2015 GUATEMALA & RAINY RICA

Globus SRQ


I was here in 2008 with OAT on their great "Route of the Maya" tour for all our Guatemala stops (Guatemala City, Lake Atitlan, and Antigua). I also visited Antigua as part of the Rode Skolar / Horrible Awful Lines Panama Canal cruise in 2014. I've been to Costa Rica (San Jose, Arenal) but that was 11 years ago when I visited the Arenal area in 2004 with Cruise West on an extension to their "Sea of Cortes" cruise.

"Get ready for a spectacular vacation to Guatemala and Costa Rica! In Antigua, step back in history as we explore the ruins of churches and monasteries along with restored colonial buildings. Then travel to Costa Rica and witness bountiful wildlife in their natural habitat, and learn about the Costa Rican culture. Among the many highlights of this tour is Tortuguero National Park, where we take a boat ride along remote, unspoiled sections of the park to view wildlife. Our guide will look out for the wildlife-including freshwater turtles, egrets, toucans, and monkeys.

"Another highlight is the Arenal Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. We may witness the red lava streaming down the sides - a spectacular sight - as we hear the volcano's grumbling. In Monteverde, visit the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, home to forest fauna such as jaguars, resplendent quetzal, monkeys, ocelot, and many species of birds and the large diversity of plant species. Prepare for the trip of a lifetime-a trip filled with wildlife, scenic waterways, tropical rainforests, and guides to help us learn about Guatemala and Costa Rica."

Since this is NOT Cheapmos(t), we get all breakfasts and just over half the other meals.

Average temps: Guatemala City/Antigua: 54/77 Lake Atitlan: 55/72

7/16/2014: Glowbutt has changed the itinerary significantly for 2015. At least they did warn us.

Day 1, Tuesday, Jan 6 Arrive in Guatemala City - Antigua
I scheduled the StuporShuttle for 5:20. The weather forecast for my area of town this morning is 32F (turns out 31) when I'm "out front" waiting for the StuporShuttle. Shiver, shiver!! Last night about 8:15 I received a "courtesy call" from StuporShuttle saying that although I had booked a 5:20 pickup, the driver wouldn't be there until 5:45 (and didn't show up even then: it was 6:05 before he got there.) Due to the temperature, I wish the flight was a couple of hours later. It was originally about 11:30 but United changed the schedule.

I did get one nice surprise: just before takeoff a flight attendant told me that since not all the business class seats had been sold, I was one of those selected for a free upgrade. The gain was a better and wider seat (no extra leg/knee room since the person in front of me promptly reclined her seat all the way back), also a very nice "brunch" about 10:30.

United UA 1500Houston - Guatemala City9:11A - 12:11P3:00

The hassle of getting through all the usual formalities didn't happen. On arrival, after just 20 minutes, I met our local host. - Hector, who is our tour guide for the Guatemala extension of the basic Costa Rica trip. In another 5 minutes, I was in the van (only 1 passenger - me) and we were on the way. There is no local sightseeing. We transfer directly to Antigua, Guatemala's capital from 1543 until a devastating earthquake in 1776 when it was moved to Guatemala City. I pre-booked the transfer to Antigua with Globus as part of the tour. Antigua is one of the Americas' oldest and most beautiful cities, with pastel-colored buildings, wide cobblestone streets, and a natural setting ringed by three volcanoes. At least we do get dinner tonight - and I find out that there are only 5 of us taking the Guatemala extension; there will be more once we get to San Jose in 4 days. Note: It is the same hotel as on a previous trip - and the rooms still have only about 2 candle-power of light. Also, our rooms are across the street in an "annex" and the wi-fi signal all the way over here is too weak to make a connection. Then there is the noise: there is no sound barrier/proofing between the rooms so we can hear everything said 2 or 3 rooms away. NOISY!!! This is a Very poor hotel. NOT Recommended! HOTEL: Porta Hotel Antigua (unfortunately, we are here for 2 nights)


