Having learned my lesson on late starts when going through borders I headed out for San Jose at 7am. Again a boat ride over to Almirante a 2 block walk over to the bus depot where I caught a bus to Changuinola for $1.60, a 1/2 hour ride. The bus from Changuinola to San Jose only runs once a day and leaves at 10am. I already had my ticket ($11.00) as I had to purchase it when I entered Panama. The bus goes the same route that I came in on, over the scary bridge. In order to clear customs we had to get off the bus and walk across, I was so hoping we would get to stay on the bus although that too is scary, not sure how that thing stays up with that weight. At least I got over before the bus came, don't think I'd have been able to go at the same time. There were no charges at customs this time on either side however my flight home was out of Costa Rica and I had to show my itinerary. If you are not flying out of the country you have to purchase a bus ticket back to Panama to get in.
The bus does not drop you off in San Jose at a bus terminal, it just pulls over on the side of the street and out you go. Having had a bad experience with meter cabs last time I was here I opted for a pirate cab this time. The guy gave me a price of $2000 Colon's to go to Tranquilo Hostel which it turned out was about 20 minutes away and that was all he charged me. Who knew from now on pirate cabs it is they are more honest than the "official metered" cabs.
Tranquilo Hostel is in a great area, right downtown so you can walk to pretty much everything. It was $10.00 a night for a bunk in a dorm room 8 bunks to a room. Included was free Internet/WIFI, coffee/tea, kitchen with fridge and pancake breakfast (with fruit) that they cook for you. They do sell beer but you can go to the market down the street and get your own and bring it in.
As I had not done any shopping on my travels I walked on down to the market to see what I could find. There are lots of souvenir shops full of the usual merchandise however I'm not really a fan of the Costa Rica key chain, etc. I did find a few things but I can't tell you what they are as they are gifts for people when I get back. Nothing overly tacky although I do enjoy giving people really bad gifts so I can watch them squirm as they pretend to like them ;-) I resisted my evil impulses this time but there is still a world of tacky gifts in Vegas so I don't think I will be able to keep from going over to the dark side, spaghetti strapped "I got laid at Coyote Ugly" 1/2 shirts for everyone!
I met some great people while in San Jose and got in some much needed drying out from alcohol, 2 beers in 4 days.. Okay they were 1 litre ones but still a significant drop in consumption. San Jose is a nice place, lots of shopping and the area I was in is very safe. The clothing stores do seem to specialize in skank wear, especially the glittery kind and they have lots of jeans that are really cheap so if shopping is your thing then this is the place to do it.
The hostel will arrange for cabs to the airport at a cost of $20.00US which I decided to do. I was going to take the bus at a cost of $1.75 however I would have had to walk 12 blocks across downtown at 4 in the morning which is never a good idea in most cities. As it turned out I made a very good decision. There was a torrential downpour the morning I was leaving and I mean it was really coming down so I was very glad not to be walking.
And so ends my Central American journey. I am still having a few issues dealing with the fact that I'm done and things don't really seem right but other travelers I've talked to warned me that it happens to all of us. Once I have adjusted a bit I will write a blog about what I have learned on my travels. It probably doesn't help that I'm in Las Vegas, just gives it more of a surreal feeling. My first night here I was like a country rube at the carnival, but that's a story for another blog entry.
On my travels I met a lot of incredible people from all over the world and from all kinds of different backgrounds, all of us with our own reasons for being on our journeys. The thing that we all have in common is that none of us fit into the "normal world" or want that lifestyle. At last I've found my own kind :-) Thanks to all of you! The places I went to were great but the people I met along the way are what made my journey truly amazing.
For the folks who have been following my blog, thanks for joining me on my travels. If you are planning a trip I hope I have been able to give you some useful info. If you have any questions or need clarification please ask if I don't know then someone I traveled with probably will. If you have been toying with the idea of running away from home and doing a big trip but have had reservations I hope I have dispelled a few myths and fears. If nothing else then I hope that I have been able to keep you entertained. As for me, I can't imagine not traveling again and I am already planning my next escape.
~ The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~ Saint Augustine
Safe travels to all. Happy trails amigos.