Tropical delights, downpours, steaming volcanoes – and an earthquake!

Steaming volcanoes are a feature of Costa Rica.

Steaming volcanoes are a feature of Costa Rica.

It was a first taste of the tropics – and of an earthquake – for Editorial Director Peter Stonham when he attended the recent Central American Travel Market in San Jose, Costa Rica, and a post-event tour to El Salvador. After experiencing steaming volcanoes, dripping rainforests, exotic birds and other wildlife including mischevious monkeys, the day before his return saw an earthquake in El Salvador hit 7.4 on the Richter scale. ‘It was a moving experience,’ says Peter, which even alarmed the locals who are used to significant seismic activity. Fortunately, it was centred offshore and didn’t cause too much damage. On his arrival in San Jose, Peter was surprised to initially see crowds of people on the streets carrying umbrellas but it was their logical response to the heavy daily downpours, which accompanied the end of the rainy season. Driving through the countryside was a fascinating experience with all the plantations of coffee, bananas, sugar cane and pineapples, together with very lively roadside activities as people went about their daily tasks and sold produce. The towns in El Salvador were exceptionally colourful with both brightly painted buildings and murals, and bustling markets. That country has not long come out of a civil war between the military and rebels, and there was evidence of guns in many places – now fortunately mostly in the hands of security guards, as well as police and army! Costa Rica had its military struggles a while ago, and actually completely abolished its army in the 1940s. The country is probably the most developed in Central America and becoming rather too American in flavour for Peter’s taste! To some extent, tourism is in a formative stage in El Salvador and the opportunity is there for adventurous groups to enjoy the unique experiences of everything from walking and wildlife to seeing local craftspeople at work. Peter watched weaving and dyeing with locally sourced indigo.