A day of travel Backpacker style
01/20/2010 - 01/21/2010 90 °F
I bummed a ride from my Dad to Denver International Airport for my 12:15 AM flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. There was nobody in line at the Frontier counter. Cool. I had purchased a one way ticket ($185) knowing that Frontier Airlines or Costa Rica Immigration might have a problem with that. Officially I was supposed to have some sort of ticket out of the country before my ninety day tourist visa expired. I had heard conflicting reports concerning requirements for proof of exit arrangements. I decided to take the chance with a one way ticket ... mostly because I didn’t know when I would be returning or where I would be proceeding to. Well the Frontier lady was having none of the one way ticket stuff. She said I needed to show her an exit ticket. I said, “No I don’t. I don’t know when I’m leaving the country.” Anyhoo ... I lost the argument of course. She booked me a round trip ticket via Nature Air from San Jose to Bocas Del Toro, Panama. I had never heard of it. Anybody know anything about it? Where is a good place to stay, backpacker style? I’d appreciate any tips.
I don’t mind going to Panama for a few days really, another adventure, but if I have to show proof of exit travel arrangements when I’m trying to get back in to Costa Rica from Panama I’m going to be annoyed (again). How do other travelers get around this problem? I understand the immigration rules ... I just don’t understand why I should have to follow them. I thought they were for other people.
I woke up from a five hour airplane nap to an amazing view of sunrise and volcanoes below. I guessed I was over Nicaragua at the time but I couldn’t see the borders below. The lines were probably hidden by the jungle. Customs and Immigration was a breeze. Nobody checked for a return ticket, of course. I wasn’t really sure how I was going to get to La Fortuna, Arenal from the airport. A taxi driver said he’d get me there for $120. Forget that. I wound up taking a $20 taxi to the main bus terminal (I think) in San Jose and then purchasing a $4-ish ticket to La Fortuna. Cheap!
The bus ride to Fortuna is about five hours long. Apparently there is an express bus that is more like three hours but it would be awhile until that bus ran again. I squeezed into my seat with my computer between my legs and Camel Back on my lap. There was absolutely no leg room. I had to sit up military straight with my knees pressed against the seat in front. Coach on Frontier airlines was luxurious compared to this. No AC. A girl from New Mexico wedged herself into the seat next to me. Despite the bitching I’m doing now, at the time I was happy to be on the bus and on my way to La Fortuna. I chatted with the girl from New Mexico, Iris. She was on her way to a butterfly sanctuary outside of Fortuna where she would work as a volunteer for a couple of months. I had a couple of naps with my head pressed against the seat in front of me. Iris had a guy with a big gut standing next to her in the isle ... she couldn’t nap and avoid gut contact at the same time. Poor girl. I like to think that I would have traded places with her If I had noticed her predicament ...
I woke up in time to see Arenal looming close. Am I starting to sound like a crappy novelist? Anyway, I woke up when we were close to Arenal and Fortuna. We unloaded. The butterfly people were supposed to pick up Iris, my bus buddy, but we didn’t see them so we sat down for lunch. I had my first Imperial beer at a “typico” restaurant near the bus station ... I don’t remember what I had to eat. I love the beer here ( ... and pretty much everywhere else). Pilsen, another Tico beer, is also very good. We had a pretty good view of the volcano Arenal. We were pretty lucky to get a view as soon as we rolled into town. Arenal is covered by clouds most of the time. The butterfly people showed up after an hour or two to pick up Iris. I picked up my pack and hauled it a quarter mile or so to Arenal Backpacker’s Resort (or Hostel depending on which brochure you read).
I’d spend one night at Arenal Backpacker’s Resort before meeting up with the family at the Springs Resort about twenty minutes outside of Fortuna. This was one of the best backpacker places I’ve ever stayed. For $14 I stayed in one of the “dorms”, eight beds, lockers, and a bathroom. For $20 you can stay in a tent on a wooden platform with a ton of padding. I’ll do the tent if I wind up in Fortuna again. There was a very nice pool and common area ... at a backpacker place! Everyone socialized by the pool during the day time when they weren’t seeing the local sights. Later that night we all congregated in the common area and did the backpacker thing ... Who are you?, Where are you from?, Where are you going?, Where have you been?, What’s good? I had a great time that night. It was good to be on the travel circuit again.
We all headed off to bed when they started turning the lights off around 11:00. Nobody complained. Everyone was on Tico time. Wake up at sunrise, go to bed early. Late sleepers (I am one) are doomed to wake up to mid-day heat and then lie awake at night with nothing to do. I adjusted my clock to Tico time immediately. The red-eye from Denver to San Jose helped. Tomorrow I would link up with the family.