Victoria to San Jose 2008

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Up ] Caribbean Coast 1995 ] Central Highlands 1995 ] Pacific Coast 1995 ] Final Leg 1995 ] [ Victoria to San Jose 2008 ] Southern Sky Fiesta 2008 ] Poas & Sarapiqui 2008 ] Arenal Volcano 2008 ] Arenal to San Jose 2008 ] San Jose to Victoria 2008 ] La Ensenada Nature Walks 2008 ] Horseback Riding 2008 ] Mangrove Boat Ride 2008 ] Tractor Ride 2008 ] Carara National Park 2008 ] Likes & Dislikes ] Victoria to San Jose 2009 ] Southern Skies Fiesta in Costa Rica 2009 ] Tamarindo 2009 ] San Jose to Victoria 2009 ]


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Ice forming on the leading edge of the aircraft's wingFebruary 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!

Mt St HelensOur flight to Houston is also late taking off, however we have a smooth flight - seeing Mount St. Helens along the way. Continental has a golf cart waiting for us at the gate, so we can connect with our flight to San Jose, since we have less than a half hour between flights.  We would never have made it to the gate in time for the connecting flight, since it  is located on the other side of this huge airport terminal. The nice lady driving the cart gets us there with time to spare.  When we get onboard, we find other passengers' have filled the overhead bins with their carry-on bags, so I keep my two bags on the floor under my feet for this flight.

I'm seated beside a huge man who overflows the seat with his massive tummy and enormous tattooed arms and shoulders. He is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and is polite enough, but he squeezes both myself and the young woman sitting on the other side of him. Passengers who are this large should really be forced to purchase business class or first class passage by the airlines.  I manage to survive by ignoring him as best I can, and plugging into my music from stored on my Dell Axim PocketPC. I recently purchased a pair of Shure SE210 Sound Isolating Earphones to listen to the music from my PocketPC. The sound isolating feature (not sound cancelling) on these earphones very effectively reduces the ambient noise in the aircraft cabin. When we disembark in San Jose my ears are not ringing as they normally do (for days) after a long flight.

The San 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 America).

February 4, 2008 - Monday - San Jose to La Ensenada "Star" Lodge - The buffet breakfast this morning at the Marriott is included in our tour. I had a very nice Spanish omelet and some good coffee, juice and fruit. There was no rush, since we didn't leave for La Ensenada "Star" Lodge until 10:30am. Our Tico Guide is Diego and Walter is our driver, both from Swiss Travel. Our Travelquest Host is Chuck (from Phoenix). I met Chuck at breakfast this morning, as well as Gary Seronik, who is hosting the astronomy activities while we are at the Lodge. Gary is a Contributing Editor for Sky and Telescope magazine. Gary lives in Victoria, and is a member of RASC Victoria Centre. Rick and Susan Feinberg are also along on the trip. Rick is Editor-in-chief for S&T.

The Courtyard Marriott in San Jose Breakfast buffet at the Courtyard Marriott

Map - San Jose - La Ensenada

Diego, Chuck and Gary making announcements from the front of the bus Shopping mall in San Jose

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!

Our bus in front of the Restaurante Caballo Blanco Group having lunch in Restaurante Caballo Blanco Group having lunch in Restaurante Caballo Blanco The road into La Ensenada Lodge

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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