Oct 27, 2018 - This morning Island Princess is docked in Limón, the largest city on the east coast of Costa Rica. We get our first look at the area from the Promenade deck as we take a walk around the deck.
We have booked an afternoon tour, "Historic Banana Route Railway Journey," which is scheduled to depart at 12:20pm. That gives us just enough time to test our brains at Morning Trivia, hosted today by the lovely and talented Assistant Cruise Director, Jade. As you can see, she does not shy away from the camera!
I actually did pretty well today at Trivia getting 17 of the 20 questions correct, for a total of 17 points. Another couple got 17 & 1/2 points, so "technically" they won. But, we all know who the real genius is, right? After trivia, it was time to disembark Island Princess and walk down the long pier to the waiting motor coach.
We board the air conditioned motorcoach for the 40-minute drive to where we will board the train. Along the way, our local guide, Leonardo, gave us some very interesting information about the history of Costa Rica. The country gained its independence from Spain in 1820 and only had 20,000 residents at that time. They had no government to speak of and no economy. However, about that time, coffee was becoming very popular throughout Europe and Costa Rica had the tropical climate to grow coffee beans. In less than 10 years, Costa Rica was exporting coffee to Europe and other parts of the world. Today, Costa Rica is the second largest producer of bananas, second only to Ecuador. We passed by hundreds of container cars bearing the Dole and Chiquita brand names.
Today, Costa Rica still exports coffee, bananas, and pineapples. But, medical supplies and pharmaceuticals are the big industry. We learned from Leonardo that if you know someone with silicone breast implants, they most likely came from Costa Rica! Technology companies like Intel have also found a home here. Many of the components for the new iPhone are manufactured in Costa Rica. Like I said, Leonardo was very educational.
When we arrived at Estrada Village to board the train, our driver positioned the bus so that we literally stepped from the coach to the train car.
We never actually learned when the train was built, but you can tell, it is very old. The train cars are made from wood and steel and the engine appears to be diesel-electric.
The interior of the two train cars has been outfitted with padded bench seats and they are reasonably comfortable. There is no air conditioning, but every seat has an open window, and when the train is moving, there is enough air flowing through the car to keep it comfortable. It is about 82 degrees today, and quite humid, but we found the ride to be tolerable. However, when the train was stopped, the interior temperature started to get a little uncomfortable.
You can easily take photos through the windows (which were all fully open); however, Leonardo warned us not to put our hands or heads out of the window as passing banana plants and other foliage actually brush up against the train in some places. The lady sitting in front of me learned that lesson the hard way. She was taking a photo out of her window when a banana leaf swatted her arm. She was not hurt, but I imagine it stung for awhile.
Leonardo explained that this train route is still in use to take bananas from the fields to the port for processing and shipping. Along the route, banana plants can be seen on both sides of the train. When the fruit reaches a certain maturity, the farmers place blue bags over the bunches to protect them from bugs, pesticides, dust, rain or anything that could damage the fruit.
The train stopped at one point to let us look at monkeys, but I never saw one. Some guests claimed they did. Rickee said she saw a snake. So, that was about the extent of the wildlife on this journey. About half way through the journey, we were given bags of banana chips to enjoy along with bottled water.
Due to a train hauling freight coming the opposite direction on the track, our journey was cut short by about 10 minutes. Instead of disembarking in Moin as scheduled, our train backed up to a spot where there were two sets of tracks to allow the freight train to pass. Our coaches picked us up at a clearing nearby.
We re-board the coach for the drive back to Limón and Leonardo continues his narrative. I have to say, without Leonardo, it would have been just a so-so excursion. But, I really feel like I learned something today. Usually, I just want the tour guides to shut up, but Leonardo was one of the rare ones who actually had a talent for communicating effectively. Therefore, we feel like this excursion was well worth the $59.95/pp price.
The coach drops us off in front of a local souvenir market, only 100 yards or so from the pier where Island Princess is docked.
We decide to take a few minutes to take a look-see. The market has dozens of vendors selling all kinds of souvenirs and crafts.
We spend about 15 minutes looking through the market before heading back to Island Princess. Once back onboard, we have a quick dinner at Horizon Court, then relax and listen to some music in the Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7). Tomorrow is another day at sea.