Monday January 21st
Land in San Jose after two long flight legs from Vancouver, via Toronto, to Costa Rica's capital. Extreme temperature swing from -12C in Toronto to a sweltering +40C in San Jose. The jetway broils us as we exit the flight at 1:30 in the afternoon. 26 hours without sleep and every minute worth it.
Even the worst plane food we have had the misfortune to chokedown could not dampen our mood as the wave of palm-scented air blasted across our faces.
The international terminal is bright, modern and friendly enough. The domestic terminal next door is as sorry-assed a ghetto shack as it gets. A three hour wait for a 30 minute flight that ended up leaving 45 minutes late, in a shed basically slapped together out of plywood and corrugated steel.
We boarded a tiny 12 seater single-prop job that allowed us to watch over the pilot's shoulder as he first flew us up into the sunshine and gusts of wind, that had us rollercoastering through the air (GregR would not have enjoyed this part), then over the white and fluffy clouds that shrouded a mountain range, and then (alarmingly) directly INTO the tall white and fluffy clouds. At this point the men in charge abandoned the view out of the water-streaked windscreen and focussed on paper-calculations in their lap, while my mind echoed my father's eloquent description of "controlled flight into terrain". And I idly wished that wifey and I were not about to become a tourist-tragedy feature on the 6pm news at home.
Then suddenly we were out of the clouds (or rather, below the rain clouds) and soaring smoothly over thousands of acres of palm plantations ("I don't know," said our semi-local-looking-fellow-passenger gal in answer to my question. "I guess they use them for something, or something." Thankfully the only other passenger on the plan knew the palms' fruit was harvested for palm oil.)
Out of the green and lush mists, wifey spotted a tiny airstrip passing below, and thought "glad we're not landing there", since the forlorn strip of tarmac had been crudely carved out of the jungle like a drugrunner's secret rendez-vous.
Then to her surprise the plane banked sharply and made a heart-in-the-mouth dive for the tiny strip. Within minutes, and with no runway to spare, we were down.
The airport in Quepos is an open shack with some plastic chairs and a cafe counter.