Friday, 26 December 2008

Horsing around in San Jose

December 26th was not a typical Boxing Day (for us). We took the bus into San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, to see El Tope. The bus journey into San Jose was unusual because it only took 30 minutes – normally this would take at least an hour. El Tope is an annual horse parade which travels along the main avenues in San Jose.

As we were having a general wander around downtown San Jose, we noticed that people were already filling up the sides of the streets in order to get the best positions for viewing the parade. So at 11.30ish, an hour and a half before the scheduled start time, we joined them.

While everyone was waiting for the horses to come, there were numerous street vendors making their way up and down the parade route selling items varying from drinks and snacks to seats and hats (oh, and little nodding horses). It was only a matter of time before we purchased a couple of little seats for ourselves (3000 colones for 2).

Just before 2pm, the parade reached us (we think we were about half way along the parade route). Yesterday’s La Nacion stated that 4000 riders were expected and we certainly have never seen as many horses at one time before. Just as we thought they were finishing, a new herd would come along. The guide book says “many Ticos come from outside the capital to show off their specially trained horses”. Let’s just say that some are more trained than others and there were times when the horses were in control of their riders rather than the other way round.

Many of the horses and riders stopped to allow members of the public to pet them (the horses, not the riders!), much to the delight of the children in the crowd. We don't think that the occasional habit of riders picking up small children out of the crowd and riding with them would have got past the Health & Safety Executive in the UK, and we're not sure that the use of mobile phones or drinking while in control of a four legged vehicle would have been allowed either.

There were little horses, big horses, young riders, old riders, riders with chickens on their heads and even a gladiator (on a horse, of course)!

By 4pm Colin was feeling the effects of being around so many horses (we suspect he is allergic to horse hair – there was a lot of it about) and even though the horses were still coming, we packed up our stools and went to catch the bus back to Heredia.

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