February 3, 2008 - Sunday - Today is the big day -
I travel to Costa
Rica. I'm up at 5:15am, do some last minute packing, say goodbye to the family, and I'm out the door at 6:20am. I drive to the Victoria airport and
park in the long term parking, and I then check in at the Horizon counter. My
checked bag is overweight by 5lbs, which costs me $25 extra - not a problem,
since I can't lug anymore carry-on luggage. The security guy asked me about my Astrotrac
(tracking mount for my camera), and we then got into the inevitable discussion about astronomy.
My friends John and Wendy
arrive a few minutes after me. They are taking the same Southern Skies Fiesta
tour which I'm signed up for, so we are on the same flights to Costa Rica. Our
flight to SeaTac is delayed by about a half
hour. As we fly to Seatac, I'm fascinated watching the ice form on the
leading edge of the aircraft's wing. We arrive with plenty of time to find our bags, clear customs, and
find the gate for our Continental Airlines flight to George Bush airport in Houston.
The security in Seatac makes us take off our shoes. What stupid security
rules they have in the USA!
Jose airport is controlled chaos, but we clear Costa Rican customs in short
order and find our Swiss
Travel transportation representative. We are transferred to the
Courtyard Marriott after only about a 20 minute wait.
The Courtyard Marriott is pretty deluxe, with North American style rooms,
Internet connections, telephones, TV, wet bar, coffee maker and hair dryer. I
take advantage of the free high speed Internet connection to email a few folks to let
them know I arrived safely. I
understand that La Ensenada "Star" Lodge is more primitive, so it doesn't have
Internet, and even the telephone is not always working. I'm assuming my cellphone won't work there, unlike here in San Jose where it picked up the
network right away. I get to
bed around 1:30am local time (11:30 Pacific time). Costa Rica operates on
Central Time and stays on Standard Time year round (like most of Central
Everyone was on the bus and ready to go on time. Diego and others noted (later) that our group was always on time or ahead of time, which is highly unusual for bus tour groups. We can only speculate that was because most of us are astronomers, and we know that if you are late for a celestial event, it doesn't wait for you.
Our first stop was a large mall in San Jose, where we had a chance to shop in a local AM/PM market and also exchange money for those who needed some. We then drove through the Central Valley toward the Pacific Ocean, passing through Palmares, San Ramon and Esparza along the way. We stopped for lunch at the Restaurante Caballo Blanco (White Horse Restaurant) just past Exparza , where we had our choice of beef, chicken or fish. The folks who ordered the beef tenderloin said it was good, but I had the fish, which was grilled and served with vegetables and mashed potatoes. I'm resolved to eat no beans and rice on this trip, unlike my previous trip in 1995 where we ate beans and rice with every meal!
We arrived at La Ensenada Lodge mid-afternoon. The road into the Lodge is quite rough - I was reminded of the road into Blancaneaux Lodge, located in the Cayo District of Belize.
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