Day 2, Wednesday, Jan 7 Antigua
(B) Eat a (not-so-)big breakfast this morning; even though it is the only included meal today - the selection just isn't all that great. At 9AM, we start our TOUR of this magnificent highlands city (aka "Count Your Change" due to several experiences there on an earlier trip), is known for its 16th-century Spanish Colonial architecture, includes lively Plaza Mayor, flanked by the impressive Cathedral de San José and Palace of the Capitanes Generales. We see the ruins of churches and monasteries, some with hidden underground passages destroyed by the earthquake of 1776, primitive foot looms where colorful textiles are woven. We then climb up to the top of one of the mountains to see what was a Monastery and is now a beautifully landscaped hotel. To finish us off, then take the mandatory (hard-sell) tour of a JADE FACTORY.

Lunch is not included but Hector takes/sends us to a nice restaurant with a very good range on the menu, and it ISN'T ALL THAT overpriced. Although Hector took us to many places on our tour today that I hadn't seen on my 3 previous visits (excellent choices!) the rest of the day is at boredom, darn it, since the optional excursion I was planning to take is not offered. Despite the lack of the excursions, essentially this was a very good day

WITH ONLY 5 PEOPLE TAKING THE GUATEMALA EXTENSION, NONE OF THE GUATEMALAN OPTIONAL EXCURSIONS WILL BE OFFERED. That's reasonable.

Day 3, Thursday, Jan 8 "Count Your Change" - Chichicastenago - Lake Atitlan
(BL) It is just a travel day today. After checking out of the hotel, today we start out at 8:30 to drive the exceedingly narrow and bumpy "roads" of "Speed-Bump-istan" (formerly known aas Guatemala) and reach the whitewashed highland town of Chichicastenango to visit the colorful, open-air INDIAN MARKET (it's a market day today). We also visit the Catholic CHURCH OF SANTO TOMÁS but we are only allowed a quick walk-around inside, and no pictures.

After an extended walk through those markets, lunch is provided at Mayan Inn and it is a nice one except for the "iced tea" which has never seen an ice cube - just tap water "cool." In the afternoon, continue bouncing, rocking, and rolling our way up and down VERY steep grades through more of "Speed-Bump-istan" to the shores of Lake Atitlán, surrounded by volcanoes and indigenous villages. Atitlan is the ideal place to come in contact with Guatemalan folklore. Twelve Indian villages surround the Lake, and their inhabitants are descendants from the great Quiche, Cackchiquel, and Tzutuhtl nations. We get a very short driving around intro to the town then check into the hotel - which seems at least very slightly better than the Antigua hotel, but there is still no wi-fi signal strong enough to connect to. Grumble!!! No included dinner tonight; I have some leftovers from breakfast instead. HOTEL: Porta Hotel Del Lago

Day 4, Friday, Jan 9 Lake Atitlan - Guatemala City
(BD) This morning, after (for once, a nice) breakfast we have to have our luggage to the coach by 8 and depart at 8:30. It is only a short drive to where we board a motor launch for a (very breezy) CRUISE along part of Lake Atitlán. Instead of having a nice small cruise boat, we are stuck in a very small, very bouncy boat - barely above a small "launch or small motor boat.". It is so low that getting into it from the dock requires a couple of long, risky steps down and later the steps up when we get to a village to visit are so high and dangerous (for me) that I just stayed on the boat while the others take a 1.5 hour tour (reported back as NOT so great - so I didn't miss anything). We were supposed to visit one special town but due to windy weather that got changed - probably part of the reason the visit was not great. When we get back to our starting point, I needed lots of help to get up onto the dock, and then we start an all-day retracing of almost the same route of the previous days driving as we go back to Guatemala City.

We do at least get a (nice) late lunch - on our own - which is the only highlight of the day. When we get to the hotel, we see the last of Hector and our driver, Miguel - who were only with us for 3 days. Neither will be at the dinner. The hotel wasn't even aware that we were supposed to have an included "Farewell Dinner" which really isn't a farewell dinner since Hector and Miguel have already left. As I remember, as has been the case on so many trips, this dinner is NOT one of the better ones. Also GlowButt strikes out again - the internet availability they show in the documentation is NOT included and costs quite a bit extra - so I go yet another day with no 'net connections.

