Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera) Train ride Excursion Reviews
I should have stayed on the ship!
This review is biased because I am a train nut. It was an interesting and relaxing ride through the Costa Rican countryside on an old narrow-gauge railroad. My only complaint was that they herded us directly from the bus to the train leaving us with zero opportunity to photograph the train or the old station. There were very limited opportunities at the end of the ride since we simply stopped at a grade crossing.
The second part of the trip was a boat ride on the Tarcoles River. This was also a very fun trip especially as our guide fed raw chicken to hungry crocodiles. My only complaint was that the trip was too short as we just started to appreciate the variety of plant and bird life found along the river.
The port of Puntarenas was nothing to write home about. There were numerous vendors found along the beach near the pier, but the prices seemed a bit high and there was little bargaining.
We boarded our "Swiss Travel Costa Rica " motor coach and headed to what is advertised as a travel back in time, deep into Costa Rica’s culture were we are to board the historic Pacific Railroad that was used to transport the country’s valuable coffee harvests from the highlands to the coastal ports.
According to our guide, in 1991 there was an earthquake that broke the east coast to west coast railroad tracks in two different locations. The Costa Rican President decided it would be better to truck the products from the east to west coast than to repair the train tracks. Fortunately for the country he owned a trucking company that could do the job. None of the new administrations have wanted to repair the tracks. The wives want to know if we are going to ride the train to the east coast, how can we ride the train if the tracks are broken, what cargo does the train carry and will we be back in time to catch the ship?
The train consists of one engine, one caboose, two passenger cars and a teenage girl selling drinks for her brother's college tuition. Not all of the wives are happy with this arrangement. Where are the men with bare chest carrying the coffee beans? I think they are somewhere else; I will have a beer to help the brother's education and enjoy this traditional passenger car.
It starts out as a standard train trip through a typical third world community. Homes with smiling faces, children running to see the fat rich foreigners, dogs, pigs, chickens, clothes hanging to dry and people trying to repair things in the yards. We came across a tribe of howler monkeys in some trees. The train stopped and I went to the caboose to see from the rear. Too many tourists standing between the cars so I was given permission to climb up into the caboose and use the observation area. Got as many pictures of the monkeys as was possible in the time allowed.
Our guide saw I was enjoying being in the caboose so he got me permission to finish the ride in a functional caboose, something I will most likely never get to do again. The view is so different than from the passenger car. Watching the engine and the other cars make the turns, pass through bridges and tunnels is a fantastic experience.
Arriving in Ceiba, famous for its tropical fruit orchards, we boarded our motor coach for the ride back to the ship. Our guide takes this time to explain how the previous president of Costa Rica thought the $2 an hour salary for the coffee pickers was too low and raised it to $4 an hour. That Costa Rica has gone from an economical haven for foreign retirees to the most expensive Central American country today. As for immigration issues, the fruit pickers are smuggled in from Nicaragua because allegedly the Costa Ricans will no longer do the work for the salary offered. And we thought we were only going to get a Tropical Train Ride.
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