Well, no *wonder* I couldn't find any information on our trip to Monteverde (and picking up our *Cédulas*!) on my blog - it's not *posted*! I seem to recall that we were having trouble with the internet on that trip, so I saved it as a draft email. You know how well *that* works - lost until I decide to do some spring cleaning...
As they say, better late than never. Here is my (detailed, sorry) trip report for our fourth trip to Costa Rica - we made the trip in February 2007, specifically to pick up our Cédulas :D, and added some sight-seeing into the bargain.
We were able to change our return flight - easy, and no charge :)
The flight was uneventful (only a little late, and a reasonably short layover), and we got in the "citizen" (and resident) line at immigration instead of the "tourist" line. Both lines were long, so there was no real advantage this time. Our bags were waiting for us, instead of the other way around, and both guitars made it unscathed. When we got the airport taxi this time, I stayed out of sight with our bags, and Rick ordered the taxi - $3 instead of the $4 charged last time.
On to Vida Tropical; more people to meet!
More bank problems!?!? Didn't I say I was an optimist?
We tried to get money out of our bank's ATM, and it ate the card...
We walked inside, and stood in the wrong line for a couple of minutes, then Rick looked around - found the right place. The bank guy said someone had reported the card stolen. We could either get a new card today in San Jose, or a new card Monday in Alajuela - we elected to wait. Then (yay!!) he asked if we wanted money out of the account, and then got it for us. This was fabulous, since the line to the teller was looooong.
On to the pharmacy - got some of Rick's scripts, but I forgot to bring the box for mine with us, so I couldn't remember the name.
We confirmed that our immigration appointment is on the 19th, so we have a week to do something semi-touristy.
Massage for me on Friday night - no chiropractor, unfortunately.
Ahhh - these mornin's were made for drinkin'!
We went to see Joe today in Grecia, and Jim (from Vida Tropical and CR forums) joined us. We had a taxi take us to the bus stop, since we had 2 guitars with us - Joe is keeping them for us until we move there. We brought chocolate and whiskey as thanks - inevitably, we opened both pretty quickly; drinking in the morning again!
We went to a late lunch (~2:30), then drove to Linda's lot in Bodegas, near Tacares (I always mix up the name of this town with the Tecate beer). She has a "storage shed" nearly built, and plans for a small house. The "storage shed" is the biggest you can build without a permit, and has 3 windows with great views, a bathroom, electricity... (can you say guest house?)
Since we were half way back to Alajuela by now, Joe took us all the way back to Vida Tropical, and stopped in for a little visit with everyone.
He is going to Cahuita (on the Caribbean coast) soon - we'll have to bug him for a trip report.
When we got back to VT, we arranged to stay near Monteverde for a few
days - it is a rain forest park about 4 hours drive north. The town we will stay in is between 2 reserves. Monteverde (the town) started as a Quaker community. We're leaving our plans fluid this time - if we find we want to leave Monteverde early, we can...
We looked a bit for a museum or other point-of-interest, but (it *is* Sunday) all were closed. Heard there was an orchestra playing in Alajuela's central park, but it got "trumped" by a small job faire. We sat around the park talking and people-watching. I lost myself a few times watching the white cathedral and green trees against the blue blue sky - ahhh. This was interrupted here and there with a trip to the pharmacy and the ice cream store (all the drugs you need, and *so* close!).
We got my scripts, and some sunscreen to replace the one we "lost" at the airport security gate (you just gotta figure that you're gonna lose *something* you packed in the wrong bag).
Something learned: this pharmacy didn't stock the dosage that Rick takes, but the one we went to on Friday did - so, if one pharmacy doesn't have something you need, keep trying others.
We got to see the chiropractor! And we got appointments for the day before we fly out as well :)
After the chiropractor, we got back to the Vida Tropical and did laundry; then Soda Palmaras for lunch and on to the bank. We got our bank card - it is now *gold* and is an international version - oooohhh.
Back to VT and our massage - ahh.
Left for Santa Elena / Monteverde this morning - got a taxi to the "Garden Court," then Interbus. It was on time (even a little early), and nearly full - everyone going to Santa Elena, so we didn't have to change buses. The last 45 minutes of the trip is all on dirt and gravel (and pothole) roads; the road follows a ridge (up and up and up), and changes from one side to the other - so everyone gets a chance at vertigo.
