Saturday, June 2, 2007

20. The End (6/2/07)

Saturday, June 2, 2007
Oh, no! We have to go home today. We brought our packed suitcases when we went to breakfast so that Enrique could get them loaded on top of the bus. Breakfast was gallo pinto (you knew that was coming!) with cilantro, and scrambled eggs. We were scheduled to depart at 8:30 AM, but since we were all ready, we left before 8:00 AM. Completed our bird list on the bus - we had seen over 200 species of birds on this trip!
Took Highway 32,
Highway 32
the major route between San Jose and Limon, a port city on the Caribbean coast. Passed a palm plantation where palmitos (hearts of palm) are harvested. Intercropped with Melina Trees (Gmelina arborea - wood used for wooden pallets).Today we would travel from an altitude of 100 feet above sea level to 9,000 feet over the Cordillera Central (Central Mountain Range). We would be passing through all the climate zones of Costa Rica, all encompassed by the Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo (Braulio Carrillo National Park), named for the first president of Costa Rica (1910).
Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo
Went through the only tunnel in Costa Rica.
A very large tunnel
The weather was clear and sunny, not the usual for the wet season where fog, rain, and thus landslides are expected. Passed where clear and brown waters of two rivers merged. Saw a double waterfall. Knew we were at 4,000 feet because of the Poor Man's Umbrellas.
Once over the mountains we entered the Central Valley
Central Valley
with its pines and Mexican cedars. 
Passed the National Soccer Stadium.
National Soccer Stadium
Arrived at the outskirts of the capital city of San Jose.
San Jose
The tallest building in the city is the National Bank, built to withstand earthquakes.
National Bank to the right
Saw a huge domed building, can anyone identify it?
Mystery domed building
At a stoplight, there were beggars and someone selling lottery tickets in the street.
Dangerous business
Saw McDonald's, Burger King, Domino's Pizza, Church Chicken, and Papa Johns.
McDonald's and Domino's Pizza
We arrived at the airport at 9:30 AM.
Distributed our tips to Jimmy and Enrique as they passed us our luggage. In the terminal we followed signs to the right to pay our departure tax of $26 each, in our first long line of the day. Didn't realize there was a shorter line if we had turned left!
Joined the long line for check-in. Got halfway through when Jerry called us forward to make sure his whole group got on an earlier plane. Our scheduled 12:00 PM flight was delayed until 1:35 PM, but we were put on the 12:30 PM American Airlines flight.
The man checking boarding passes and passports gave Brynne the eye and a big hello. But then I got a big "Hello, Lady!" Okay, so he's just friendly! Next the security line.
Thanks to leaving earlier than planned, we had plenty of time for lunch. Went to Schlotsky's for smoked turkey sandwiches and sodas. Can't even get Schlotsky's in Jacksonville anymore!
Window shopping, restrooms, then the mass crowding to board the plane. After having our boarding pass and passport checked again, they had us open our carry-ons in the jetway. Couldn't take any bottles on the plane. As we boarded we were given a brown paper bag: snack of a muffin and dried fruit mix. Since we had changed flights, we had assorted seats throughout the plane.
Arrived in Miami about 5:00 PM local time. We had to wait in a line immediately after de-boarding to have our passports checked in the hallway. Then the wait for baggage before going through passport control and customs. We went through security once again to head for our gate for the 8:35 PM flight to Jacksonville. We also had time to grab a Pizza Hut dinner.
Back in Jacksonville, said goodbye to our wonderful group trip-mates, and drove home arriving before midnight.
And that's the end of this saga.

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