Saturday, February 21, 2009

Feb 21, 2009 – Victoria, BC to San Jose, Costa Rica

Before I get into my first day of travel to Costa Rica, perhaps some background is in order. I booked this trip in early January, so this was a last minute trip. Between Christmas and New Year's I was researching a trip to China, but it was so expensive ($10,000), I had to reconsider, so I investigated a couple of less expensive options: the Big Island of Hawaii or Costa Rica. The Big Island was appealing, since it is easy to get to from Victoria, I want to try some of the many B&Bs, and outside of the main tourist areas it is dark enough to do some astrophotography and observing. Costa Rica was also appealing, since the first week is the same trip I took last year – TravelQuest's Southern Skies tour to Ensenada "Star" Lodge.

Ultimately, Hawaii and Costa Rica would cost about the same, so I chose the more exotic location: Costa Rica. It helped to know that some friends were also booked on the same trip. They had done some research and found a very nice small hotel in Tamarindo, an area in the northwest corner of Costa Rica which I haven't visited before. It is a resort area that caters to surfers and those of us who like to observe wildlife. There is a good chance I might finally see turtles on the beach, so I booked it also, and a local flight to get to/from San Jose and Tamarindo.

So…back to my travelogue for today. I am up at 3am this morning so I can go to the airport for my departure for Costa Rica. First stop is Seattle/Tacoma airport, and then Dallas/Ft Worth before finally arriving at 10:15pm local time in San Jose.

The Horizon Air flight from Victoria to Seatac was uneventful. 71 people joined me on the pre-dawn flight on a Bombardier Q300 – a big twin prop aircraft. My flight to Dallas-Ft. Worth is overbooked, so American Airlines offered a $250 travel credit to anyone who wanted to reschedule. Obviously I can't do this, since I have a connection to Costa Rica, although I do have a 3.5 hour wait in Dallas/Ft. Worth. American Airlines used a Macdonell-Douglas MD80 – a pretty old aircraft. The cabin was fairly new, but there were no services at the seat like I'm used to with the more modern aircraft. They only served beverages – nothing to eat, so I broke out a granola bar to tide me over.

My flight to San Jose is scheduled to leave at 6:20pm - a three hour wait here at Dallas/Ft. Worth. We are all loaded and ready to go on time…oh, wait a minute…the captain announces over the intercom that he has left his passport at home. His wife is driving to the airport, so we will be delayed 45 minutes! This is a first, but sure enough we leave 45 minutes late, just like he said. We run into some pretty serious turbulence as we cross the Gulf of Mexico coast near Houston. Of course the flight attendants are serving dinner just as this happens, and have to stop until things settle down. I hadn't had any lunch, so I was very glad to see them resume meal service. We arrive in San Jose at about 10:50pm, I quickly clear customs and immigration, find my Swiss Travel rep. Walter, the bus driver from last year's tour picks me up, and transfers me to the Courtyard Marriott Hotel. I think he remembers me, but his English is not good, so we have to keep our conversation simple.

I arrive at the hotel at about 11:30pm, check in, and unpack and have a well-deserved shower. I have been traveling from 4am when I was picked up by the taxi in Victoria, to 11:30pm, losing 2 hours by going to Central Time, making it about a 17 hour marathon. Not as bad as my flights to/from Africa, but I'm tired.

So here I am in Costa Rica one year after my previous trip here. I'm looking forward to the next two weeks – the first week similar to last year at La Ensenada Lodge, and the second week will be something new.

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