Liz and John's South American Grand Cruise 2014 travel blog

Wednesday 8 January

Day 8 Sea day - on our way to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

We were up at half six again and I felt generally better. It's going to take some time to get into a routine and look after our health but also enjoy ourselves. We again had the luxury of having breakfast in our room and were then ready to do some exercise. John went for his walk and session in the gym on his fit ball and I did an hour in the pool swimming and doing my aqua aerobics program and relaxing in the pool.

There is going to be the formation of a choir to perform towards the end of the cruise and I was really interested in being part of that. The woman running it is the musical director on the boat and she is a big black lady with a terrific sense of humour and a booming voice, with lots of jokes. There were about 12 people who were interested and they divided into soprano, alto, tenor and base, quite equally. She taught us from basics how to breathe and vocalise and we did some exercises first. Then she did some harmonies and it sounded wonderful with just half an hour's instruction. I found my voice and sounded pretty good considering I hadn't sung for some thirty years. I think I'm really going to enjoy it. We apparently rehearse mainly on sea days so we won't miss any of the rehearsals while we're exploring ashore.

After the choir, we had trivial pursuit and did badly. There are some really serious teams that get nearly all the questions right so we don't really have much of a chance. However it's a lot of fun. After lunch we went to a lecture on the Engineering of the Panama Canal. That was really interesting. We go through it in on Friday.

There are lots of problems with the Internet with logging on and off and it's really slow so my travel log is going to be iffy at times. And photos remain difficult to transmit.

The show this time was a magician who did what appeared to be simple card tricks. The reception of the audience was very luke warm but we thought he was quite good and the tricks very clever. However it was another really late night and that's knocking us about a bit.

Thursday 9 January

Day 9 - Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

We got into Puerto Limon at 7am this morning It was a very hot and humid as we had expected near the equator. We'd been warned about the risk of becoming dehydrated in the heat but it wasn't any worse than an average summer day in Brisbane.

Puerto Limon is a small port that was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502 who described it a being rich in gold. The Spanish had control of Costa Rica until 1821when it won its independence. The Spanish Governor at that time had described it as 'the poorest and most miserable in all the Americas'. However, Costa Rica discovered the true riches of incredible fertile land and became the main port for the exporting of coffee making the country the wealthiest in the region. More recently tourism has become the number one earner for the nation and the preservation of the natural habitat has made ecotourism increasingly important. It is rated as the 'greenest country in the world and hopes to become 100% carbon neutral by 2030, which is pretty impressive.

We didn't go on a tour because of my lack of mobility, but did go downtown and had a chance to look at the cathedral and the main shopping district. Surprisingly there were ramps from the roads to pavements, but it was obvious that the local council doesn't spend a lot on maintenance of the buildings, roads or pavements. It was an interesting place but the people and places looked impoverished although were friendly and seemed happy. The Catholic cathedral had only been recently completed and was built from precast concrete. But the design was quite dramatic and the inside was impressive. There were some lovely stained glass windows and timber ceilings but the interior was simple yet beautiful. The Parque Vargas was the central walkway through the town and was painted multiple colours and passed beneath a jungle of tall palms and tropical flowers. The Town Hall was an interesting building with glaring blue arches and the oldest building was the former HQ of the Black Star Line Steamship Company. We also visited the central market and there were lots of beautiful wooden carvings and woven bags for sale. However we resisted this time because I feel we will have the chance to buy beautiful gifts many times on this trip. We popped into a cafe and had some good coffee with some delicious custard buns. They had free WiFi but we forgot our iPads so failed to make use of it! So we won't be emailing photos this time either.

We didn't have the chance to get out of town to the many protected parks, local rainforest, swamps and sanctuaries. The cruise ship was only docked there for six hours anyway so we were pushed to see much more that we did.

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