Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

It’s down the mountain, over the pot holes, and through the construction.

Saturday we made the one-day round trip to San Jose. Not the one in California. The OG (older than the one in the US by 40 years). The capital of Costa Rica. As part of our residency application, we need to be fingerprinted by the Costa Rican government. Grande hermano.

Andres, our immigration lawyer, met us there in the rain. He made the appointment and had already translated all the questions they ask into Spanish for us so we just had to hand them the paper. For a country famous for slow moving bureaucracy and long waits, it was very efficient. We were in and out in about 30 minutes. If only it were that easy, however.

Getting to San Jose from Monteverde is not for the faint of heart, especially since we have been in the grips of a tropical storm for the past three days. Nearly constant downpour day and night. Bad flooding on the Caribbean side of the country. Our birding friend, Esteban, offered to take us. He had to use his wife’s car, however, because COVID restrictions here limit drivers on the roads to either even or odd license plate numbers, depending on the day.

San Jose is only around 90 miles away but with the road conditions, the traffic on mostly two-lane highways, and massive construction around the city, it takes a solid 3 to 3 1/2 hours each way, much of it going 25 mph behind a down-shifting truck from Guatemala. One must get used to the swerving motorcycles and the take-your-life-in-your-hands passing that goes on. It will be quite some time before I or Jesus takes the wheel here. There is a bus from Monteverde to San Jose that is only around $6 each way, but it takes 5 to 5 1/2 hours each way and would have meant an overnight stay. Given that the San Jose bus terminal is not in the best part of town, we were a little apprehensive about making this our first solo excursion.

Esteban was a real mench (I’ll have to teach him that word), knowing all the short-cuts and exhibiting all the patience he normally employs when waiting for the elusive umbrella bird to show itself. He got us there 20 minutes early and we were the first ones in and out. On the way home, we even stopped at WalMart to get a rice cooker/vegetable steamer and a toaster. Our lives are now immeasurably better. Then he took us to a marvelous restaurant in Alejuela favored by locals. OMG, the most amazing combination of carnitas and vegetables and plantains and beans and warm tortillas I’ve ever tasted, with chickens and guinea fowl running around the parking lot.

In the end, I was glad for the rain because it meant Esteban wasn’t missing out on a good birding day. He had cancelled many of his birding tours this week due to the storm and hopefully the money we paid him for this trip helped to cushion that blow.

Wish I had taken more pictures in the capital, but to be honest, it is not filled with beauty on its best day. During a gray and rainy day, it is even worse. Even the surrounding mountains were socked in with thick clouds and mist. By the time we were back in the mountains, the rain had finally stopped and the view toward the Gulf of Nicoya was spectacular.

We had left Monteverde at 7:00am and returned around 4:30pm. We were all spent. But the deed was done. It feels so good to have that out of the way. The date of July 24 had been hanging over my head since we got here.

Today, Sunday, was the first without torrential rain since last Wednesday. This morning, a bellbird was calling, a troop of 20-25 Capuchin monkeys cavorted about the trees in our yard, and we had a wonderful time sitting in silence with the local Quaker community (more about them later). It wasn’t sunny but it was dry. There’s a reason they call this the rainy season, but even for locals, the last three days have been a bit much. Ready for another week.

Pura vida.

Published by Tom Cox

Tom & Jean, a couple of contemplative ex-pats from Pittsburgh, shed all their earthly belongings and move to Costa Rica. What could possibly go wrong?

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