Someone else gets to kick us out of bed at an unholy hour (o be safe, I booked a 4AM wakeup call with the receptionist) in the morning to take us to the airport even before the roosters start crowing. HOTEL (much better but not great): Barcelo Guatemala City

So far, this trip has been WELL BELOW the standards I expected from GloBusted. In fact, if it were the first tour I had taken with them, I might not take another.

Average temps: San Jose: 64/81; Tortuguero: 63/81; Arenal: 59/76; Monteverde: 53/68.

Day 5, Saturday, Jan 10 Waste a Day going from Guatemala City - San Jose, Costa Rica
(B none) Eat a large breakfast this morning; it is the only food we get today - except that we will be dropped off at the airport 3 hours before the flight; i.e. 5AM, so no breakfast. I'm totally disgusted with GlowButt. With absolutely no activities scheduled on arrival in San Jose, why the **** did GlowButt have to schedule us on a flight at 8AM. Surely there is another later flight. And we also got cheated out of the only included meal of the day.

We even have to pay a ransom ($3 Airport Security Tax) to escape and fly some old plane to San Jose. The flight is part of the trip, so the cost (except for the ransom) is included. Because the flight gets in well before noon, the rest of the day is a waste. In fact, essentially the whole day is a total waste. MAXI-GRITCH!!!

We are picked up on time so, so far so good for the transfers. However at the airport one of us (5) doesn't have a flight reservation on file. I don't know how that was worked out, but somehow it was worked out and she did get to go on the flight. At the airport, for departing luggage, we have to go through a "TSA" type screening. Then just before boarding, they do a detailed hand-search of all the carry-on luggage.

Avianca AV641Guatemala City - San Jose8:10A - 9:50A1:40

The flight is nice, we get in about 20 minutes early, and we even had a very nice snack breakfast served to us. Another luggage check - before we even get to Immigration, they do another "TSA" screening on Arriving luggage. Are they afraid that some of use are terrorists sneaking in from a friedly neighboring country? On arrival, since the flight is part of the overall trip, we are met by some "errand boys" hired by Globus to meet us - but only 2 of the 5 names were on the transfer list. After a few calls, the rest of the group did get included, and we headed off to the hotel.

There we finally meet our Costa Rican Tour Director, Jorge Avilla (our driver is Jesus) who does give us some information - he does seem very much more organized and this is beginning to look like a real Globus trip. Then we have to sit around for about an hour or so before we can check into our hotel where we are bored for the rest of the day with nothing to do except to try to find something edible and affordable, to eat - which won't be at this hotel and there is nothing close, particularly with very high winds. There is NO disorientation meeting - we won't meet the full herd of 32 cattle until tomorrow morning. PS - like the Porta Antigua, this hotel is a massive maze and hard to find the way around. The room at the hotel is very poor. For example, there is no general "room light" and of the 3 small lamps in the room, only one works. Sundown = bedtime. HOTEL: Wyndham Herradura

Day 6, Sunday, Jan 11 San Jose - Tortuguero National Park
(BLD) WOW! We even get all 3 meals included today and the next 2 days!!

After some very strong (almost howling) wind overnight, we are to have our bags outside the room at 6, then go down for breakfast. At 6:45 we check out of the hotel, meet the rest of the herd, and board the bus at 7. From the start, until we get to our hotel, we have intermittent light to medium rain. First we get a brief tour of San Jose and by 8, head off to Cano Blanco, with a stop at Guapiles where we can have a second (fresh fruit) breakfast if we wish.

Along the way, we pass through many small towns. As we do, I'm reminded of my trip with Cruise West that included an extension to the Arenal area. Our local guide told us that there were always 5 buildings, etc. in each of the small towns: 1) Church, 2) Elementary School, 3) Soccer field; 4) Bar(s), 5) Police Station, usually also (6) a small (general/food) store and possibly a gasoline station. Still true today - 10 years later.

