Tag Archives: Costa Rica

9 December 2019 to 4 January 2020:
Valparaiso, Chile to Los Angeles:
Crossing the Equator on America’s West Coast

By Corey Sandler

We flew south all through the night from New York to Santiago, Chile. We left the wintry East Coast of the United States and landed in summery South America.

Viking’s Viking Sun will spend the next 28 days heading northwest and then north, calling at ports in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, and then San Diego and Los Angeles in the United States.

This is just one month in a record-setting eight-month-long World Cruise. We will cross the Equator as we sail along the appropriately named nation of Ecuador. In fact, across the eight months of this cruise, this ship will cross the Equator four times heading south then north then south then north again. A hearty few dozen guests will be aboard for the entire journey, while others will partake of various segments.

I’ll be posting photos and comments here throughout this cruise. I hope you’ll join me here.

9-10 December: Valparaiso, Chile

Viking Sun at the dock, seen from Valparaiso’s Sotomayor Square. The central statue commemorates what Chile considers its greatest military achievement, the War of the Pacific, the defeat of Peru and Bolivia in the Atacama Desert east of 1879-1883. Peru lost its southernmost territory to Chile…and with that came massive deposits of copper that today is part of the backbone of modern Chile. Bolivia, which allied with the losing side, lost its only outlet to the sea. The war is long over, but the three countries remain somewhat short of cordial in relations, or at least in their view of history.
The famed Floral Clock of Viña del Mar is currently a clock with no hands in the midst of Chile’s season of social and political protests, mostly in the big cities of Santiago and Valparaiso. The mostly young protestors object to economic conditions that tilt in favor of the very rich, alleged corruption that favors officials in the government, and other problems in a country with a still-fragile democracy.
A tough way to earn a living: street buskers juggle, dance, and perform acrobatics at intersections.
At the eclectic Fonck Museum in Valparaiso stands one of only three Easter Island moai located away from the remote island. Easter Island is today part of Chile, although it is about 2,000 miles or 3,000 kilometers to the west in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean.

11 December 2019: Coquimbo (La Serena), Chile

As is typical for coastal towns in this part of the world, dawn arrived gray and cool. By midday, it brightened just a bit, and then–almost as if controlled by a clock–the sun broke through at 2pm. By 6 tonight, we can expect warmth and a rising wind.

Except for the occasional semi-tropical storm, local weathermen don’t have an awful lot more to talk about.

Viking Sun at the dock in Coquimbo, Chile

I went with guests on a trip up the coast to the market town of La Serena, perusing barrels of olives. This is somewhat close to a Mediterranean climate; Chilean wine is better known that their olives, but both grow up in the hills. A local favorite is aceitunas sin amargo, large black olives said to be without amargo or bitterness.

A vendor at the market in La Serena
The hilltop Cruz del Tercer Milenio (The Cross of the Third Millennium), with an observation platform up high, reflects the predominantly Roman Catholic background of Chileans. It stands 83 meters or 273 feet tall, which allows the Chileans to claim the highest cross of South America. (In case you were wondering, Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Hill in Rio de Janeiro stands only 30 meters or 99 feet tall. And in any case, it’s a statue, not a cross.)
At the other side of the bay, seen to the right in this photo, is a handsome mosque constructed by the Kingdom of Morocco as a cultural offering; there is only a very small Islamic population here. The minaret is modeled on the famed Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, Morocco
The afternoon sun fills the Explorers Lounge aboard ship in Coquimbo

All content copyright 2019-2020, Corey Sandler. To obtain a copy of any photo, please contact me.

The content of this blog is entirely mine, and is not endorsed or approved by any cruise line or other entity.

13 December 2019: Iquique, Chile

It’s hard to have more contrast in one day than we did today, and that’s an extraordinary thing. 

We arrived early this morning at the port of Iquique in Chile, an uncommon sight in this place. They receive only about eight cruise ships a year here. 

And then I went with a group of guests from sea level– because that is where oceangoing ships generally sail– up into the altiplano, the high desert. About two hours drive brought us into the Atacama Desert and the spectacular Huasco Salt Flats.

The flats are at about 3,830 meters above the sea,  or about 12,565 feet.

We had a bright sun and tolerable temperatures and pink flamingoes and llamas and alpaca. Oh, and I took some pictures….

The altiplano is home to some of Chile’s abundant mineral wealth. It all began with saltpeter a century ago, used at first for gunpowder and then as a fertilizer. 

Today,  copper is king,  along with valuable metals and minerals including molybdenum and lithium. That last substance is an essential component of batteries for things like cellphones and tablets.

Our trip back to the port in the afternoon was delayed because of a convoy of some of the largest machines on land: mining excavators, gigantic dump trucks, and support equipment. 

They would make great beach toys. 

