The Pacific Railroad once operated this rail line to transport coffee harvests from the highlands to the coastal ports. Restored for tourist use, it now seems to run only when chartered by an agency for tours.
After the river journey, a train ride. . .
After the river cruise portion of the tour, as we continued on the bus to the train, we learned more about the history of the railroad, Costa Rican economy, taxes, daily life, etc. The question was raised as to why the smaller roads are in such poor repair in this comparatively wealthy country. It sounded like the situation at home; a federal agency maintains the main roads which are reasonably good in most places; local governments maintain the local roads and there’s never enough money to fix all the potholes and such.
As we pulled up to the train station, the first (rather disconcerting!) sign was a station house with a big “For Sale” sign on it and a rather rusty-looking train, but no worries. The interior of the train is beautiful: well-maintained pine covers the ceiling and walls down to window-height; the windows do look vintage and open easily; a good thing, since there’s no air conditioning. Each car does have a toilet compartment and someone comes through the train selling water and beer. The seats look vintage—old metal frames, but have newly-upholstered seats and backs which seat two persons each and very comfortable. The trip was magical; we saw homes right up along the edges of the train tracks; as the line was abandoned for so long, people moved in a squatters to occupy it and now have legal rights to the land they settled. As we descended a hill, the train came to a stop and we began to back up while our guide explained that he’d spotted a family of howler monkeys high up in the trees along the track. Despite the noise of a train backing up the monkeys didn’t leave, but they had plenty to say about the interruption of their day, much to the amusement of all of us. We stayed there probably 15-20 minutes, letting everyone take pictures, while the babies scampered along the branches and their parents chased them. Once we were underway again the trainman allowed photographers who wanted a little more adventure to join him on the back stoop of the train for even better photos; at one point he tossed a small sack of candy to a little girl who was standing alongside, waving. We saw several families come out to greet the train from their yards, but most weren’t close enough to have any interaction like the candy-passing. When the ride ended (much too soon!) the exit back to the bus was very simple; down the train steps and immediately onto the bus. It was surprising how close we were to the cruise port; less than a 15 minute ride. One couple wanted to leave the bus early and walk back to the terminal along the shoreline; the guide radioed for permission, and then pulled off to the side so they could exit and the guide could show them exactly where it was safe to cross and to walk.
HAL Shore Excursions
The best solution we found for getting in both the river and train experiences.
Blog Content & Website Design: Marney Wilde • Photographs by George Wilde