Now we get a miserable introduction to ultra high humidity (and it is warm also). We stop for lunch at some "hole in the wall" eatery for a passable, but not great, meal. We continue east (in the rain) along a "road" which is actually just a large random collection of potholes somewhat "connected" by means of broken "pavement" (much like in Kenya) until we get to the Caribbean shore at Cano Blanco, the "port" for TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK. There we board an open sided motor launch for a CRUISE in that occasional rain, along the Tortuguero Canals, waterways crisscrossing a national park dedicated to the protection of endangered turtles. Our guide and boatman help us spot freshwater turtles, caimans, herons, toucans, egrets, and monkeys - lie - all we saw is herons, egrets, and a few monkeys.

We finally get to our hotel about 1 to check in and have a very nice lunch at the Monkey Restaurant. Later this afternoon we take that same launch for a brief tour of the (uninteresting) town which is only a short cruise away. We get back about 4:15 and Hector then puts on the "hard sell" of the offered optional excursions. The rest of the afternoon (not much) is time to try to recover from all the 135% or higher humidity. Dinner is at the hotel which is very rustic/basic/no a/c etc.Of course there is also no internet. If it is, as usual, raining lightly, it is a fairly long walk to my cell. HOTEL: Evergreen Lodge (2 nights)

The jail cell really isn't all that bad - it is fairly large, with a bed, 2 small tables with table lamps, a (real) room light, rocking chair, bench for my suitcase, rack for misc. items of clothing, etc. and a ceiling fan (mostly ineffective). With 3 lights, it is the best lighted room I've had so far. The bathroom has a wall-mounted sink, small mirror, toilet ("used" paper goes into a covered basket), towel rack, and large shower. The best part is that my room is an end room of one of the groups of 6 so I have quite a few (5) "side" windows, not just the one by the door. There is also a covered area in front with space for more rocking chairs. If it weren't for the heat and humidity … it would be nice.

Day 7, Monday, Jan 12 Torture at Humidity National Park
(BLD) It rained almost all night - and this is supposedly the "dry season." After breakfast, we take a hot, very high humidity BOAT RIDE in a smaller open boat (2 boats for the full group) along remote, unspoiled sections of the park's waterways, with explanations of the bountiful flora and (not so bountiful) fauna. We get back in time for lunch then this afternoon, we get to "suffer" another very high humidity boat ride through a portion of the nearby RAINFOREST. If we survive both of these, they will give us dinner. If we don't survive, never mind dinner. With my poor vision, it has been very hard to see much of anything that the guide and the others see and if I can't see it, then no pictures. Disappointing. Then it is back to my prison cell for yet another night of misery.

Day 8, Tuesday, Jan 13 Tortuguero - Sarapiqui - Arenal
(BLD) We had very heavy rain all night and I became concerned how the luggage could be taken from our rooms to the coach at 7, but at 6:45 it all but stopped raining. So it was an almost dry walk to the Monkey Restaurant (our usual) for breakfast. This morning after breakfast (at least the meals have been good) we manage a prison break about 8AM, rain permitting which it did, at least until 7:50, so only the latecomers got soaked. We then headed down the river/channels (in the rain with the plastic side curtains down) for yet another 1 ½ hour long boat ride - a transfer back to "dry land" also known as muddy landing. The two barefoot men who unloaded our bags and took them up a steep slope from the landing to the coach used wheelbarrows. This begins our journey to the San Carlos area. Of course we have to retrace our steps the full length of Pothole Avenue. We stop for lunch at the same "hole in the wall" we used two days ago on the way to Tortuguero.

We were supposed to stop and visit a banana plantation, but two days ago the owner decided to close off the area the tour groups had been visiting - too bad. The last stop along the way is (repeat) a tour of the CORSICANA PINEAPPLE FARM in Sarapiqui to learn about the history, cultivation, and industry of pineapples. It turned out to be much better than I had expected - a highlight even.

