The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Friday, March 6, 2009

Costa Rica and Grand Cayman

Continuing my commentary on our cruise to the Western Caribbean, our next port of call was Puerto Limon in Costa Rica. Like Panama (at least the little bit of Panama we saw), the poverty of the people was evident in this part of Costa Rica. Once again we joined a tour we had booked in advance of the cruise. This particular tour was advertised as a train ride to a banana plantation where we would observe how bananas were grown, harvested and processed. The description bore little resemblance to reality.
Above: We passed this freighter -- the Hansa Magdeburg out of Hamburg -- as we entered Puerto Limon harbor in Costa Rica. I just thought it was a neat picture.

Our tour guide was an interesting enough fellow, a Costa Rican who worked as a realtor when he wasn't guiding tours. (I suspect, however, that he was as interested in selling vacation and retirement homes as he was in describing the sights.) The tour started badly when road construction forced our bus to take an alternate route. This in turn caused our train ride to start later than planned and left little time at subsequent stops.
Above: Our "banana plantation tour" train.

The train, probably 50 or more years old, wasn't a total bust. As it chugged along the track at the edge of the rain forest, we spotted a three-toed sloth up in a tree, and had an even more interesting encounter with a troop of howler monkeys. After perhaps a half-hour we stopped in the middle of nowhere and were invited to join our guide and his associates at a grubby little beach. There we were treated to a glass of soda or Costa Rican beer which we drank as we stood there looking at each other. All very odd.

Above: Diane and I standing around on the odd little Costa Rican beach

The train then returned us to our bus and we drove to the banana plantation. Unfortunately the plantation, for whatever reason, wasn't operating that day so we saw absolutely nothing. Indeed, I never saw even a single banana. We spent about 10 minutes there, looking at nothing in particular, reboarded the bus, and returned to the pier.

On the pier we wandered through a large flea market and bought gifts and other goodies and souvenirs -- the highlight of our brief stay in Costa Rica.

The photos below are of: (left) howler monkeys hanging out in the trees; and (right) one of the vendors at the flea market on the pier.














Leaving Puerto Limon we spent the next day at sea and arrived at Grand Cayman early on the morning of February 28.

Above: At sea, en route to Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman, as one might expect, is clean, neat and very British. Our prearranged tour there consisted of a trip on a glass-bottomed boat from which we could observe the undersea life that populates the local coral reefs. We also had a look at a old wreck from the early 20th century. The captain of our tour boat then donned scuba gear and dove under the boat so we could observe him feeding the fish. All very interesting.

Above: Diver feeding fish under our glass-bottomed tour boat

After our little boat ride, we climbed aboard a very uncomfortable bus for a tour of the island. Our guide, a local chap named Chico, apparently hadn't grasped the idea that tour guides are supposed to talk. He said perhaps 100 words during the entire tour, and most of those were in response to questions. In his defense, the fact that the bus had no PA system might have been a contributing factor.

Above: Diane holding a young sea turtle at the Turtle Farm

The tour also included a visit to a Sea Turtle Farm, where we observed these amazing and very large (up to 500 lbs.) animals. We also had the opportunity to hold some of the little ones. For Diane and me this was the highlight of the day's activities. Predictably, the tour included a visit to a shop that specialized in rum, rum cakes, and t-shirts -- probably owned by Chico's cousin. We also drove to a small town called Hell. You can imagine the kind of souvenirs offered there.

Above: Here I am at the gates of Hell

Afterwards, Diane and I had a surprisingly good lunch at George Town's local Margaritaville Cafe and then roamed in and out of the shops along the main street, eventually buying some serious bling for the beautiful Diane. We set sail that evening and 36 hours later were back in Miami.

Above: Fishermen cheating death off the Port of Miami breakwater

And that, folks, is the condensed version of our trip to faraway places with strange sounding names. Despite the less than stellar tours, the cruise was very enjoyable and provided both of us with some needed R & R.

Above: the Jewel of the Seas in port

I actually took over 900 photographs on the cruise, and posted over 100 of them online. If you want to view some of these, you can see them on flickr.com, either individually or as a slide show. Click here.

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