Today - Grecia! We found out how to find the bus stop (it is not at the terminal, and the sign says “Naranjo,” which is several towns past Grecia).
On the way to the bus stop, we mailed a postcard to Karl (less than 25 cents) – when I said that the stamp was “muy bonito,” the clerk at the post office just gave me another one “for my collection” – nice!
We found the bus stop ok, and didn’t have to wait long – about 10 minutes. I was pretty nervous, not having a very big bus-riding career. I was afraid we wouldn’t know when we got to Grecia (How would we recognize it? Does the bus stop automatically, or just when you signal? Etc etc etc). When a few people got off at a smallish community, I asked the guy behind me if this was Grecia, and he reassured me – nope, it is another 15 minutes. Then when we got to Grecia, the bus stopped and let a few more people off – he said to wait, that the bus would stop near the Cathedral in another 5 blocks – whew! We landed!
Since we seemed to get to Grecia so late yesterday, we decided to leave earlier today for Atenas. We caught the bus at 9:30 (in line since 8:45 or so, since we didn’t know what time the bus would leave), and were in Atenas by 10:15. Atenas is a beautiful little town; very calm and tranquil. It is a bit less humid than either Grecia or Alajuela – pretty balmy. It has a nice park (but no fountain), and a small church with beautiful wooden ceiling and upper walls. We walked out about 2 blocks on all sides of the park/church, and saw some nice houses, some internet cafes (fast connections, but slow computers), restaurants (but none were ethnic), and some ice cream stores. The central market was pretty small – we didn’t recognize it as such at first, but then saw all the sodas, fruits, vegetables, and meats for sale. It (as seems usual) was right next to a bus terminal. We found a place that had specialty coffees (not Starbuck’s, at least not yet) – had cold coffees and cooled off. Went on to an internet café, and checked to see if Joe had gotten our message – not yet. Access was 300 colones for ½ hr minimum (60 cents - not bad, even if we only used 10 minutes).
We had lunch at a Soda in the Central Market, then asked a local about where and when the next bus would leave for Alajuela. We were pointed down the block (not to the bus terminal we were in), and so we just meandered down and waited. The bus left at 1:45 (the buses DO leave on time – every time, so far). We got back to Alajuela at 2:30 – the last 15 minutes in the rain; then the rain started in earnest! We got about 2 blocks away from the bus terminus when the cats and dogs started. We started to walk (we had one umbrella), but Rick’s back got soaked, and my pant-legs were soggy from the knees down – took about 5 minutes! So we stopped in the shelter of a store – saw umbrellas for sale, and bought another one ($5 – probably doubled in price when the rain started, but it was worth it…). The rain was *still* too strong to navigate well, so we waited another 15 minutes – it let up, and we continued :).
It is difficult to guess the populations of cities/towns, since they are so dense! Alajuela officially has 350,000 residents, and is the second largest city in Costa Rica. Heredia has 50,000, and I would guess that Grecia has no more than 5,000. Atenas probably has less than 2,500. Although Joe estimates that if you include all the surrounding small towns around Grecia, it is probably 30,000.