guess who owns this plantation

As the crowd walks toward the plant and the equipment, we noticed some kids playing in the processing area along with one kid holding a sloth.  Now the excitement:  The kids scatter and a police officer comes out of nowhere from behind us and chases the kids around the side the plant. 

“Pop” “Pop”

We duck behind the cement wall for cover – these are gunshots (perhaps from a rifle and hopefully warning shots).  The rest of our tour group doesn’t react at all.  We stay down until Eric shows up again and we don’t see any one chasing anyone.  We were happy to be back on our new and functioning bus.

As we drive along, the bus stops occasionally – Edgar is out gathering wildlife – poison dart frogs (not poisonous in Costa Rica), flowers, coca plants, and ginger plants.  These are then passed around the bus – I even bit into a raw coca bean – never again – not quite Godiva.

We eventually reach the old banana processing town of Estrada, where we will catch our 1960 vintage (non-air-conditioned) train that will take us through the countryside to the pier.  The train has only two cars – our tour group is in one and the other one is empty.  Eric passes out bags of plantain chips and drinks (coke, cerveza -poured from a 64 oz bottle [never knew they existed], and bottled water) to all of the passengers.  Nice treat. 

The back of the car is open and you can stand (if you are the risky type) on the back landing and get a picture of the narrow gauge tracks on which this train is running.

View back of Train (Small)

View from back of the car

Banana Train PL (Small)

Ellen chilling on the banana train

Actually, with the windows open and the train moving, it is cooler than the bus.  The foliage is so close to the windows that you have to be careful not to get slapped by a tree limb or branch. 

Vegetation PL CR (Small)

Vegetation along the train route

The route is very scenic as you can tell by the following pictures.

River and House from Train (Small)

River and house from the train 

Lagoon and train tracks (Small)

Lagoon from Train (Small)

Lagoon from train (note tracks – top picture)

Caribbean from Train (Small)         Caribbean from Train 2 (Small) Caribbean from Train 3 (Small) 

Three shots of the Caribbean Sea from the train

The trip ended up near a highway about five minutes from the pier.  Edgar and the bus were waiting for us and soon we were back on the ship.  A very nice tour. 

After two showers, we head for Dinner and then to the big show.  The headliner tonight is Greg London, another entertainer from Las Vegas, who is also a vocal impressionist.  His impressions are not bad but his real voice is quite good.  The show is pretty good and Greg will be back later in the cruise.

Just to show you that it does happen, Dru announces that the comedian, Tony Daro, missed the ship in Puerto Limon and will join up in Roatan. 

As they say in Costa Rica - “Pura Vida”…

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