World Travel

San Jose

21. April: Breakfast is included with Hannelore's and she sure takes care to give us a good one. There's good bread, juice and coffee. We desperately need to wash clothes so we decide to give the laundry shop a second try. One of Hannelore's dogs is taking part in a competition today and she says we can drive along to Madeleine's and to the Laundry shop, which is right next door to her.

The shop's still closed (today is Saturday) so we decide to go to Madeleine's to get some more information how to get to town etc. We meet her husband and daughter and after getting instructions we're off with the bus to San Jose centre. The fare is 90�. Lonely Planet mentions a laundry service 'Sixaola', and they're open and, yes, they'll have the load ready by 12:30, great! We walk around, find 'the' tourist information office but don't go in yet. A guy gave Annewien a leaflet and then asks her for a contribution. I know the scam and pull the leaflet out of her hands and return it to him, Annewien isn't too pleased with this behaviour and I'm puzzled.  We walk on to have a sour coffee and talk about it.

We decide to give that tourist info office a shot. I still believe it is an official office when we climb the stairs to the first floor. We're greeted in a friendly manner by an English guy (says he's new at the job and asks us where we'd been and where we would want to go) and are told that the person to give information is just on his way and to wait for a moment. Strangely enough there are not too many brochures around. When the person arrives after about 20 minutes it's a biggish black man who is very friendly and asks us which destinations in Costa Rica we would like to visit. We tell him Arenal, Monteverde, Rincon de la Vieja, Tortuguero, Corcovado, Puntarenas, Wilson Gardens etc. Well, he immediately starts putting together a detailed schedule on paper and gives us a number of tips and information. We take his schedule and say we need to think it over. He doesn't do any hard selling, he just gives the impression that it would be a good idea to book all trips from him to spare us all sorts of hassles. All of this leaves us a bit confused, we're not sure what to make of it. We're slowly getting the feeling that this isn't the REAL tourist office, it's just a travel agent.

We fetch our laundry and stuff it into our rucksacks for easier carrying and stumble upon another tourist office. This is getting interesting.. It seems half closed, but it's staffed by a friendly young girl who tells us to just pull open the shop shutter are peek in. She gives us a number of infos and prices regarding tours, most of them are cheaper than at the last office (well, this one is not on the main shopping road of San Jose either). She even has cars for rent at 180$ per week and we contemplate renting one. It's when we tell her our travel plans that she says we'd need a four-wheel drive due to the bad roads, which would cost about double. We'll that's just over our budget, so we decide that we'd do the trip on our own with mostly public transport. Roads in Costa Rica turn out to be mostly bad: stony and untarred.

San Jose police with their bikes Bicycle racers
San Jose police with their bikes
Bicycle racers

We walk a bit through San Jose, change some traveller cheques (we have to wait in a long line as the booth on the main pedestrian street is the only exchange office open on Saturday afternoon) and visit the local market. Lonely Planet warns against theft there, so we cling on to our small rucksacks (without making it look overly paranoid). We're amazed by the clothes the young Costa Rican women are wearing, they are quite provocative and don't mind showing what there is to offer, and never mind if it is a couple of pounds too much.

We take a taxi back to Hannelore in the evening, change and go to San Pedro Mall, where Madeleine said they had a good Salsa disco. Wow, everything is open in the evening and I even find an internet cafe to send a quick mail to my deputy in the office. We then go for a slice of pizza at Pizza Hut and observe that shop by shop of the glittery, shiny Mall is closing. We find the disco in the top floor of the mall and hear good Salsa music coming out of the place. We pay 1500� entrance per person and find a few couples dancing on the large dance floor. It's quite cold inside with air conditioning and the music is rather loud. We have a beer and dance a bit. After some Merengue they switch styles to hard Disco and the music just keeps getting louder and louder. We hope they will switch back to Salsa sometime and eventually go and sit in a room beside the main dance hall to wait it out - in vain. Suddenly an animator hops onto the stage and starts dancing to the disco beat. None too well, but the crowd of people, who by now had accumulated in the place, loved it and were out dancing hard.

We take a taxi back. The guy loses himself. I haven't a clue where we are but Annewien does and manages to guide to back. Wow, what a feat! He wants 1035� (he shut down the meter when he noticed he was lost), Hannelore opens the door (she hadn't give us a key for fear about misuse or losing it) and we eventually drop sleep...

Continue to 22.4 La Fortuna/Arenal