Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica
With less than 20,000 square miles, Costa Rica is one of the smallest countries in Latin America – this is now our third visit over the last five years. It is bounded on the north by Nicaragua and on the south by Panama. To the east is the Caribbean Sea, and to the west is the Pacific Ocean. Costa Rica is as complex & diverse as any place of its size on earth – roughly 27% is designated as a national park, biological reserve, wildlife refuge or protected area. We had a very knowledgeable guide – a local resident with a very good command of the English language. We learned that this tiny country of about 4 million total residents offers public education through high school level, and generous government loans available to students wishing to attend college. Costa Rica has a very low infant mortality rate thanks to socialized medical services, a minimal suicide rate, average life span of 78 years, and a 95% literacy rate. We were surprised to learn this visit that there’s no army or military force of any kind! Universal health care, to include dental & vision, has been in place for roughly 60 years – the government charges 9% of your income to help subsidize. The one huge negative for me is the 45% tax they charge on new autos. As you can imagine, with a vehicle tax that high, public transportation is quite popular.
We had a decent day. It was quite warm, but not unbearable – 84 degrees with 75% humidity. We took a small train through many of the country villages and at one point, stopped to view ‘Howler Monkeys’ who were huddled in a tree next to the tracks. This was a first for us, and quite interesting. Adult Howler Monkeys are very large – about the size of a 5-year old child. When they feel threatened, they begin ‘howling’ – not a high-pitched howl, but rather, a very low, yet loud raspy gruff, warning anyone within close proximity to stay away. Although the train had no windows, we were well-protected and never felt threatened, though I wouldn’t have approached the tree on foot! Our guide said they can be quite nasty if provoked. Following our 2-hour train tour, we boarded a small boat for a trip down a river to view rare birds and crocodiles. We didn’t spot any ‘rare’ birds – we saw a few parakeets, and the ‘crocs’ were apparently vacationing elsewhere – we spotted three, but one was a baby and the other two were barely out of diapers. It definitely wasn’t the “Crocodile Encounter” it was advertised to be! Still, it was an enjoyable few hours off the ship and by 1:30pm, we were back ‘home’ and ready to sail to Nicaragua.
The ship is still in a Code Red mode, with the GI illness ever present. Cheryl and I have had no symptoms as the number of passengers quarantined continues to rise. We carry our own sanitizer with us wherever we go along with wipes. Even in the dining room, we sanitize our table & chairs before we sit down. Some folks look at us with surprised expressions, but we’ve seen far too many people who don’t even wash their hands after a visit to the restroom.