A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about alajuela

2017 FEB - COSTA RICA CONTINUES

Inland we travel away from the coast to the Capital San Jose.

DAY 26 FRIDAY 3RD MARCH

Up early today as we are booked on the 9am bus to San Jose. We had a cooked breakfast to use up the remainder of our food, finished stuffing our bags and gave the nod to our landlady to make the call for a taxi to take us into town to the bus stop with our heavy bags. She said the taxi would cost about US$3, but when we got out I advised Lyn to just give him C2000 = A$4.76 and he was more than happy with that amount.

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Today we are taking the bus as apposed to a shuttle service because of the difference in price. Bus was C5270 = A$12.54 each and the shuttle van was US$55 = A$72.40 per person, which was just a ridiculous difference. However, within 2 minutes of sitting in the bus I did start to regret this option as the seats on the bus were designed for midget Aztecs and not fat arsed, long legged Australians. Unfortunately, the bus was full and I had a nice Canadian lady sit next to me, which meant I was pretzeled in to the small seat with non existent leg room, so the next 5 hours was most uncomfortable.

The bus left just a little late, just a little after 9, and it was raining. Today we drove through some magnificent scenery. Through the cloud forests and green for as far as the eye could see. It seemed like the road had been cut through the middle of the mountains for a fair distance as there were high cliff walls on either side of the road, every now and then when we were at the peaks the vista would be amazing!

There was only just a one 10 minute stop in Limon when Lyn & I did not take advantage of the toilet stop, so by the time we arrived in San Jose at 2pm we were both busting and make a bee line for the loos pushing over zealous taxi drivers out of the way. Much relieved later, we again avoided the taxi drivers (not so zealous now) and pulled our luggage 5 or 6 blocks down the road to a different bus station. We needed a bus to take us the 16km out to Alajuela.

Alajuela (Spanish pronunciation: [alaˈxwela]) is the second-largest city in Costa Rica after the capital, San José. It is also the capital of Alajuela Province. Because of its location in the Costa Rican Central Valley, Alajuela is nowadays part of the conurbation of the Great Metropolitan Area. The city is the birthplace of Juan Santamaría, the national hero of Costa Rica and the figure who gives the name to the country's main international airport, which is south of Alajuela downtown.

This bus was only C500 = A$1.18 each and was supposed to take about an hour to travel the short distance to Alajuela. Due to very heavy traffic and road work (3 lane bridge reduced to one lane) the trip took almost 2.5hours. With our luggage unloaded at the Alajuela bus station we just had to now find the hotel which I had booked. The town is a grid, so we just had to find Calle 2, Avenida 4, which sounded easier than it was and after dragging our luggage a few blocks I just stopped and asked a group of policemen who were standing around watching (guarding?) an ATM which had a line up of about 35 people. We were not far off, just 2 blocks down that way they pointed.

HOTEL SANTA MARIA 4 NIGHTS TRIPLE ROOM @ A$261, unfortunately we had already trashed the room before I took these photos.

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We found the hotel and met up with Miss Dolly who had arrived earlier in the day on a flight from the UK via Mexico City. The next couple of hours were spenting chatting and catching up with Doll, and she regaled the story of the problem she had with immigration at the airport. The same sinario that I was worried about when we crossed the border actually happened with her and they were about to send her back to Mexico because she did not have an exit flight out of Costa Rica. With the aid of the airline staff she did manage to book a flight to Nicaragua which appleased the immigration office (which she described as gestapo like) and after a two hour delay was finally admitted into Costa Rica.

It was dark when we finally headed out for something to eat (realizing Lyn & I had not eaten since breakfast), Friday night and lots of shops were still open and there was a decent crowd out and about. We ended up eating at a greasy fried chicken place mainly because we were hungry and because we could only find chicken places. It was good enough to fill our stomachs and we then wandered back to the hotel.

This is the first time we have had a TV the whole trip and one with cable channels, so we spent the rest of the night watching a couple of English speaking movies.

DAY 27 SATURDAY 4TH MARCH

Breakfast at the hotel is included with our room, so we had fresh fruit (piece of pineapple, banana & pawpaw) tea/coffee & toast. Just enough to get us started for the day.

We are just going to have a look around town here in Alajuela today, nothing too strenuous. The sun was out and although there was a bit of a frisky breeze it is still fairly warm. We started out in Plaza Santamaria with the statue of the county's hero, Juan Santamaria.

Juan Santamaría was a Costa Rican soldier, officially recognized as the national hero of his country. A national holiday in Costa Rica, Juan Santamaría Day, is held every April 11 to commemorate his death. He was also known as the Nacho Gonzalez, an important character in Costa Rican history that established the Indian cultures in a region of Costa Rica.

We made our way up the street to the Central Plaza and the Alajuela Cathedral.

The Our Lady of the Pillar Cathedral also called Alajuela Cathedral or Cathedral of Virgin of the Pillar, is the name given to a religious building affiliated with the Catholic Church, which is located in the city of Alajuela, the second largest in the Central American country of Costa Rica.

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Then on to the museum in a lovely old building that once served as a jail and an armoury.

Juan Santamaría History Museum
This fortress was built between 1874 and 1877 by General Tomás Guardia and remodeled in 1936 by then president León Cortes Castro. Various Alajuelan military leaders that commanded the headquarters came to be president of the republic such as General Próspero Fernández and General Bernardo Soto Alfaro.
By 1894 there were enough military weapons to arm 5,000 men. Some believe that the underground tunnels that connect the barracks with the general’s residence and the city hall are from the remodeling in 1936.
After the abolition of the military, it was converted into an education center and after that, it was the main office for the Research and Perfection in Technical Learning Center (CIPET in Spanish). It has been recently set up as the Juan Santamaría History and Culture Museum. It was declared a Historical Architectural point of interest, according to the Executive Decree published in the La Gaceta.

