30 days Journal 2 Fortuna-Upala

Old Jul 10th, 2004, 02:00 PM
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30 days Journal 2 Fortuna-Upala

Day 8: We hop on a bus to Fortuna from San Ramon. The bus is pretty comfortable with adequate storage below for suitcases and overhead storage for carry-on stuff. We have divested of much of our luggage already by distributing our gifts early and leaving several suitcases at Angel Valley Farm to be retrieved later. Our friends in Fortuna have been held over in the U.S. on business and will not be there when we hit town. We go to a B&B recommended by Jose from the farm. It was pretty sterile. No real Costa Rican hospitality here. The room was okay but the staff was uninterested and not particularly helpful. The next morning the owner/manager explained he was ?away? and who knows who was attending to us. It was not particularly memorable. The volcano, however, was majestic. It was perfectly clear when we arrived in the afternoon, all night long and still totally visible all the next day until we left. We are told we were very fortunate. I found the warnings I had read of Fortuna to be pretty accurate. Everyone thinks themselves a tour guide and an American a cash cow. I was quoted prices for tours on the phone only to have them doubled and tripled when I arrived in town. I understand the two tier system for nationals and tourists (and am flattered they thought me a native when I made the reservation in Spanish on the phone), but I do not understand, nor will I be made a part of out and out deceit. I was told by three different tour operators there were no children?s prices for hanging bridges, canopy tours and hot springs. I then walked across the street, dropped a 50-colon piece in a pay phone, called the sites directly and verified that there were, in fact, children?s prices at 50% discounts or more. We cancelled the night hanging bridge tour due to rain and headed in a taxi (1000 colones) to Baldi Hot Springs. $14 for adults, $6 for kids. (Tour guides wanted $14 each and said taxi would be $10?it was $2.29) The hot springs were delightful. One was sooooo hot, even the mosy valiant of the testosterone-filled college boys couldn?t go in it. The second hottest, and highest, closest to the volcano hot spring was for me. The volcano oozed beautiful orange lava for hours and the night was postcard-picture clear. We splurged on a fancy drink at the swim-up bar later that evening. We met a group of college-age volunteers who had been building houses with Habitat for Humanity and tagging turtles with the CCC. Several of them spent much of the evening telling my twelve-year old what a lucky kid he is. J

Day 9: Concerned there would not be any space left on the noon bus to Upala if we caught a taxi to nearby Tanque and caught it there, we caught an earlier bus south to San Carlos (Ciudad Quesada) and caught the same bus at its beginning point. (This is a wise move in many areas of Costa Rica, unless you like standing?..and I knew it was a five hour ride.) Backtracking to San Carlos was actually delightful. We saw the volcano and surrounding area heading down and back up. We breakfasted on delicious empanadas at the bus station. I remembered empanadas from my high school days when an elderly woman would sell the still-warm treats from a big metal tub in fron t of the local high school. They are as good as I remember them to be. My kids love ?empanadas de papa? and ?de carne? the best. They are soft fried folded-over turnovers filled with amost any delicacy you could want. Potatoes, meat, chicken, cheese, bean, mixed. We ate our way to Upala. For those who have never traveled on a Costa Rican bus?.you may not know about the ?gelatina?, ?maduros?, ?verdes?, etc. There are street vendors who hop on the bus at stations and even at construction sites where the bus gets slowed in traffic. They jump on the bus, peddle their goods a mile of so, hop back off and catch the next bus going the opposite direction to repeat the process, The resulting smorgasbord for the traveler is wonderful. ?gelatina? is jello with too much water added so it is something between jello and kool-aid. It is sold either as a drink or frozen as a icy treat. ?Maduros? and ?verdes? are fried plaintains, much like potato chips?the ?verde? being the plaintain that was still green when it was turned into a chip, the ?maduro? being the ripe version. The tastes of the chips are different.

In Upala, a small cowboy Little House on the Prairie-like town with horses, chickens and the like everywhere, I parked my kids on the suitcases, bought them a homemade coconut popsicle at the bus stop and ran three blocks to an ATM, remembering we were going to PRETTY FAR in the woods for the next several days with no electricity and insufficient funds. No problem. My US debit card orked at all banks in Costa Rica with the exception of Banco Nacional. That bank does not have the capability to read US cards. From Upala, we caught a bus to Bijagua, about 45-60 m minutes, if memory serves. In Bijagua, I was to look for ?Jupe Loco,? although Bill, the owner of the farm assured me he was NOT ?loco.? We got off the bus in the middle of a very small ?town.? A hardware store, a pulpería and not much else. I yelled, ?Jupe! Jupe Loco!? No Jupe. He was ?off.? Another young man asked where I needed to go. I told him ?La Carolina.? ?Diez dolares,? he says. In true tico fashion, I start to negotiate even though Bill had told me Jupe would charge me $10. Then I decided, ?Pick your battles Julie, pay the man. We piled into a beat up old pick up truck. Kids and luggage in the back. Off we went. At first, we could not believe the roads. Then they got worse..and worse?and worse. We could not believe HOW BAD and how far the road was. It was indescribable. We laughed and laughed and laughed. The young man stopped and showed us howler monkeys, picked us ?manzanas de agua, oranges, mangos, you name it. We drove and drove and drove. I was SOOOOOO glad I hadn?t tried to talk this young man out of any money. It was worth MUCH more than the ten bucks I paid him?to me. Finally we arrived at La Carolina. I was thinking, ?Oh Lord. What have I gotten us into?.? It was the beginning of the very best of Costa Rica.
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Old Jul 10th, 2004, 03:35 PM
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Tica_traveler,
Thank you so much for the report, I have really enjoyed it so far! One question... is your debit card Visa or Mastercard?? I've heard it's harder to use the MC cards there than the Visa cards and I'm trying to figure out if that's true.
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Old Jul 10th, 2004, 07:13 PM
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Julie,

I'm really enjoying your trip report. You are so much more adventurous than I am, and I wish I were more like you. Your kids are so lucky! One thing I really regret is not having tried more of the tico food and your descriptions are really making me want an empanada right now! I'm soooo jealous that you saw the volcano in all of its glory, but happy for you. It must have been amazing! I'm really looking forward to reading more of your report. I'm sorry that some of your accommodations, at least so far in your report, weren't quite what you were hoping they'd be. I want to ask if they get better, but I'll just wait and read your journal.

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Old Jul 11th, 2004, 11:50 AM
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Hey Jo and fellow travelers,
I'm glad you enjoy the trip reports. As I was typing, I was thinking, "B-O-R-I-N-G-!!!!". The accomodations did get MUCH better after the first week and the food was EXCELLENT! It's a good thing we did all that walking....'cuz we sure ate well!

I'll type up the next segment asap...today is my mom's 79th birthday...gotta go do grandma stuff. Ciao!
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Old Jul 11th, 2004, 11:56 AM
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LA Fadeaway,
My Atm is VISA and I have heard the same thing about MC. When you go to Costa Rica, look or ask about ATH. They are the best. ATH means "A TODA HORA," or "at any hour." They are ATMs that use multiple cards and charge very low fees, like 25 cents or something like that. They are not hard to find. The only one that didn't work for me was Banco Nacinal. I think the daily max is 300,000 or 400,000 colones. Once I realize how easy it was to access my account, I tended to take out lesser amounts.

happy travels
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