Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reconnaissance Trip Day 2 - Finally in Costa Rica

After a leisurely spent morning that included a tasty warm continental breakfast, we head early back to the airport in Dallas.  We have taken the time to schedule appointments with TSA Pre-Check which will come in handy on future trips by being able to go through the shorter lines, not have to take your shoes off or unpack laptops and other electronics.  The appointments were incredibly fast and after answering a few questions and paying our fee we are on done with that step and now we wait the 2-3 weeks while the government decides if we meet the criteria.  A quick late lunch at the Gas Monkey Restaurant on the concourse and it is time to board for San Jose.  The trip is approximately 3 hours in length.  Once again it is an uneventful trip.  We are unable to see the scenery because we arrived after dark.

We follow the herd to baggage claim at the San Jose Airport.  I stop along the way at an exchange station to convert US $'s to Colones.  This is "highway robbery" and the exchange rate is terrible to the tune of 100 colones less than the exchange rate.  With a small amount of colones in hand we make our way through customs.  This is a well oiled process and we are quickly processed and on our way.  The key is having your paperwork filled out while you are on the plane and be ready to follow the line.

At this point we are truly in country and on our own to find the desk for Dollar Rent A Car with our confirmation number ready.  At this point reality begins to set in as we have our first hiccup.  Our friendly employee who speaks pretty good English proceeds to inform us that he doesn't have a record of our reservation.  He makes a call and tells us that his supervisor will take care of it, herds us through the throngs of cab drivers ready to launch on us as we leave the airport, loads us up on a unmarked shuttle bus and off we go to the off-site car site.  Upon arriving at the rental office we learn our first lesson in "patience" in Costa Rica.  We had heard through all of our reading that people are in no hurry but didn't quite realize how accurate that statement would be.  After a minimum of 45 minutes, several times being told that our confirmation number didn't match anything they had but they would get us a vehicle.  We were prepared that in CR unlike in the US that you have to take the insurance.  We upgraded to the full coverage after watching the driving from the airport which we will go into greater detail.  Finally we were handed over the keys with reminders of what to do if we got a flat - do not stop and allow anyone else to assist but rather drive to a safe location and call for roadside service.  That is all well and good but at this point we do not have a cell phone to use in CR.  Car loaded up, keys provided, and our map in hand along with sketchy directions on how to get to our hotel we head out of the parking lot.

At this point it is very dark with no moon because it is overcast.  Armed with confidence and our basic instructions to go down the block and loop around to get on the 1 which is the Pan American Highway or Autopista Gral Canas we are off.   The directions tell us to "just go straight until you get to the first stoplight in San Jose" and turn right at the huge park and then take the first right after the huge park.   We drive for much longer then I would have expected in "crazy traffic" with motorcycles zipping in and out of traffic.  People walking on the side of the major highway and busses that stop in in the far right lane on a dime to pick up passengers.  We make our turns and find ourselves on Highway 27 which is the Autopista Prospero Fernandez / Autopista Jose Maria Castro Madriz, headed west towards Esaczu where our hotel is located.  We are to make the "first" right we can even though it appears way to early for our hotel which is on the south side of the Highway.  We come up over the slight rise to find a line of probably 15 toll booths.  At this point I'm really glad I converted some money as the request for 330 colones (aaack, I don't know what coins that is) so I grab a 1,000 colones paper bill and we make our way through the via Manual booth.  We are greeted with Buenas Noches to which we respond in kind and are handed numerous coins and a receipt the gate lifts and we are through quickly because even though it is 9:30 p.m. there is still much traffic.  We are expecting the turn to be a mile or so but it is about 1000 yards away, so risking life and limb we make our way across numerous lanes of traffic and whip off the highway onto what will become a very familiar "frontage" type road.  We make our way down the road past a "very busy nightclub" and many people in the road to a road that leads under the highway and back the other direction to our hotel. 

We pull into the lot where the Holiday Inn San Jose Esaczu is located which is a plaza with restaurants, banks and other business offices.  It is a beautiful lobby and we are greeted in pretty good English.  We are quickly checked in, upgraded once again to the top floor and  a larger room.  We are directed to the underground garage to park and within about 15 minutes we are happily in our home for the next two weeks.  A side story exists about the "alleged monkey" that Don saw in the parking garage to which I scoffed and told him he clearly needed sleep because there were no "monkeys" in the middle of town.  Stay tuned if you want to find out what he saw.  That answer will come on the Day 14 post.

Hallelujah we have made it "safely" to Costa Rica.  Can't wait until morning to see where we really are and what it looks like.  To say we are tired would be an understatement  but we are way more excited.    We quickly unpack and flip on the television and for whatever reason I am surprised to find 50+ channels but only 2-3 stations in English (CBS, CNN, FOX).  As the weeks went along, it became less and less important and actually there was limited TV watching.   

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