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Colón, Panamá is one of the most important ports of the Caribbean Sea.  Colón, is of course, the Spanish name for Columbus.  Colón gained more significance with the completion of the Panamá Canal.  We did not take a tour in Colón as we wanted to explore the area near the port.  Here we met Embera native women who were selling jewelry and other crafts that they had made by hand.  We conversed with them and it was interesting to see that in addition to their native language, they spoke Spanish and enough English to sell their items.  Some of them knew enough Math to calculate to a certain quantity.  If the amount was beyond their comprehension, they would call on one lady that had a calculator.  It was remarkable to observe women who live the same as their ancestors have for hundreds of years coping with modern society.

Going through the Panamá Canal was one of the most fascinating experiences.  We left Cartagena, Colombia and headed towards the canal.  The ship had to get in line to pass through the canal.  From our balcony we could see at least 10 ships ahead of us.  Finally, it was our turn to go up and down the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel, and Gatun canal locks.  It took about 8 or 9 hours to get through the canal and basically all day from the time the ship lined up to the time it exited into the Pacific coast.  As we passed through the canal, we could see the current construction of the second canal that will permit even larger ships to pass through the Canal Zone. On a side note, it cost upwards of a quarter of a million dollars for a ship to pass through the canal.

We have had two ports of call in Costa Rica, Puntarenas and Limón.  Limón is on the Caribbean side while Puntarenas is on the Pacific.  In Limón, we visited the Veragua Rain Forest with its vast biodiversity.  Unfortunately, the rainforest was very quiet that day except for the people ziplining through the tree canopy, which looked like a lot of fun.  We made our acquaintance with a few thousand butterflies in the Butterfly museum and live ones in the butterfly house as well with other native animals in a display area.  We encountered giant ants and a two-toed sloth way up in a tree.  The short gondola ride down into the forest became denser with foliage.  We didn’t make it to the very bottom nor to the very top of the rain forest.  All in all, it was an amazing day. By the way, we didn’t see one mosquito considering the Zika Virus scare.

In Puntarenas we took a tour through the countryside via bus as well as a train ride.  The country is very diverse with a variety of vegetation and farm products.  From there we boarded a boat to take a ride down the Tarcoles River to see the natural scenery including exotic birds, crocodiles, and to listen to the multitude of sounds coming from the jungle.

Costa Rica is a country where we will need to take a land trip to learn more about the culture, the people, and its diverse ecosystems.  If you take students on trips, put Costa Rica on your list.

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