Santa Elena is *very* dusty; our hotel is about 3 blocks up a very steep hill from the main part of town. We go into town for lunch, but one trip per day is enough - we feast on snackbars and nuts for dinner.
We are at "Cabinas Don Taco" - don't ask me about the name... It is the *one* place that I got the blank (arrogant?) stare when I asked for a simple towel in Spanish. Most people are happy to have you try Spanish, and happy to help you with words.
Santa Elena actually gets *cold* at night! At 6:00 am, it is 64 degrees F (inside). Since the showers are nothing to write home about (hmmm), we save them for afternoons. We get breakfast at the hotel, and catch the 8:30 bus to the Santa Elena Reserve, about 6 km uphill (more dust and potholes) :).
It is suddenly *cool*! and *green*! Rick shows our residency paperwork, and we pay the resident's rate - $3 instead of $15 - nice! We take off on the shortest route; it is supposed to take 45 minutes, but we stop every few feet to gawk and take pictures. So, about two hours later, we get back on the bus to town. Others on the bus took a different route, and saw more wildlife (including wild Quetzals).
Back in town, we grab lunch and hit the supermarket for dinner supplies.
Today's the day! We spent part of the morning on a "nature" tram (another resident's discount), and the rest of the day in town, then fell off a tall sidewalk - at least it is over; our once-per-trip accident is over (and it's Rick's turn).
We make it back to the hotel, but realize that Rick cannot make that trip again, let alone enjoy a hike in the reserve. So, we decide to see if we can leave tomorrow.
We enlisted the help of the hotel folks, and got reservation on the afternoon Interbus to Alajuela. They also called the Santamaria hotel for us - we were already booked there for Sunday and Monday, and they were able to add today and tomorrow for us.
While we were waiting for the bus, a couple dropped in and asked about a room. While one was checking out the room, we talked to the other - we told him about the shower (not very reliable), the beds (ok, not great), the noise from the town, and that it was $45. When the clerk came back, he said it was $50 - our guy said "not $45?" and the clerk said "ok" - hmmm.
We got the 1:30 interbus back to Alajuela - about an hour left on the drive, and the bus overheated (there were a lot of overheated cars on the road, as it climbs up the mountains from the beaches to the meseta central). We waited about 45 minutes, and also refilled the radiator from a nearby sprinkler, and we were off again.
Rick and I go to a great Italian restaurant in Alajuela - Cugini, near the Cathedral.
We had "Brachiole" - it is a Sicilian dish - and yummy!
We're staying in the Hotel Santamaria (VT was full). BUT! we met the owner's wife (Rosaria) just now, and it turns out they live 5 houses down from VT - she *recognized* me - fun fun fun. We had a lovely conversation in Spanish.
Italian again tonight - can't get enough! Leaving the restaurant, we see Norman and Greg, and tell them about Joe.
We get our Cedulas today! And then some!
6:45 am - out the door and to the bus to San Jose - what a long line!
7:50 - at ARCR, ready for our appointment with immigration. Sindy takes a bunch of us over; on the way, she tells us it could take anywhere from 2 to 6 hours, depending on how long it takes to find our files. She has had an assistant holding our place in line, so it isn't long before we get our files checked and in the system. Then on to get our pictures and fingerprints taken for our cards. After a few more "waits" we have our Cedulas! Sindy has gone back to ARCR for another batch of new residents, and none of us can remember how to get back. We pile in the car, and drive around San Jose for a half an hour before finally finding our way back - I'm navigating (back-seat driving?), with a compass and a map.
11:15 - we're finally eating breakfast/lunch! We'd had no chance to eat before now, so we're a bit cranky.
1:00 - back to ARCR to get our driver's licenses. We pay about $40 for help, and hop in a taxi w/ Alfredo. First stop is a "Doctor's office" where we pay $20 and they fill out a health form. We take that across the street and start the driver's license process. The first stop is closed for lunch until 2:00 (it closes at 2:30), so we wait... The woman comes back and checks our documents (health forms, copies of our California driver's licenses, and copies of our cedulas), stamps them, and we go to the next line. This is considerably shorter than when we first got there (Since no one could proceed without the first check), so this is pretty fast. They ask for our address and phone number (Alfredo gives them the ARCR info). Then we go to the "pay" window - drop another $16 and get our receipt. Then to the "picture" line - here's where we get to sit (many of the lines in Costa Rica are rows of chairs - it's like musical chairs without the music). At the front of the line, we get our pictures and fingerprints taken and then they produce the card. We sign for it, and we're done!
