Chris' (Previous) Daily Journal
January 20, 2010, Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
We arrived in Puerto Limon this morning about 6:30.
Puerto Limon is Costa Rica’s largest and most important port. The port was founded in 1870, originally to export bananas and grains. Puerto Limon is one of the oldest cities on the continent of Central America, established in 1502 when Christopher Colombus arrived. Puerto Limon is the capital of the province of Limon.
We disembarked the ship around 9am and boarded a bus to take us to a train. As we were driving to the train, our on-board hostess told us that we had the best bus driver in the world – and that he has a PHD in Holology – meaning he is an expert at avoiding the holes in the roads.
Our first adventure of the day was a train ride into the countryside. It was a “forced air” train, meaning the windows were open – forcing the air inside! We were lucky enough to see several two-toed sloths, a monkey and several birds. The sloths were a bit difficult to see as they blend in with the tree bark.
After the train ride, we went for a boat ride – an eco-tour ride. It was fascinating – more sloths, couple crocodiles, egrets (just like at home) and some iguanas. The river had a lot of traffic on it today – lots of tourists in town.
Following the boat ride, we visited a banana plantation. This particular one produces bananas for Del Monte. It was an amazing operation – from seeing the acres and acres of banana plants to the factory itself. This factory produces about 12,000 boxes of bananas per week for shipment.
We learned that most of the workers in the factories in Costa Rica are from Nicaragua. There are about 1.2 million Nicaraguans living in the country. They are willing to perform manual labor and they make more money here than in their home country. The average salary for one of the workers is equivalent to $500. (U.S.) per month. In addition, they receive medical care, education for their children and free electricity.
We found the Costa Ricans to be very charming and friendly. Interesting is that there is no standing army. Also, Costa Ricans have had universal health care for 60 years, although private insurance is also available (and those who can afford it, use private insurance).
The Caribbean shore can be seen from the center of the city, but most beach-goers head a short distance out of town to Playa Bonita.
Costa Ricans are environmentally strict – 23% of the country is parks. Near the port, is Costa Rica’s wettest rain forest – the Reserva Biologica Hitoy Cerere. This rain forest receives over 13 feet of rainfall each year.
The currency is the Costa Rican colon – today’s exchange was 560 colons to 1 U.S. dollar. A Coke costs about $1.50 (U.S.) and gasoline is about $4.00 (U.S.) per gallon.
Pulling into next to us this morning was the Carnival Freedom – our ship looks like a little tugboat compared to this one. Our ship holds 793 passengers, the Freedom holds 2,974 - big difference!
We also found out that there are 112 volcanoes, seven of which are still active. Here’s a link to the volcanoes throughout Central America
Puerto Limon looks a bit rundown – due to many earthquakes that have hit the area over the many years.
One of the favorite items to buy here is cashew wine. We were encouraged to try it, but I must be honest – I much prefer my wine made out of grapes rather than nuts.
We leave port today at 3:30pm and work our way toward the Panama Canal, which we will go through tomorrow. There’s a webcam showing ships making their way through the locks here! Our Holland America ship is dark blue and white – perhaps you’ll be able to see us! We will arrive at the entry at 5am and will be in the canal throughout most of the day.