Continue to our hotel in the lush very low overcast town of Arenal, located in the shadow of Arenal Volcano - it is rumored that there is supposed to be a mountain/volcano somewhere off in some direction or other. At least it is a bit cooler, but there we still have lots of rain. Then consider a walk (weather dependent and not cooperating so skip it) in the nearby nature trail in search of 300- to 400-year-old trees, poisonous frogs, monkeys, birds, and maybe small animals native to the area. The hotel is better but still with some problems, and the restaurant is a fairly long walk away - in the rain. After a very long, drawn out dinner, I had that long walk back to the room in a heavy rain. The promised internet is available only in the hotel reception area so I have yet another 2 nights of no connection. I did a short connection in reception but couldn't get the FTP program to work on their network. HOTEL: Volcano-less Lodge & Gardens (2 nights)

Day 9, Wednesday, Jan 14 Excursion to Arenal Volcano
(BD) We had heavy rain overnight and it is still totally overcast with very low clouds. It is also raining intermittently this morning so Arenal is invisible. Since there are no specific activities included this morning, by timing my walk to the restaurant (leave just after one of the heavy rain showers) I made it, reasonably dry, both ways. Nice breakfast anyway.

During the morning at leisure, we may go on a float trip (no thanks) or some other activities. Or, we can walk along the trails nearby - but there are still some threatening clouds, the wind is high, and the heat and humidity are back. Even so I have some nice walks. But with the rain we were getting, I'm glad that I didn't sign up for any of the options. Lunch is not included and I don't plan to walk all the way into town to the Burger King so I liberated some extra munchies at breakfast and bought Cokes at the hotel shop.

Later this afternoon, we visit NATURA PARK where a Naturalist takes us on a guided tour of this ecological park home to a wide variety of plants and animals from the region. During the walk, we see we see snakes, lizards, frogs, toads, crocodiles, etc. After that, we waste about 40 minutes just wandering around the town of La Fortuna.with a chance of least partial views of Arenal Volcano - and partial is all we get. The summit is still totally hidden by clouds. Next, drive to nearby ECOTERMALES Hot Springs for a dip, actually just stand around in the pool since it is standing room only (no thanks) in the 40+C pools. We have (a very poor) dinner there before heading back to the hotel. At least it didn't rain. This evening, the clouds again block any chance to view ARENAL VOLCANO, where we were hoping to see lava glowing on its sides.

OPTIONALS: Arenal Ecoglide Park is one of Costa Rica's newest adventure parks featuring a canopy tour built to highest safety standards $75 NO

Horseback Ride to La Fortuna Waterfall Begin with a horseback ride through the countryside of San Carlos Valley. The route offers views of the Arenal Volcano. Next, take a walk into a forested canyon to reach La Fortuna Waterfall, which is 70 meters high $69 NO

Peñas Blancas Safari Paddle Trip Enjoy the sights and the sounds of the rainforest and experience it while paddling the Penas Blancas River. Monkeys, sloths, iguanas, crocodiles and numerous tropical birds are waiting for you. (No backs on the seats for my back support) $53 NO

Day 10, Thursday, Jan 15 Arenal - Monteverde
(B) We had only 2 brief showers overnight and today turns out to be very nice - the best weather of the trip, but we never, on any day, got to see the volcano. At best, it was about half (top) shrouded in clouds. This is our third (and last) day of going on short (only one meal provided) rations - so again, eat a (very nice) large breakfast. After breakfast, head out towards MONTEVERDE but with the mandatory 1 ½ hour stop at a souvenir shop in San Ramon.

We have to time our departure to get through the next part of the road: it is under reconstruction and is open to traffic 3 times a day (8, 12, and 3) for only 30 minutes each time. Supposedly we are to enjoy two days in the cloud forest if the weather permits. We stop in Santa Elena for lunch (not included) but where Jorge takes us has very high prices - $12 for a hamburger. Back to the munchies; in fact I buy some more munchies for dinner tonight - a good move since it turns out that the restaurant is a long way away from our rooms.

