12 November 2023 La Fortuna
In search of a volcano
“Every day is a good day.”Yunman
Awake at 4 am for no good reason… maybe travel anxiety? I got up at 5 am to give myself more than enough time to finish packing and complete ablutions. I left the Studio Coliving Hotel and walked towards Iglesia del Carmen Metro station feeling quite pleased with myself that I had the foresight to book a hotel near a Metro station and that I had already added money onto my travel card for today’s journey to Panama City Airport (PTY).
The Metro station was closed.
The metal shutters were down and locked. All of the glass windows were boarded up with sheets of plywood. It doesn’t look like the same station where I arrived yesterday.
Uber to the rescue… but obviously at a cost. Nevermind, the First Principle of Transportation is Safe Arrival… but Safe Arrivals can only follow safe departures so I had to get to the airport one way or another.
I tried to check my cabin bag in but was told it was not necessary and to just go through Immigration and Security. This is no big deal as it will actually save time when I arrive in San Jose as I hope to catch a bus from the Radial Bus Terminal near the airport rather than having to go into the city. As it happens, space for cabin bags turned out to be a problem on this flight.
Top Tip: I inadvertently and unusually pre booked a seat on this flight rather than leave it to be randomly allocated. I chose seat 34F in the last row of the aircraft. This meant that I was one of the last passengers to disembark, adding a lot of time, relatively, to a tight schedule and potentially putting me at the back of the queue for Immigration.
For all of my best plans and efforts to get to the airport on time, the flight departure time was delayed by one hour. Bang goes my already slim chance of catching my preferred direct bus to La Fortuna. Nevermind, I think there are indirect buses that will get me there eventually. I had only settled on La Fortuna yesterday as my first destination in Costa Rica because of the direct bus. I don’t have a hotel booked yet and I am not sure of my next destination.
The flight eventually takes off about 1 hour and 20 minutes late but at least we are on our way. It is a short flight of about 1 hour. There are two guys sitting next to me and when one of them goes to the loo, the other unfolds his partners tray table to cover it with small gift wrapped packages, packets of candies and draps a battery powered set of Happy Birthday lights over the seat! On the other guys’ return there were lots of hugs and kisses, and birthday wishes… I felt like a bit of a lemon stuck in seat 34F.
The plane landed at San Jose (SJO) one hour and 12 minutes late. Immigration and security/customs were easily and quickly navigated, and I was in an Uber car on my way to the La Radial Bus Station within 30 minutes.
I arrived at the bus terminal around 12:20 pm and my understanding is that several buses pass through here going from San Jose centre to Ciudad Quesada throughout the day. I would have to change buses in Ciudad Quesada where there are hourly buses to La Fortuna.
There were a couple of young guys hanging around the terminal giving advice to passengers about buses in exchange for coins. I was told the next bus to Ciudad Quesada would be 1 pm, so I bought some snacks and a drink and took a seat. After maybe 20-minutes, a couple approached and told me that the last bus to Ciudad Quesada has already left. It is not yet 1 pm and the San Jose to Ciudad Quesada is a busy route, but I had already read about this particular scam online. No, I did not need a taxi to get to my destination… I will wait for a bus, por favor.
At about 1:20 pm a bus bound for Muelle San Carlos arrives and one of the young guys giving passenger advice beckons me to take this bus which stops in Ciudad Quesada.
Top Tip: When prices are quoted in Costa Rican money you should pay in Costa Rican Colones (₡ / CRC) as you don’t get a very good deal on US$ and you will get your change, if any, in CRC anyway.
The bus arrived at Ciudad Quesada, which is a big bus station relatively, at 3:34 pm so I just missed a bus to La Fortuna but the next bus was leaving soon anyway so it wasn’t a problem.
The bus for La Fortuna left at 3:55 pm and with a sense of relief, I booked the Sleeping Mountain Hotel and enjoyed the journey knowing that I have somewhere to sleep for the next 3 nights. ‘Certainty’ provides ‘security’ which masquerades as ‘safety’. Protect, promote, satisfy and repeat!
The bus arrived at the small La Fortuna bus station at 17:15 pm which under the circumstances is good timing.
The weather is overcast with very low clouds, but it is not raining. In theory, La Fortuna is famous for being at the base of the Arenal Volcano, but there are no volcanoes to be seen today.
I walked to the Sleeping Mountain Arenal Hotel to check in, and then went in search of an ATM machine so that I have Costa Rican Colones (₡ / CRC) to spend rather than US$. And, as I had not really eaten anything all day, an early dinner. I went to the Rain Forest Restaurant and had good food at a reasonable price considering that La Fortuna is a tourist hub.
On the way back to the hotel I picked up some bug-spray, toothpaste and a bar of Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut chocolate, as one does.
Off the top of my head I might say “estoy muy cansada y necesito dormir”… which is a bit more useful than “I have a big Mexican dog”.
Today was a good day.
- Copa Airlines: Manaus (Brazil) to Cartagena (Colombia) / Cartagena to Panama City (Panama) / Panama to San Jose (Costa Rica) € 405 combined fare.
- Uber from Carmen Metro to Panama City Airport (PTY) Terminal 2 € 20
- Uber from San Jose Airport (SJO) to ‘Radial’ Northern Bus Station € 2.50
- Bus from Radial northern bus station to Quesada € 5.50
- Bus from Quesada to La Fortuna € 3
- Dinner at the Rain Forest Restaurant € 16
- Chocolate and Bug-spray Aerosol € 5
- Sleeping Mountain Hotel booked through Booking.com € 38 per night.