Friday, 13 March 2015
13.03.2015 - 13.03.2015
A subdued sunrise was blocked by the mountains of Costa Rica but there was a promise of a clear day. We had a booked Shore Excursion with a rendezvous in the Wheelhouse Bar at 08:30. We had a quick breakfast, grabbed our gear for the day and watched the ship coming into the berth. There was already one of the Princess ships tied up at the end of a long narrow pier. The tour buses have to back the entire length as there isn't enough width for them to turn around. With two buses side-by-side there was barely two meters for pedestrian traffic.
With the Island Princess's 2,000 passengers and our 3,000 there were a lot of people being processed. We boarded the coach and set off on a long journey into the highlands. After about two hours we stopped at an extensive souvenir shop primarily for a comfort stop but also to taste the local coffee and buy those elusive bargains. We escaped having spent just US$8.00. From there we travelled through more mountain passes to the town of Palmares, set in a beautiful valley and home to a 200 year-old church build from blocks of volcanic rock. Built before the advent of 'cement' the bonding material was a 'mortar' of egg-white and limestone. The church took 13 years to complete and has survived a number of earthquakes.
Heading further into the high country we arrived at the major destination. The family-owned Doka estate where we enjoyed a simple but tasty buffet lunch before being guided through the various stages of growing, harvesting and processing the coffee beans. The local plantations are all on the sides of steep hills and are picked entirely by hand. The mill is the oldest "wet processing" mill in the country. Once the shell is removed the beans are allowed to ferment in water for three days. The beans are then spread out on large concrete pads to be dried by the sun. They are spread out in a very thing layer and are turned over every hour - by hand. Eventually the dried beans are bagged into 40 to 50Kg bags and warehoused for export.
Only a small percentage of the crop is roasted for local consumption the bulk is shipped to processing plants around the world. The estate supplies all the coffee for Starbucks and the beans are roasted in Seattle in Starbucks' roasting facilities. An educational and most interesting couple of hours.
The final stop on the tour was a botanical garden which also provides refuge for local birds that have been injured. The endangered Scarlet Macaw is also housed here in an attempt to bread them in captivity. The botanical specimens were magnificent as were the amazing species of orchids. We then travelled a newly completed highway back to the port. We were told that it took 30 years to complete this highway, it certainly reduced the time it took to get back to the ship.
We were finally back on board at about 17:15 and decided to eat in the dining room dressed as we were. The four tables that are served by our waiters had a total of just eight seats occupied out of a total of 22 seats. All throughout the room, staff were talking amongst themselves and trying to look busy. Tonight's entertainment was provided by the very talented vocalist Christopher Riggins who presented another excellent range of songs to a less than crowded room.
Tomorrow we will be in the tendered port of San Juan Del Sur where we have a shore excursion booked with a rendezvous time of 07:30. Only 7 days remaining.
If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today
Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony