Pura Vida Travels - A Guide To Travel In Latin America








I was sitting around on Friday night thinking about what I should do on Saturday and an idea came to me...Why don't I hop on a bus and head over to the town of Cartago and see what's happening there? Cartago is about 45 kilometers from San Jose near the volcano Irazu. Cartago has an interesting history. It was founded in the 1500's by Spanish conquestadors and has been destroyed numerous times by various earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, etc. Through all that it remains a vibrant town and is home to about 150,000 Costa Ricans.

Click Here For A Map Of Cartago

Cartago reminds me of what towns were like when I was a kid. There's butcher shops, bakeries, fabric stores, hardware stores, a fruit market, etc. There are no Walmarts or Home Depots to be found, just a lot of small mom and pop type stores. Don't get me wrong, I love Walmart and Home Depot for their convenience and low prices, I just miss the friendliness of small stores sometimes. At least I know they still exist somewhere.

I did very little planning before leaving for this trip which definately added to the adventure. I looked up where the bus stops for the Cartago busses were online and found that there were 2 in San Jose. I walked to the closest one, asked the bus driver if the bus went to Cartago, and when he said yes I hopped on. What I didn't know is there are 2 stops because one is an express bus or "directo" and the other stops about 15 times on the way. I, of course, was on the one that stopped 15 times on the way.

About half way to Cartago I started wondering how I was going to know when to get off the bus because the one I was on seemed to be just stopping at random places on the highway. I figured I would just jump off when I thought I was there and figure out how to get back to San Jose later.

Click Here For The Costa Rican Bus Schedule


The road to Cartago

The road to Cartago

The road to Cartago
The ride to Cartago lasted about an hour and as soon as I saw the town I jumped off at the first stop. Cartago has 2 main streets that run parallel to each other and I was at the far western end of the city. I figured this would allow me to see the whole town by walking from one end to the other and back. As I was walking down the street I came to a local church that was open so I went in to take a look and take some pictures. I'm not really sure if I was supposed to be in there but no one asked me to leave. I don't think the church was really "open" since about 2 minutes after I went in a guy was locking the place up.


Local church

Local church

Local church
In the center of Cartago is a large park that surrounds the ruins of a church that was built in 1564. A local band was playing and it seemed like the whole town was out and about. It's definately a lively city. The only sad thing about the park is that there is trash everywhere. Overall, the town is very clean but the park is a mess. It definately detracts from what could be a beautiful site.


Cartago social club

Pointy statue

Local band

Hot day, cool dog

"La Ruinas"

400 year anniversary plaque

Side of church

Inside church
The main attraction in Cartago is the Basilica de Los Angeles. It is reportedly the site of a miracle and the home of a relic that people from all over Costa Rica make an annual pilgramage to see. The story goes like this...A young girl found a statue of the Virgin Mary on a rock in 1635. She brought the statue home and her mother was very angry becuase she thought the young girl took someone's statue. She made the girl put the statue in a box under her bed and told her they would return it the next day. When the mother opened the box, the statue was gone. They returned to the rock where the girl had found the statue and there it was, sitting on the same rock. The mother was convinced that the girl was playing a trick on her so she took the statue home again and put it back in the box. The next day, again, the statue was gone from the box and back on the rock. The mother went to the local priest and told him the story and it was decided that this was a sign from God to build a church on the site.

The church has been built and rebuilt a number of times due to natural disasters but is reported to be directly over the original site. The relic is in an annex in the basement that you can easily miss unless you poke around. Look for the sign in the photo below.

This is truly an inspirational site. When people enter the church they get on their knees and crawl to the alter from the back of the church. The basilica itself is magnificient with European stained glass windows and incredible details in every aspect.



Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles

Virgin Mary relic

Virgin Mary relic

Follow these signs to the statue

Local school

Fruit market

Fruit market

The sun sets on my trip
Finally, my friend Junieth gave me some new photos. She's moving back to Nicaragua and invited me to come there to see her and meet her family so it looks like I will be spending my 40th birthday celebrating in Managua, Nicaragua. I've been doing some research on Nicaragua and it looks like a great place to visit. If Junieth is any indication of how friendly the people are it should be another trip I will never forget. Until next month...


Junieth

Junieth

Junieth

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