Weather Shift

The trade winds off the Caribbean are pushing these clouds over the continental divide toward me. They are usually moving pretty fast and disappear quickly as the humid air is absorbed by the dry Pacific air. The rain we get is mostly mist and when we are close to the divide, we can see the rain moving over us, putting us into a rain shadow. This rain is what makes the rain forest here special.

On Sunday I noticed that clouds were moving in the opposite direction, off the Pacific:

Now with the wind shift, the sun is out more and temperatures have risen.

We were spoiled with the cooler days, although most of the days are still very nice.

Banking and Getting Cash

Two friends in the states asked how we were going to get cash. I said that everything I had read made it simple. Go to a bank, use their ATM and withdraw the money. That said, it was not yet my personal experience, so doubt crept in.

I need not have worried.

There are a few finer points. We made sure that the debit/credit cards we carry have chips and require a PIN. Although some of the world does not require a PIN, so far I am glad I have one.

The first time we went to withdraw cash, it kept being refused. Finally, the nearby guard came over and told us that we were at a bank that would not accept the chip (a common problem I’m sure). We went to another bank nearby and had no trouble.

As an extra security measure, we try to only go to banks. This avoids the possibility of a camera or some other device tracking our transaction. Not all towns have a bank, so it is fortunate that our guidebooks warn about that.

First Stop Alajuela

We spent three nights In Alajuela to just settle in and make sure that we bought our bus tickets for Panama. The bus station is in San Jose.

We blew it going through customs. Lindie went into the restroom and I followed suit, but she did not know that’s what I did. Poor communication. While I waited outside the restrooms she went to find me in the customs line. Meanwhile two or three flights arrived and by the time we got back together we were way back in the line. Fortunately customs was easy and we went off to find our Uber ride which became a no show. A valuable lesson to reinforce early in our travels.

We found a taxi and gave him the directions to the Airbnb. Costa Rica names their streets but alas, there are hardly any street signs. Directions are from a known place with instructions like go to the bottom of the street, turn left, go 30 meters, it is the house with three garages next to the kindergarten. We did get there but the taxi driver took us up and down several extra streets.

We are happy with Airbnb. It really helps that visitors and owners leave reviews so that we can expect a place to be safe. Plus there is the possibility of visiting with others. I do like that.

Proof of Paid Exit Transport

There is the requirement that you have proof of exit transport when entering Costa Rica. I had put off dealing with until two days before our departure to Costa Rica.

I thought that I could get an online bus ticket from San Jose, Costa Rica to David, Panama. Nope. I could not even get one by calling the bus company. It has to be in person and you show passports.

My initial solution was to buy a plane ticket from San Jose to Panama City, Panama. This would at least move us in the direction we want to travel. What a surprise to find out that Travelocity would allow me to buy the tickets and then cancel them, at no charge, within 24 hours.

At the Southwest Airlines boarding gate desk in Houston, they did check our documents to verify that we had exit transportation from Costa Rica. At customs in Costa Rica, they did not ask for proof, so the airlines monitor it.

We flew to Costa Rica, cancelled the flight to Panama City, and the next day went to the bus station to buy our tickets in person.

In the future, I will figure things out a little quicker, as I do not expect to fly again until we leave South America. Panama to Columbia will be by sailboat or ferry as there are no roads connecting the two countries.

 

Finally…on our way!

Here we are, at Houston Hobby, waiting for our flight to San Jose, Costa Rica in an hour. I kept promises to my brother and sister to contact them before leaving.

I am nervous. All the rushing to complete last minute tasks is over, whether they got done or not. Now it is time to just relax and flow.

It works.

Our day was a mix of rushing and waiting.

We left Austin this morning after a final visit with our friend, Ruby, who is 104 and in hospice. She was glad to see us and sad to see us go, knowing it was likely our last visit.

I expect Costa Rica to be our shakedown country to find out what works and what doesn’t, and more importantly, to discover what we never considered.

Time to get on the plane!