Day 1 (Jun. 4):
Alajuela, Costa Rica
My plane touched down in Juan Santamaria International Airport and as soon as I stepped off I caught an instant gust of that thick Central American air. I powered through to the terminal where I grabbed my bags, collected my thoughts, and headed into the crowd of taxistas aggressively bartering for my services. Luckily, the Dos Palmas Hostel had arranged a shuttle for me and I simply had to search for their name scribbled on a piece of paper. Simple enough...So I thought. The crowd of taxistas was dense and there appeared to be no sign of the Dos Palmas shuttle. This wasn't really anything to be concerned about. The hostel was literally 5 or 10 blocks down the road and I could hoof it if it came down to it. Just as I was preparing for a brief, early morning stroll through Alajuela I was approached by a slender, well dressed man holding a black briefcase. "What hotel? What hotel?" I responded with a skeptical "Dos Palmas" and he opened his briefcase to reveal a sheet of paper with this name scrawled on it. "Yeah, Dos Palmas. That's me." I asked no questions and quickly hopped in the cab.
After a very brief cab ride, we arrived at the Dos Palmas Hostel. As I pulled my bags through the back door of the taxi I thanked the driver and handed him a few dollars for the ride. The taxi peeled away leaving me standing in the middle of the entrance in cloud of dust. Once the dust settled, I took a minute and just stood there to take it all in. It's official. Day 1: Alajuela, Costa Rica. What is going to happen over the course of the next 30 days? Who knows? I've made this trip before, but never through bus companies and never completely alone. The moment was eventually interrupted by a staff member with a thick Dutch accent. Choosing each word carefully, she introduced herself. "My name...is...Rosa." With that she led me to my room; a surprisingly nice efficiency with separate kitchen and workspace areas. The whole place had a backwoods, European feel to it. The entrance of the room was barricaded by a thick wooden door with a large, primitive slide bolt that made me feel strangely secure. There is just something about the sound of metal sliding against metal that feels safe. It's that screech of the grinding mechanisms... The door's display of its ability to defend your privacy. The accommodation also had patio area which was framed by two leather chairs and a rustic coffee table. This place was pretty sweet. But, I knew this was it. Probably the last room that would leave me feeling like I am on vacation.
These first couple of days have been purposely set aside as "acclimation days." I don't project too much action over the course of the 24 hours or so. The plan is to ease my way into the hustle of day to day travel in Central America. I have a full day here at Dos Palmas and then it's on to the capital city of San Jose for one evening followed by a bus ride to the first real job sight; the Paso Canoas border. The plan is to use this day to really think through the next week of travel. Where to go? How to get there? Not a whole lot to do, but walk about town and get used to the way that life moves around here.