We catch the Alajuela bus towards the Hospital Mexico (see these posts for why Joe is in the hospital), and ask the driver to tell us when we get there. He says he will, but... Of course, we miss the stop. We get off on the next stop - fortunately not too far, walk back and on to the Hospital. The hospital is like a circus, so we ask for help at an information window. They can't find Joe for quite a while, but finally tell us he is still in emergency. At about 4:00, the nurse leads us downstairs, and we wave to Joe through the window. She tells us to wait for the Doctor; it should be about 20 minutes. Well, about 4:30, we walk back to where we saw Joe, and the security guard shoos us into a waiting room - we have to wait for visiting hours at 5:00. Linda is there right before visiting hours start - she's been through this before; we give Joe's name, and they let us see him one at a time for about 5 minutes. He seems ok - he has a full face oxygen mask on, and can't talk without taking it off - we're just there to let him know we are looking out for him.
5:15 - we're back on the bus to Alajuela; it's rush hour, so we don't get to the last stop for another hour.
Boy, are we tired! We have our leftovers and conk out.
Yesterday was so busy, we decide to take it easy today. We put off going to ICE about the phone, and just plan to visit Joe. We caught the 11:00 bus, and got off at the correct stop for Hospital Mexico. As we got off the bus, a very nice lady helped us cross the "muy peligroso" street. She just grasped my hand, and we followed when she crossed. I am finding that this is so typical - so many helpful citizens. I felt like a Boy Scout in reverse :)
At the hospital, we go directly to the emergency waiting room (doesn't that sound like an oxymoron?), and wait for 12:00 visiting time. Linda appears, and we queue up. Then we find out that Joe is no longer in the emergency room (why didn't we check on this before?). We run around for a few minutes, then Rick asks the right guy - we have Joe's bed number, but (of course) visiting hours for the wards don't start until 2:00. So, Linda drives us all into San Jose, and we go to ARCR to get our hands held. Annabel is very nice - she talks to us a lot, and we feel a bit better about the situation. The hospital will not release Joe just to get him out of the way (what were we thinking?!?).
We grab a bite to eat, then head back to the hospital. My navigation skills are excellent - I was always able to point to the correct turn-off as we passed it :).
At the hospital, we get in the line for the 6th floor visitors just before 2:00 (we're about the 4th group). Well... The people who run the visiting center don't even show up until 3:00 - by this time, I'm sitting down, and Rick and Linda are very tired of standing. To accommodate the long lines, the hospital folks had opened the doors to the outside. It was very strange seeing all these people zip up jackets and pull up their hoods against the breeze. It had to be 74 degrees! I guess it is all what you're used to.
We got to see Joe one at a time, but there was no time-limit. He was *much* better! He gulped down the yogurt drink I brought (he probably wasn't supposed to have it tho). He had a better oxygen system - no full-face mask, so he could talk easier without reducing his oxygen. He told us about the other patients in the room (there were 6 beds in the room). He said he was going to write a "report" on his experience, but essentially, he is very happy with the care he is getting at the public hospital (all covered by his $36/month insurance).
Linda drives us all back to Jalapeño's in Alajuela, then Rick and I catch a taxi to the Chiropractor's office for our 5:00 appointment. Well, I don't get cracked until 7:00, and Rick is pretty upset that we had to wait so long. But my back is so much better, I'm glad we didn't give up and leave (She also didn't charge us for the visit, and apologized profusely).
But by the time we get back to Jalapeño's, Linda has eaten and is gone - we'll have to catch up with her the next time. We closed the place down with scotch and camaraderie.
Flying home today!
The hotel got us an airport taxi for 6:00 am. We were ready early, and the taxi showed up early, so...
We whiz through the lines, and get to Phoenix with no trouble. We had about 1 hour to get our bags, check them through customs, and board our plane to Oakland. Again, no problems - no line at immigration, and our bags were waiting for us by the time we got to them. We even got home in time to return the rental car on the same day! No worries about how to deal with it *and* work tomorrow!