Here’s some of what we saw today:

The Dragon sand dune reaches to the edge of the growing city of Iquique
The little town of Pozo Almonte sits at the foot of the altiplano, its history bound up in mining in the hills
A monument to the men of Pozo Almonte who went to the mines…
And the women…
The Huasco Salt Flats, at 3,800 meters or 12,500 feet above sea level. The surrounding mountains reach thousands of feet higher, some capped with snow
The rumble of thunder in a place that receives very little rain
The copper mines built the roads into the hills, and regularly shut them down to move equipment

27 December 2018:
Puntarenas, Costa Rica:
Pura Vida

By Corey Sandler

We arrived in hot and muggy Puntarenas this morning and I went with a group of guests into the rainforest where we jumped off about a dozen perfectly good trees.

We were, of course engaging in the entertainment known as zip-lining. It’s a lot of fun and not nearly as scary as bungee jumping or parachuting.

Strapped into a harness and attached to not one but two separate steel cables above, participants glide through the jungle as if we we belonged there.

Just to make things interesting more interesting, at the bottom of the zip-line course was the Tarcoles River, it’s banks lined with crocodiles. An active imagination might lead you to think they were hoping for someone dropping off the zipline, but we did not oblige them.

Photo by Corey Sandler, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

Costa Rica, like Panama–and Colombia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, the United States, and Canada–has ports on both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

There is only one canal, though.

The other countries have done the best they can with roads and railways to transfer products from one ocean to another.

Puntarenas here in Costa Rica was once the country’s principal port, but it was on the wrong side when it came to trade with the east coast of the United States, the Caribbean, and Europe. Over the past century, a railroad and then highways were built to climb up and over the Continental Divide to bring bananas, other agriculture, minerals, and more from one side to the other.

Modern Costa Rica has devoted much of its economy to sustainable and green industries and ecotourism. And the country–not quite perfect in its government and social services, but far ahead of nearly all of its neighbors–is doing well,

In fact, they have their own all-purpose expression of contentment: Pura Vida. Think of it as “all is well” or hakuna matata.

All photos and text Copyright 2018 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

If you would like to purchase an autographed copy, please see the tab on this page, “HOW TO ORDER A PHOTO OR AUTOGRAPHED BOOK”

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

JANUARY 2018. VIKING SKY TO THE PANAMA CANAL AND THE CARIBBEAN

By Corey Sandler

Welcome aboard. I am happy to share some of my photographs taken aboard Viking Sky on our journey from Miami to the Panama Canal and back. 

Viking Sky at anchor off Key West, Florida

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2018. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises.

MONDAY, JANUARY 8, 2018: Key West, Florida

A bird’s eye view of a Viking Sky tender
An ancient lock on a shipwrecker’s warehouse in Key West
Instituto San Carlos, the headquarters of the post-Independence, pre-Castro Cuban community in Key West
The files of the former Consulate of the Republic of Cuba in Key West

To send me an email,  click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 10, 2018: Belize City, Belize

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2018. All rights reserved.

Altun Ha, first built about 900 B.C.E.
Altun Ha, near Belize City
The ruins of the ceremonial site were only rediscovered in the 1960s
Altun Ha near Belize City. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cities and ceremonial sites of the Mayans and other ancient peoples in Central America and most are still covered by earth and hidden within forest. Archaeologists say they are probably safer that way, since there is not enough money to protect and preserve them all once they are uncovered.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 11, 2018: Carambola Gardens at Coxen Hole on Roatan Island, Honduras

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2018. All rights reserved.

Emerging from the shadows of the forest
A tiny hummingbird flits into view

To send me an email,  click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

SATURDAY, JANUARY 13, 2018: Along the Tortuguero near Puerto Limón, Costa Rica

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2018. All rights reserved.

A two-toed sloth, just hanging around
A common basilisk hidden in the green forest. The creature is better known as the Jesus Christ Lizard because of its ability to run across water when necessary
Shadows in the water
A blue heron observed us from the shore

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2018. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 15, 2018: Colón to Panama City on the Panama Canal Railway

We arrived early this morning at Colón, Panama on the Atlantic Ocean and spent the afternoon in Panama City on the Pacific. Although I have made the transit of the isthmus more times than I can remember, this was the first time I did so by rail.

The Panama Canal Railway was begun in 1850 and completed in 1855 as the first mass transit across the isthmus of Panama, replacing the very difficult trails through the jungle. And then the railway became an essential part of the construction of the Panama Canal itself, when work was begun first by the French in 1881 and then redone and completed by the Americans in 1914

The American effort required the rebuilding and relocating of some of the track because the American design was based on damming the Chagres River and creating a manmade lake as the means of transit between the seas. The track today includes some of its 1850 route and some of the 1914 relocated path which parallels the Panama  Canal.

Today the railway serves mostly as a “dry canal”, carrying freight from the Atlantic to the Pacific in containers mounted on flatbed train cars, but it also runs a few passenger trips for tourists each day.