This afternoon, take a very nice guided tour (highlight) on the SKYWALK hanging bridges, which combines trails and suspension bridges, (but no zip lines) through the canopy of Monteverde Cloud Forest, to search for flora and fauna. We cross three bridges - the longest is 775' and is 165' above the ground. Although it swayed a lot as we walked across, I felt quite safe. We didn't see any wildlife, but the scenery was very interesting.

We finally get to the hotel which, when I first walk in, appears that it will be very nice - the best of the trip, but I rate it as "Three Thumbs Down." 1) it is about a mile walk down the mountainside to where we will have breakfast (and that mile back); 2) we are supposed to have a nice view of the Pacific Ocean but all I have is a bunch of vegetation and a lot of very hot west sun (housekeeping left the drapes open so it is miserable hot; 3) my room is right by the building entrance and with the thin walls, all the outside talking and luggage movement (uneven floors) is extremely noise; 4) the "desk" is several inches too high for even slightly comfortable writing or working on the computer; 5) 5000+ elevation makes it very tiring to walk around to see anything, even getting down to the restaurant is a problem; 6) neither the TV nor the micro refrigerator work; 7) the beds are very uncomfortable - maybe minimal sleep, if any. For a room that looks so attractive when you enter, still … Three, or more, thumbs down!!!!

Dinner is not included tonight but I have those munchies I bought this afternoon. We did have a brief shower about 6PM. We were supposed to have "ocean view" rooms, but the only water visible is a small branch of an inlet - no big expanse of water - and it is so far away that it is almost lost in the haze. So much for seeing the "ocean." HOTEL: El Establo Mountain Lodge (2 nights)

Day 11, Friday, Jan 16 Monteverde
(BLD) After a night of frequently howling wind - and it is still howling, it is almost time to (temporarily) escape from this hotel. I wish we were staying somewhere else tonight.

This morning I have to make that almost mile long walk down to the restaurant for breakfast. There is a hotel shuttle up and down the mountain, but it takes up to half an hour to arrive to pick you up.

Our tour leaves from there at 7:45 so I don't go back to my room. We first visit SANTA ELENA CLOUD (rain, fog, high wind) FOREST RESERVE for yet another walking tour in the rain and clouds. Located above 5000' on the Continental Divide of Costa Rica, the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve comprises an area of 765 acres, and is home to forest fauna such as the resplendent quetzal, jaguars, ocelots, monkeys, and numerous species of birds but of course we don't see any of them. With almost 100% humidity throughout the year, the cloud forest experiences almost 12 feet of rain per year and we got a bunch of it today.

Later, visit the family-owned TRAPICHE FARM, where you will learn about the production of sugar cane, coffee, and the traditional ways of cultivating bananas, arracacha (a local legume), avocado, macadamia nuts, as well as other products. After the lecture / demonstration walk (in intermittent light rain and wind gusts), we have a homemade lunch which is nice, but not spectacular

Once we get back to our miserable hotel we have some free time to update my trip notes and to repack my suitcase (also again tomorrow) for the trip home. Then tonight we have another of those ultra long drawn out (2 ½ hours), but better food than usual, farewell dinners, toasting our surviving Rainy Rica and this miserable hotel. The reason that the dinner is tonight is that two groups split off tomorrow on different extensions. At least it is in a closer location and not as far to walk - but of course, it is raining (some thunder and lightning even). My raincoat is getting quite a "workout."

