Sunday, May 19, 2013

My Journey Through Costa Rica - Getting There was Half the Battle...Coming Home was the other Half!

I’m back now from an incredible trip in Costa Rica…Well, actually, I’ve been back for a while but I was unable to blog about the trip until recently. So here goes…First of all, I need to say that there were hardly any hitches and hardly anything went wrong. I have to brag about that so that all the people who thought I would get into loads of trouble traveling alone can see that I did return home in one piece, although I was sunburned, bruised and covered in bug bites. The only negative experiences I had were in getting there and getting back home but that is to be expected when dealing with airports and flights. I arrived in Halifax via East Coast Shuttle, which was the only shuttle company I could find that could get me to Halifax in time to catch my flight without having to sleep in the airport overnight. My issues began in Halifax and continued onward through Toronto, Houston and onto San Jose. Things got off to a bad start during check-in in Halifax when I had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a very rude ticket agent. Of course, my tongue acted quicker than my brain and well, lets just say I was convinced my luggage would end up in China instead of its intended destination. Toronto Pearson International or Hell as I like to call it was my next stop. I’ve never had a good experience at this airport and this time was no exception. As usual, Pearson International failed to live up to the standards one would expect from such a large, international airport and again made me feel a little embarrassed to be from Canada knowing that most people traveling from other countries to Canada have to go through that disgrace of an airport. Let’s see, where do I begin? I needed help finding my connecting flight and, as anyone who has been through this airport knows, signage is very poor to non-existent. Almost everyone I tried to get directions from couldn’t speak English and the few people who could either had no idea where to send me or sent me in the wrong direction. I finally made it to my gate after running through two terminals only to discover that my gate had been changed and I was sent running again and just made it in time for boarding. Now onto George Bush Intercontinental in Houston and a long 11-hour layover in an airport almost as bad as Pearson. When I first booked my flight, I thought “hey, I’ve never been to Houston, TX before so maybe I can hire a taxi driver to give me the grand tour while I wait for the next leg of my journey”. This was not to be. In the past, I was able to get tours of various cities by taxi but none were willing to do so in Houston, which meant one long, boring night of people-watching and counting ceiling tiles. I couldn’t even grab a Starbucks latte because everything was closed by the time I went through immigration and baggage claim, which was around 9pm. I was hoping to at least have something to eat when I arrived but everything was closed so early which meant my long, boring night was also marred by hunger and thirst. On the plus side, my luggage made it that far and was not “accidentally” put on a plane to China. I’d like to say I was able to sleep during my 11 hours in Houston Airport but all I did was wander around aimlessly looking for a comfortable place to rest, which was not to be found. The most comfortable place to sleep in the whole airport was the couch behind Starbucks in Terminal A and every time someone got up from that couch, someone was right there to take their place. I didn’t have the energy to even try to be one of those lucky people who had comfortable-looking naps on that couch before catching their next flight.

I was in no mood to deal with any delays or airport mishaps the next morning when it was time to find and board my plane. But, of course, air travel would not be true air travel if it didn’t come with its issues. Once again, I found myself in a state of confusion. I was told by an airport employee that my next flight would be departing terminal A so that is where I remained for most of the night. When it came close to check-in time, I looked at the screens to see if my flight was on time and couldn’t find it and, of course, panicked. After asking several dozen airport employees why my flight was not listed, one finally gave me the answer “ma’am, I think you are supposed to be in terminal D and you need to take the train to get there”. With time running out to clear security and get to my gate, “I think” had to suffice. And off I went, running again to catch a train and a flight. I didn’t realize how big Houston airport was until I was forced to make the journey from Terminal A to Terminal D. Fortunately it was the right terminal and I boarded my plane with only a few minutes to spare. No need to go into detail about the next 3.5 hours of my life I will never get back, you know the drill; cramped seats, broken TV’s, screaming babies, ignorant seat-mates taking up both armrests, horrible food and inconsiderate passengers with oversized carry-ons resulting in my small carry-on being stowed 20 rows behind me. You would think that for the amount of money you pay for an airline ticket these days, you would be reimbursed for lack of service but instead they gouge flyers in every which way they can. I paid 900 dollars for my return flight but in order to even watch a movie or have a glass of juice, they wanted me to swipe my credit card and pay even more money! But, we don’t have any other choices, do we? For me, it was either fly or walk along the Pan-American Highway with my thumb stuck out.

I’d like to say I was relieved to finally land at my final destination but I had to endure more airport nuisances before I could finally get to my hotel and some much needed sleep. After a long line-up at immigration, requests to fill out customer satisfaction surveys (which I did because I’m a sucker for those things) and another long wait for my luggage, I finally made it outdoors into a large crowd of waiting taxi drivers yelling “taxi, lady”. I was still dressed in a sweater and jeans when the sweltering heat of tropical San Jose hit me and I had to move away from the aggressive crowd of taxi drivers vying for my business and take a seat somewhere to the side where I could try to remember which cabs I was told were the most reliable – the red ones or the orange ones? Or was it yellow? I couldn’t remember but the heat and lack of sleep was getting to me so I just jumped into the next cab that came along. Fifteen minutes later, I arrived at the Wyndham Herradura and, of course, my room was not ready and wouldn’t be ready for another two hours. When I was finally able to enter my room, I immediately went to bed in order to be rested up for the beginning of my Costa Rica adventure the next morning.

On all of my other international trips, my cell phone always, upon arrival, updated to the current local time. Before I went to sleep my first night in San Jose, I set my alarm for 6am so I would have enough time to shower and grab some breakfast before hitting the road. I was awake, showered, fed and ready to catch my bus before I realized I had woken up an hour earlier than intended. My cell only registered a two hour time difference instead of the three hour time difference from home. A really small and insignificant thing considering the rest of my time in the country went without incident. Everything was perfect. The Weather Network was predicting rain for more than a week straight for the Nicoya Peninsula; The sun was splitting rocks the entire time I was there! The food, the people, the shopping, the accommodations, the scenery…everything was better than I imagined it would be. And so began my two week journey through Costa Rica and a journey I will not soon forget.

1 comment:

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