A modern diesel-electric locomotive powers the Panama Canal Railway today on a 48-mile crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific
Containers and flatbed railcars, part of the “dry canal”
The railway track parallels the canal, here crossing on a trestle over the Chagres River which is the source of the water for Gatun Lake and the engine for the operation of the locks
At Gamboa, near the midway point of the canal, stands “Titan”, one of the largest floating cranes in the world. It was built in Nazi Germany in 1941 to service U-boats in Kiel. After the war it was seized by the U.S. as war reparations and brought across the Atlantic and through the Panama Canal to Long Beach, California where it served for nearly 50 years at the shipyard there. (Its local nickname was “Herman the German.”) In 1996 it was moved once again, this time to Gamboa where it is used in the maintenance of the locks of the original canal
An old piece of railroad equipment on a siding near the train terminus at Balboa on the Pacific side
Modern Panama City as seen through a thicket of pleasure boats at the Pacific end of the canal

To send me an email,  click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 2018: Partial Transit of the Panama Canal

We arrived early this morning at the Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal and then rose up three locks to Gatun Lake, which today was at its maximum level of 86.7 feet above sea level.

Once we reached the lake, we made a U-turn and then made our way back down to the Atlantic Ocean. In modern cruising language, this is known as a “partial transit”, which sounds like an oxymoron to me.

I have been through the Panama Canal more times than I can remember, and it is always a thrill. I spent the day up on the navigational bridge offering commentary about our partial transit. Call it an up and down excursion…

The view from the navigational bridge as Viking Sky climbed the stairs at Gatun
One of the electric locomotives, or “mules” of the Panama Canal. The mules (the name is derived from the original means of moving barges along the Erie Canal in upstate New York) do not pull the ship; instead their function is to keep a ship centered in the lock chamber
In the early morning, we passed below the nearly completed bridge at the Atlantic end of the canal

To send me an email,  click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2018. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2018: Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena in Colombia is one of the best preserved old Spanish colonial cities in the new world.

We had a lovely day in Cartagena, although we were not alone: four cruise ships in port, thousands of tourists in the streets, and painful traffic jams.

The best time to visit: after hours, when the vendors and the selfie-sticks have gone home.

The old city of Cartagena
The dome of San Pedro Claver Church in Cartagena. Claver was known as the “slave of the slaves”, begging in the streets to help the poor Africans brought by the tens of thousands to Colombia
A golden display of indigenous art
A work by Colombian artist Fernando Botero, champion of a style known as “Boterismo.” He obviously thinks large.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 20, 2018: Nassau, Bahamas

So, we weren’t supposed to be here in Nassau, Bahamas this morning. But a combination of bad weather and other factors in the Western Caribbean caused us to cancel calls scheduled for Montego Bay, Jamaica and then George Town on Grand Cayman Island.

We sailed two days eastward along the south side of Cuba and then turned north toward Nassau for a final port of call.

Nassau is an interesting place, mostly because of its history as a British colony somewhat similar to Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos. It was a place of plantations (and therefore slaves), and its success drew in pirates and privateers and attacks by the Spanish who contested some of the same waters.

Today, the English are still here with a Royal Governor and the police force look more like British Bobbies than the ones in London. The Spanish and the pirates are gone, and in their place hordes of tourists. Many of them arrive by cruise ship at the huge port which can accommodate five and sometimes more large ships.

One of our favorite places to visit is Christ Church Cathedral, an Anglican/Episcopal church at the corner of King and George streets. The structure is handsome, with the current building dating from 1841 on a base that dates back to the mid-1600s.

But it is the collection of plaques and other remembrances that line the walls of the church that fascinate. Any one of them could generate a novel, or at least a lecture for me.

Small, medium, and large at the dock in Nassau. Viking Sky sits between the luxurious private yacht Turquoise and the huge and loud Disney Dream

A Viking long boat on the Viking Sky’s funnel catches the morning sun

Christ Church Cathedral in Nassau

A bit of old Nassau, hidden in plain sight

Echoes of Colonial Britain at the Governor General’s house on the hill

Safe travels to all.

To send me an email,  click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

17 October 2017:
Puerto Limon, Costa Rica:
The Atlantic Side of the Rich Coast

By Corey Sandler

Buenos dias.

¿Cómo vas?

¿Pura vida?

Muy bien, gracias a Dios.

There’s your basic meet-and-greet for Ticos, also known as Costa Ricans.

Good day.

How are things going?

Pura vida?

Very well, thank God.

The one phrase you might not have recognized is one that pretty well sums up the Costa Rican character.

Pura vida.

Literally, it translates as pure life, except in proper Spanish that would be vida pura.

He looks cool, at least from a distance.