OPTIONAL: Night Tour Valle Escondida This tour gives the opportunity to see nocturnal animals that only appear after nightfall. Starting around 5 pm, as you are walking, your guide will explain the different sounds you hear, and will tell you which animal they belong to. In the rainforest you can find a wide variety of nocturnal animals: spiders, tree frogs, sleepy sloths, armadillos, or snakes, to mention a few. Your hike will take about 2 ½ hours IN THE DARK.. $72 NO

I feel sorry for the 10 people who signed up for this excursion.. A) it is dark, B) the temperature is at least 10 degrees cooler/colder than last night; C ) the wind is high with very strong gusts, and of course, D) there is intermittent medium showers. I'm really glad I didn't sign up for it

Day 12, Saturday, Jan 17 Monteverde - Sarchi - San Jose
(BL) Bags out early, breakfast a 7 or so, leave at 8:30. En route to San José, visit SARCHI Village, known as the center of Costa Rican handcrafts. Here we first visit an ox-cart (and other related artwork) factory. We see artists in their workshops making the famous oxcarts then at the same location, make another mandatory long shopping stop. Then still at the same location we have a very nice lunch (one of the better ones) there in Sarchi.

We next drive a short distance to Grecia Village to see the metal church that was imported from Belgium to Puerto Limon in 1897. The church was transported by oxcarts to its present-day location, but sat in the plaza for 10 years before being reconstructed. It is not huge, but is MUCH larger than I had expected, and looks very nice; not at all like it is made of metal.

From there it is only a short distance to our hotel where we can pre-pay the $33 Costa Rica Departure Tax that GlowButt didn't tell us about. There is NO included dinner tonight, just "munchies"; our "Farewell Dinner" was last night. There is time for a final re-packing of my suitcase. HOTEL: Wyndham Herradura

Day 13, Sunday, Jan 18 San Jose / Depart
(B) Our tour ends with a very nice breakfast this morning. I booked Economy Plus seats for both flights. The flight was originally about noon, but again, as they did for the first flight, United changed the schedule, so I have to sit around the airport for a long time. The included airport shuttle was scheduled to pick me up at 11:30 - but two others and I were the last on the schedule and Jorge was eager to get home, so he sent us off at 10:25. I did manage to find something to eat - and managed to spend almost all my remaining "colones" so only ~ US $ 0.80 worth was left.

United UA 1099San Jose - Houston3:02P - 6:57P
3:02P - 6:20P
3:55
3:18

It was easy to catch this flight and be home by about 8:45 - but although the flight got in 35 minutes early (6:20), there was such a herd of cattle waiting for the shuttle that I didn't get home until 9. The weather in Houston is supposed to be good, though cool-cold. If fact it was only 42F outside at 9PM and will get down to about 33 tomorrow morning. The house was quite cold - I had left the heat set at 60 and it took quite a while to warm up. I almost immediately notice that now that I'm back in Houston, which I seem to be allergic to, the sinus problems are back.

This ends my last planned Central or South America trip. The only other non-North America trip currently planned is the UK trip in June. The next trip (US) is the Mississippi River cruise on Feb. 27.

Selected pictures
Click to enlarge



HIGHLIGHTS:
Day 1 - travel daySeat upgrade on the plane, easy airport connection
Day 2 - AntiguaLocal tour until the Jade Factory, Lunch on our own
Day 8 - travel to ArenalBreakfast, Pineapple plantation
Day 9 - ArenalNatura park tour - though rainy
Day 10 - to MonteverdeHanging bridge walk/Skywalk
Day 11 - Monteverdesugar cane, coffee, cocoa tour - Trapichi Farm
Day 12 - to San JoseSarchi Oxcart factory

CASUALITIES: There were only two major casualties -
1) Most of the trip due to the weather, particularly in/at Atitlan, Arenal, and Tortugruro; i.e. almost all of the jungle walks / river excursions / lake cruise / local sightseeing
2) My luggage - either while loading or unloading the luggage from the boat we took up to Tortuguero, they managed to tear off two zipper pulls including the mounts, and break one of the bottom front supports so the luggage won't stand upright any more. I will have to buy some new luggage.

AMERICAN EMBASSIES SEEN: Burger King, McDonalds, Wendy's, Taco Bell, KFC, Domino's Pizza, Little Caesar's, Pizza Hut, Pizza Inn, Chuck-e-Cheese's, Hard Rock Café, Subway, WalMart