I must qualify my "travel expertise" in that I make 2 trips a month to wherever I feel like going at the moment. Over the next couple of months (until year's end) I have trips scheduled to Cancun, London, Hawaii, Mazatlan, San Diego and Puerto Vallarta. I've recently been to Moorea and Bora Bora. I love talking about my trips with these responses and tell it "as I experienced it."
My trip to Costa Rica was in March of '97. I had read a lot about the place and wanted to see it all. A local operator had an "eco tour" and gave me glowing reports of his tour via telephone. One Sunday he had a meeting (for all those who signed up to go) at his home and meet people who had gone on a previous trip and see their pictures, etc.
I was favorably impressed and so my enthusiasm was great. The itinerary was very interesting in that we would "see it all." Bus, boat, etc. The man who signed me up was unable to escort the tour but his wife would be the escort. I paid extra for a single room. At our first hotel stop, upon arrival, the guide (wife) told me that there was no single room available and I would have to share a room with 2 other people. I said "No." I told her that I was a very experienced traveler and would speak to the desk myself. After a lot of difficulty I was given my single room. This went on throughout the trip. I would have to request the single room at the stops.
The bus rides were pleasant enough and the boat rides were also satisfactory. (Very small boats except for one large catamaran ferry boat to a "private island.") Ah, yes, the "private island" was a small island where the food was cooked on grills (none of the food looked good enough for me to eat) and there was one portable toilet and no running water. If you've ever been to Puerto Vallarta -- one of my very favorite Mexican cities, there is a tour to Yelapa which is billed as "Tahiti -- as it used to be". Well, Yelapa is so bad that once I arrived, after a very long boat ride during which people were seasick, I wanted to leave, so rounded up 6 more people, found a fellow with a small power boat who took us back to Puerto Vallarta in about half an hour. Again, a place with one toilet and hundreds of people.
I had expected to see a butterfly farm, more animals than I'd ever seen, birds of all types, iguanas, flowers, etc. A real "eco trip." I saw one sad old iguana. (I have a pet iguana named Marlon who is 10 years old. He is a real prize and has been my pet since he was a baby). I also saw a pig. The butterfly farm was a joke. I've been to Brazil where you can buy the Morphos butterfly under glass. I have a few and have given them as gifts. (They are reasonably priced down there). The few butterflies that were mounted in frames were 3 in number and all were purchased by one person on the trip. (He was greatly overcharged and I told him so, but they were all that were available). The only butterfly I saw at the farm was dead on the ground. There were a lot of children who had gotten dressed up to greet our arrival and we were given candy to give them. (I suggested that they be given tooth brushes instead) (Do you get the idea that I am a bit of a rebel).
We boated down a lot of rivers and saw raw sewage being dumped into the water. The "jungle trip" was a very small walk into a wooded area. We stayed at a lodge where they had a "zoo" -- a few very sorry animals penned in. (monkeys and a tapir). At the lodge one person became quite ill and had to be flown out and another man fell when a railing broke and he also had to be flown out.
When we arrived at the volcano it was completely fogged in and so we did not see the eruption. Nature did not comply. I bought a few butterfly postcards. We were promised a stop at a place that sold coffee beans and as we rode past were told "that stop has beencanceled." Some people on the bus requested a "rest stop" and we were told there was "no time" if we were to make our next stop. One day our boat went to the border of Nicaragua and we all paid $5.00 to have our passports stamped -- we did not get out of the boat, just sent our passports with the soldier who greeted our boat.
It was during the Easter weekend and most restaurants were closed. The lunch stop was also closed so we had to eat at a cafeteria at an Elderhostel, which, by the way, was a very pleasantplace. On the way back we passed something that looked like a wonderful butterfly farm and place to really see all the animals and birds, but as we whizzed by in our bus I was reminded of the Woody Alllen movie where he is on the train full of gloomy people and the train next to him has all the "beautiful people" enjoying themselves.
Well, that is my story. No, I am not going back to Costa Rica. Perhaps had I chosen a different tour provider it would have been a different story.As I usually say, I've been everywhere in the world I ever wanted to go and now I am just repeating the "good stuff." Unfortunately, Costa Rica does not fall within that statement.
I hope I haven't given you more information than you really wanted. Like you asked me the time and I told you how to build a clock.
Naoma can be reached at email@example.com