We were married in April 2004 and for our honeymoon, we went to Costa Rica.
What a magical place. It's a country with no army. In 1948 they decided to do away with their army and spend the money on education and health instead. What an utterly brilliant move on their part. As a result, even though we'd still class the country as "developing" it's clearly a well developed country with a reasonable road and good communications infrastructure. They have a level of literacy and life expectancy as high as (if not higher!) than most developed countries today. Every post office no matter how small can offer Internet access and just about everywhere we looked, there was a cybercafe of some sort of another.
For our honeymoon, we got a fly-drive package via Geodyssey and booked our flights ourselves.
We flew into the nations capital, San Jose (Not to be confused with San Jose in California!) and stayed the first night in a hotel on the outskirts of the city. (Who gave us a free bottle of fizzy plonk which we were too tired to enjoy, but we took it with us!)
We were met at the airport by Geodysseys agents in Costa Rica, and taken to the hotel by bus. The agent on the bus explained a few basic things to us, helped us check into the hotel and showed us how the hotel tickets worked and answered a lot of questions for us. We were picked up again at 6AM the following morning to start our adventure!
One of the first things we realised was that the Costa Ricans are fairly strict time-keepers! No tardiness here! When they say 6AM, they really mean 6AM! I guess we're just used to sloppy time-keeping, but after a while, you come to expect it - if they say the bus will be there at 2PM, then at 2PM the bus will arrive!
Just about everything seems to start at 6AM. This might seem like a terribly early time to start anything, but that close to the equator, the days and nights are almost the same length - it's very much light by 6AM and dark by 6PM, so it makes sense to make as much use of daylight as possible. Throughout the holiday, we did gradually get up a little later each day - 8AM was considered a very long lie-in for us!
We had pre-arranged to spend the next 2 nights at Tortuguero. Tortuguero is one of the most visited national parks in Costa Rica, despite it's remoteness.
It's worthwhile mentioning here that Costa Rica has dedicated 25% of its total territory to national parks!
The trip to Tortuguero from our hotel involved a bus ride through banana plantations, followed by a boat trip. Costa Rica grows a lot of bananas, unfortunately not many organic or fairtrade ones... The place we stopped at seemed to be packing for Del Monte, but it seems the pack for different producers on different days (eg. Dole and Chiquita. (According to the guide book, this particular farm is owned by Geest)
Bananas arrive into the processing factory on overhead tracks. People out in the field cut the bananas off the plants and hook them up to the tracks then they are pulled in a long train to the factory. Each banana plant (a banana is not a tree, it's a herb!) only produces one bunch of bananas (although it's a rather large bunch as you can see from the photo below) In the non-organic farms, they are covered in a large blue bag which contains various pesticides and protects the crop from overhead spraying.
Bananas entering the processing factory
Tortuguero is northwards on the Caribbean side of the country. It's a long strip of land bordered on the eastwards side by the Caribbean sea and to the western side by a long canal/river. We travelled up this river to the place we were to spend the next 2 nights: Laguna Lodge. This was full-board accommodation and during the 2 nights and days we spent there, we were taken out on tour boats, jungle walks and a visit to the village of Tortuguero.
The boat trip to Tortuguero is where we started to see the wildlife that is more than abundant in the area.
A Crocodile relaxing in the sun...
We had the option to go canoeing in the river, but this put us off a little!
Tortuguero is probably best known as the egg-laying place for turtles. Alas, when we were there, it wasn't quite the right time of the year, so we didn't see any laying. Three of the largest kinds of endangered turtles come to Tortuguero to lay their eggs - the Green turtle (infamous for the green soup it gets made into), the hawksbill and the leatherback turtle.
A leaf cutter ant in action.
We saw a great many creatures, large and small in Tortuguero. One of the most fascinating is the leaf-cutter ant. They find a suitable bush, then cut out segments of leaf to take back to their nest, which they use to cultivate a fungus which they then eat! The waste from the ants and fungus goes back into the eco system to help replenish the jungle. All this underground and out of sight, so if you are in the jungle
A local flower known as "hot lips" ...
On the boat trips we saw howler monkeys, various birds including toucans, egrets (we saw a few) and various cormorant-like creatures. Not too many good photos as I was lacking a good telephoto lens for my camera. (For this trip, I had decided to take just the digital camera rather than my trusty old Pentax film camera and telephoto lenses - still, we saw and photographed a lot of wildlife, and some of the photos I'll put up here)
A typical boat on the river
After Tortuguero, we had a boat and bus ride back to a town called Guapiles (which seems to act as a central point for the various tourist companies and busses to exchange passengers!) where we had lunch and picked up our dinky little 4 wheel drive car (A Daihatsu Terrios!)
Driving in Costa Rica
Driving in Costa Rica seems a rather interesting process. The road signs appear to be more advisory than directional and the locals seem