Saturday, 16 April 2011

Costa Rica

Costa Rica today, and I'm up in time to watch us berth at a dock only a few metres longer than the ship. It's a commercial port with containers and cranes but lush green countryside beyond. This morning's excursion is the sloth sanctuary and rain forest and we meet in the theatre to be assigned numbered stickers before being led out to our coach. Our guide is Kitty and she introduces us to the culture and history of Costa Rica as we drive. We pull over briefly to buy a bunch of bananas that are passed around for us to sample. and again to see a troop of Monkeys beside the road.

Arriving at the Sloth Sanctuary we first watch a video accompanied by a Flanders and Swann song I vaguely remember. Then the grandson of the founders introduces us to some of the rescued sloths, including one called Johnny Depp. They are incredibly endearing,with a rather vacant smile and gentle demeanour, mostly snuggling under blankies. Most sadly have injuries, some acquired crossing roads that have bisected their territory and others from climbing electricity pylons that they mistake for trees.

After the adults we are introduced to the babies, which are even cuter still if such a thing is possible. One is paraplegic and another was abandoned by his mother because he kept falling out of trees. Apparently he kept hanging on to his own limbs instead of branches! Next Kitty takes us for a nature walk and I'm astonished to see many land crabs. We also see a sloth, lizards and a massive spider.

We are taken in canoes onto the Tortuga Canals that run parallel to the coast. More crabs here, also birds and monkeys and most impressive of all a Jesus Lizard running on the surface of the water. Back at the sanctuary we enjoy fresh fruit and Costa Rican coffee and watch the colourful birds in the nearby trees. Back at the boat we grab a quick lunch then I go and check out the tourist market on the port side. It's very hot and crowdedand the prices seem very high, in fact everything seems to be $14. Some of the vendors are quite pushy and one tries to convince me that I remind him of a long lost love who broke his heart.I decide I want to see the real Costa Rico, not the tourist trap so I go back for Simon and Alex and we set off.

Porta Limon, named for the sole lemon tree that used to be a reference point, is a colonial style town that has seen better days. As we leave the port we follow the sound of druming to find a group of children and yoths apparently having an impromptu samba session in the park. Locals are oaying them no attention. There are many families and it seems to be a popular spot to spend free time at the weekend. From the other side of the park we can see the island where Colombus landed and named this country the rich coast. But there is rubbish all over the breakwaters. With 6% of the world's biodiversity in this country that occupies only 0.03% of its land mass, it's disappointing to see such disregard for the environment.

We stroll around the town and Alex and I share a fresh coconut, drinking the water through a straw. Then it's back to the ship. We decide to have a quick swim folloed by a drink at the sunset bar but sadly it's too cloudy for a scenic sunset. Night falls quickly. Alex and I watch the show, an excellent Cirque du Soleil type affair with astonishingly supple acrobats. By the time it finishes Alex is almost asleep and we have dinner while he goes straight to bed.

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