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Next stop, we had a walk around the central market, that was full of an assortment of stalls selling everything from fruit and vegies to underwear and footwear. Also there were a lot of food stalls and we decided to stop at one to have a bit of a snack. Ceviche was on the menu so we had a serving of fish ceviche. Dolly had a taste and not being a fish eater to start with was none too impressed, but she did like the vinegar & lime liquid it was served in. We also tried some fish which was very tasty.

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Returning to the hotel for some lunch and a little rest, we headed out again later in the afternoon in search of Walmart supermarket. Due to my fantastic navigational skills we managed to walk about 5 km to get there when it was only 1.5 km distance away. Gave Dolly a great workout and she is now sleeping like a baby.

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After a coffee and wandering around the supermarket tasting cheese and whatever else was on offer, it was mutually decided we get a taxi back to the hotel, which ended up being just up the road.

By now it was rum o'clock so we sat in the hotel courtyard having a couple of cans of cuba libre (rum & cola). Dinner was roast chicken and fresh bread that we picked up at Walmart.

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Another movie on telly before bed.

DAY 28 SUNDAY 5TH MARCH

Today we did very little.

Lunch time we headed out looking for food, central market was closed so we just bought some bread from the supermarket and had the left over chicken from yesterday.

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The afternoon we hung around the hotel as a friend of Dolly's was arriving in Costa Rica and was going to come to us for a catch-up. By 6.30pm she had not yet shown up so we headed out again in search of food. Not a great deal open on a Sunday night and as we did not want to venture too far we ended up at KFC for chicken and chips - fast food always a good standby and they are all of Americas finest here on offer.

On arrival back at the hotel, Liz (Dolly's friend) had in fact just shown up and was chatting with the receptionist. This called for a drink and we sat around chatting with having a few cold beverages that we had purchased earlier in the day.

We had decided to go to Poas Volcano tomorrow and Liz was going to meet us back here at the hotel in the morning and come along also.

DAY 29 MONDAY 6TH MARCH

Liz arrived at the hotel just as we were going for breakfast and joined us for a coffee. The hotel receptionist had advised the bus to Poas was the same bus stop as the one we had arrived at so we had an idea of where we were going. We left the hotel at 8.30 for the short walk to the bus station. Luckily for us Liz spoke Spanish and when we arrived at the bus station confirmed it was the incorrect one and received directions for the bus stop just 2 blocks away. So much for the hotel information.

Anyway we were there in plenty of time and stood with a pack of other tourists also waiting for the bus to the volcano.

The Poás Volcano, (Spanish: Volcán Poás), is an active 2,708-metre (8,885 ft) strato volcano in central Costa Rica. It has erupted 39 times since 1828.

The bus finally loaded just after 9, luckily we all got seats, the one way fare was C1090 = A$2.55 each. The entrance gate to the volcano was less than 20km away, however due to the winding up hill road it took us almost 2 hours to reach it. Ah and we had a 15 minute toilet stop on the way too. At the stop we bought cheese and beef empanadas to try C800 = $1.87.

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Back in the bus it was only about another 20 minutes before the bus stopped again at the entry gate to the Volcano park. The bus stopped here because you have to pay US$15 entry before it will take you any further. A lady in a uniform entered the bus and announced there is very heavy cloud cover and visibility is zero, you can see nothing, but if you want to enter the fee is US$15. The bus was not returning until 2.30pm so just about everyone on the bus decided to pay the entry fee and go look at the cloud. We thought this was a bit silly to pay money if there was no chance of seeing anything, and it was a huge price to pay to sit around in the café until it was time for the bus to go back down the hill.

Liz suggested we start walking back down and try to hitch a ride. I thought it would be highly unlikely that we would get a ride being the four of us, but it was a better idea than just waiting around in the misty rain for the bus to depart. It was pretty cold also outside of the bus, and we could not get into the café without paying the entry fee.

It was downhill so we thought we would take our chances. Well, we got no further than about 20 steps before a taxi pulled up and Liz negotiated a price for us to get back into town. The taxi had obviously just dropped people off at the entrance and they must have paid a good price because he agreed to take us for C1000 = A$2.34 each, which was actually cheaper than the bus.

It was a shame we did not get to see the volcano crater or any views, but them is the breaks when you have to rely on mother nature. We had a nice bus ride up and a taxi ride down, then we headed back to the hotel for tea/coffee and cake and natter some more.

Liz left us in the afternoon and we headed out to the central market for some lunch. We returned to the same place we ate at the other day and we had ceviche and fried fish again. It was yummy. Lyn & I also bought some seafood soup to take away that we had for dinner.

Later in the afternoon we all started to pack our bags as we are departing Alajuela tomorrow morning early so need everything ready to go. This is when Lyn realized there were slashes in the back pack that she had worn when we had gone out for lunch. Quick contents check revealed that the purse she was carrying in there was gone. So sometime while we were out and walking around the streets or in the central market, some one had slashed the bag and grabbed out her purse. She did not feel a thing. We lost about A$50 in cash, plus Lyn lost the purse. It could have been worse, but it just puts a bit of a dampener on everything. Guess it will also make us more aware and more cautious in the future, no more carrying back pack on our back. Like I said it could have been worse, only cash was lost, no cards or passport.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 20:27 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged alajuela Comments (3)

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