The bus ride from La Fortuna to San Jose was a bit exhausting. It wasn't as nice of a bus as the one that took us to Monteverde. We got seats on the bus a bit forward of the rear wheel hump; the bus ticket was about $3.50 each. However, while the bus left the central park with some empty seats, those would soon be taken by the constant stream of pickups that the driver made on our trip. About every mile or so, there would be a little bus shelter, and often we'd gain a few passengers (or less often) lose a few. We also made a quick stop at a roadside stand where the driver bought a few bunches of bananas. After a couple of hours, we arrived at our first main stop, the bus station at San Carlos. We had a short break, then the bus took the long route to San Jose through mountainous terrain.
I must take an aside here and talk about the Costa Rican road system. The roads range from interstate-style divided highways (maybe one or two examples around the capitol) to common two-lane paved roads, to barely large enough for two vehicles to pass dirt tracks through the woods. While on this bus, we were mainly on the two better varieties of roads; however, I did discover that their highways have a non-integer fractal dimension -- they keep getting curvier and curvier the closer you get to them. This makes that seems like a two hour trip actually take much longer, as you don't take a straight line to get anywhere.
From the bus, we could see lots of cultivation areas: pineapples growing under a tent, coconuts ripening in trees, coffee beans growing on terraced hills, and lots of cattle grazing away on fields that once grew coffee. As we started down the mountain, we got a nice view of the San Jose metro area, part of the central valley region of the country. I commented to Annelies that this reminded me of the other San Jose I visit regularly in California -- both are dense metro areas, with mixed commercial and residential, lying between two mountain ranges.
On arriving at the San Jose bus terminal, Annelies used her Spanish to negotiate with a unlicensed cab driver to get us to our hotel (another $4!) He originally brought us to the Hotel Colonial Club casino, but after some clarifications and a cell phone call to confirm the location, delivered us to the right address, the Hotel Colonial. For $60, we had a nice double room with a great shower, a balcony view of the street, and cable television!
After unpacking, we went out walking to get some supplies. I got to buy generic Advil (ibuprofena) from a farmacia a few blocks from our hotel, and we also negotiated the aisles of the Mas X Menos grocery store where we found pineapple empanadas and bottled water. Dinner that evening was at La Esquina de Buenos Aires, an Argentinian restaurant that served a very nice spinach and Gorgonzola cheese-filled ravioli with sundried tomatoes.
For our last morning, we headed out to the Museo de Jade, a small museum features lots of pre-Columbian jade and pottery artifacts from archaeological sites in the country. I took a lot of photos of various implements here, ranging from fertility icons to ceremonial necklaces. We hit one of the main plazas on the walk back, then stopped at an artists market to pick up some more souvenirs.
The flight back was easy, although we forgot to get our exit tax stamps when we first got in line to check our bags, so we had to exit, go pay our $26 each, then rejoin the lengthening line. I'm convinced that the tax is a way to prevent flight of Costa Rican currency, as it's so convenient for travelers to just use up the rest of their change at the tax desk, then pay the rest with American dollars. I saw some islands from the plain as we headed back over the Caribbean and on into Florida and Georgia, but I'm not really sure what they were -- it may have been Cuba, although it's also possibly part of the Grand Cayman Islands. From that height, it was hard to tell land from sea.
We started to go through and edit photos this morning, but we still have about 300 to go through. I'll be putting the best ones online on Flickr after we finish our set.