The Costa Rican expression is the rough equivalent of “full of life” or “real life” or “cool.” Or perhaps, hakuna matata.

It’s an all-purpose phrase, used as a greeting and a farewell. You can use it to say thanks, or to express satisfaction. It’s hard to use it wrong.

The phrase arrived in Costa Rica in 1956 in a Mexican movie. In that film, pura vida was the expression of eternal optimism by a character who can’t seem to do anything right.

Here is Costa Rica, though, they seem to be doing many, many things quite right.

It’s a special place, notably different from its neighbors in Central America in lots of good ways.

Since 1948, Costa Rica is arguably the most stable democracy in Central America and among the better-functioning longstanding governments in the world.

Nearly universal literacy, national health care, an economy that has moved on from agriculture to ecotourism.

No army, no navy, no air force. Just a civilian police force.

It helps to have some friends with benefits, including the United States, available in an emergency.

We’re coming in to the Atlantic or Caribbean side of Costa Rica.

Costa Rica (the Rich Coast) is one of eight countries to have ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific: Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia…and Panama.

And when we leave Puerto Limon, it is to Panama where we shall head, for our luxurious passage between the seas.

A STEAMY FIELD OF DREAMS

In a typical Major League Baseball game in the United States and Canada, an average of 100 baseballs are used.

Why so many? Some become scruffed or dirty in play, some go into the seats as foul balls, and a few make their way over the fence for a home run. The average lifespan of a baseball is just two plays.

And it is essential that—as much as possible—that all baseballs are close to identical: the same size, weight, and construction.

A Rawlings factory was established in Costa Rica in 1987, and it served as the exclusive provider of baseballs for the major leagues until 2013.

The factory is in Turrialba, east of the capital city of San Jose up in the mountains of Costa Rica and they make about 2.4 million baseballs per year, the vast majority of which are shipped to the United States.

The baseballs are mostly made by hand by three hundred qualified sewers, the best of whom can make three balls per hour. They earn less than $100 per week, making balls for athletes who earn many millions of dollars throwing, catching, or hitting.

The balls are made of horsehide or cowhide, tightly held together 108 hand stitches around a rubber wrapped cork center. Each ball, between 9 and 9¼ inches in circumference, weigh 5¼ ounces. must have 108 perfect stitches.

Despite the major production of baseballs, the sport itself is not very popular in Costa Rica. The leading sport is football, although many athletes here are very well aware of the success of players who have come from nearby Panama (Mariano Rivera), Nicaragua, Cuba, and hundreds from the Dominican Republic where the production of baseball players is a major industry.

Earlier this year, the Houston Astros signed 19-year-old pitching prospect Bryan Solano, born and raised here in Puerto Limon. He likely will have five or more years of work in the minor leagues, with hopes of someday taking the mound in a major league game.

But I could not pass up the chance to visit El Estadio de Beisbol in steamy Puerto Limon today to pay homage to a field of dreams.

All photos and text Copyright 2017 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

If you would like to purchase an autographed copy, please see the tab on this page, “HOW TO ORDER A PHOTO OR AUTOGRAPHED BOOK”

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS,  PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

23 April 2015
 Puntarenas, Costa Rica: Living La Pura Vida

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We arrived at our first port in the Pacific on a steamy morning in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. And then it got hotter: 92 degrees,  and if there is such a thing as more than 100 percent humidity,  this must be what it feels like.

We have been here many times,  up in the mountains,  along the rivers,  tothevolcanoes.  Today we stayed local,  slowly making our way around the town of Puntarenas,  a place that does not see all that many tourists. But we know we can count on friendly times amongst the Ticos.

Pura Vida, no matter the heat.

23 APRIL 2015, PUNTARENAS

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Costa Rica means “rich coast.”

Yet another thing that Christopher Columbus got wrong.

First of all, Costa Rica has two coasts: Atlantic and Pacific.

And secondly, Columbus was a guy who believed in wishful thinking.

As we know, he was looking for India when he landed in the Bahamas, and so he called the islands there the West Indies.

And when Columbus sailed through the Caribbean to the dead end of Central America, he was looking for the Panama Canal…or a natural strait through the isthmus.

On September 18, 1502, Columbus set anchor offshore of Costa Rica, and Carib Indians paddled out in canoes to deliver a peaceful greeting.

Columbus was looking for gold, and that’s the “rich” part of the name: there just had to be gold somewhere.

Costa Rica has managed to survive the Spanish Conquistadors, the American filibusters who came south in hopes of annexing Central America, corrupt or venal politicians, United Fruit and its “banana republics” and various other indignities.

Today, the gold in Costa Rica is green. To their great credit the Ticos have decided their future lies in gently making use of the vast ecological treasures of the nation: rain forests, estuaries, mountains, volcanoes, and wild life.

A PUNTARENAS ALBUM

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All photos copyright 2015 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS,  PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS