Saturday, April 25, 2015

Inca Empire Cruise - Day 22 Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica

Today we are in Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica and we have a private tour arranged by a member of the Cruise Critic Roll Call we subscribed to on the internet.  The ship docks at 9:00 AM and we will be starting our tour as soon as the ship is cleared with the port officials and we can get off the ship.

Val woke up this morning feeling OK, but not great and decided to go ahead and go on the tour.  It was quite warm this morning, and the weather forecast for the day was to be in the high 80’s with high humidity. 

We are entering the harbor.
One of the many fishing boats we saw in the harbor.
Puerto Caldera is another industrial port with really nothing around the pier where we are docked.  The ship is docked a long way from the main gate to the port, so a shuttle will take us to the main gate.  Our tour group was moderately large (22 people), but we all fit into a mini bus.

Time to get off the ship and see Costa Rica.
This was Easter Sunday so it has been a holiday week for this predominately Catholic country, plus there was another ship in port besides ours, so there were numerous private cars and tour buses out on the road.

Our first stop was to see monkeys, but there were none to be found, so our second stop was a bridge over a river where we could see crocodiles and fortunately there were quite a few.  There was also a fruit stand and a store selling tourist items so the place was very busy and teeming with people.  The temperature and humidity were rising and it was a bit uncomfortable, but you have to expect that in the tropics.  Although there was an abundance of lush foliage there was also quite a bit of brown, dead looking growth, but our guide told us that this was the dry season and when the rains started in May, everything would be lush and green.

These hanging bags are filled with cashews, a crop they grow here. 
Only one cashew nut grows on the top of a kind of "fruit" that looks something like a tomato. 
You have to pick a lot of the "fruit" to make a bag of cashews, and then there
is a whole process to get the nut out of the shell.  No wonder they are so expensive.

I took this picture when there was a lull in the traffic, but the road was very busy and the walkways on the bridge were very narrow and crowded, which made things a little exciting.

Our next stop was a nature reserve, which also included a condo community, although all we saw was a very nice swimming pool.  We saw some Scarlet Macaw birds on the drive in, but they were pretty elusive to get a picture of.  We drove to a point with a nice view of the coast, but to be honest, it really wasn’t much.

This is a Caracara, which is a type of hawk and the national bird of Mexico.
Next we drove through a small fishing village and as we were leaving we spotted some more Scarlet Macaws in the trees so we stopped and did get some pictures this time. 

After that it was time for lunch so we drove on to a restaurant located across the road from a nice beach.  Lunch consisted of rice, beans, vegetable, salad, fried plantains and a choice of beef, fish, chicken, pork or vegetarian.  I had sea bass which was fresh and delicious while Val chose pork which she said was just OK.  For drinks we had our choice of fresh fruit juices and I chose mango, which was very good.  The only downside to the lunch was that the restaurant was open air, which did provide nice views, but it was very hot and humid.  After lunch we had a little time to wander around on the beach and then it was back to the bus and off to our next stop.

Lunchtime and a good lunch it was (if you had the fish).
And a marimba band to entertain us.

An iguana.
Val is on the bus and ready for the next stop.
This stop was supposed to be a replica of a colonial village, which turned out to be a hotel that was built to look like a colonial village.  The scenery around the hotel was nice, and we saw several iguanas roaming around.  We didn’t really have any interest in a fake colonial village as we would be seeing some real colonial villages in the coming days.

The faux colonial village, not too impressive.

And more iguanas.

After that it was time to head back to the ship, but we did make one more stop at a shopping area for anyone who wanted to get a souvenir.  These were pretty much cheap factory made things so Val wasn’t really interested, but what they did have was air conditioning which felt wonderful.  We lingered in the cool air as long as we could before we had to board the bus for our trip back to the ship.  The bus did have air conditioning, but it wasn’t very effective.

An artist paints outside the shops.
The drive back to the ship and around the harbor was mostly along a beach, which was crowded with Costa Ricans, many of whom came from the nearby city of San Jose for the holiday.  We soon arrived at the dock entrance, said goodbye to our guide and boarded the shuttle back to the ship.  We were back in the welcome air conditioning of our room by 3:30 and I have to say it felt wonderful. This has been the hottest day of our cruise so far.

Today’s tour certainly wasn’t the best we’ve been on, but considering the holiday, crowds and heat, they did the best they could and we had a good time.  We did do quite a bit of driving around, which gave us a chance to see a lot of the Costa Rican countryside, which was pretty interesting in itself.  Thanks to Catherine of our Cruise Critic group who went to all the trouble of arranging this and taking care of all the details.

Val was pretty worn out and not feeling very well when we got back so we rested for a while and cooled off.  Val started to feel a little better so we went out to the Sea View deck to watch the sail away.  There was no sail away party today, but there were quite a few people out there enjoying the balmy evening.  We watched the sunset as we sailed out of the harbor and then returned to our room to wait for our 8:00 dinner seating.  Because of the proximity to the equator, sunset is almost always around 5:30 AM and sunrise around 5:30 AM.

The sunsets as we leave Costa Rica.
Our evening was spent in the usual way except that Chris wasn’t playing tonight in the MIX as he was part of the show in the main showroom.  After dinner Val continued her string of winning nights in the casino so that made her feel a little better. 

Tomorrow we will be in Corinto, Nicaragua, but we won’t be arriving until 11:00 AM so we can sleep in a little before we leave on our tour.

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