Apparently I used up all my good bus karma getting into Alajuela, because getting out was a royal pain in the tuchus. First, I waited for the neighborhood bus -- which was supposed to run every half hour or so -- which would take me to downtown Alajuela. And I waited. And I waited. Just as I was about to give up, the stupid bus finally arrived. Even though I was the only person on the bus, the driver grumpily made sure I was aware that the first seat was for elderly and disabled passengers ONLY. Yes, you´re so right! I´d better move to the back of the bus and make room for the hordes of senior citizens who are not on this bus. Good call!
I had explicit instructions from Margarita about where to get off in Alajuela to find the bus to San Jose, but something got scrambled along the way and I wound up a good five or six blocks (up a steep hill, of course!) from the station. Buses in Central America are never centralized from one terminal, and you always have to hunt around to figure out what block your bus is leaving from. So I wound up asking three or four times and had to walk an extra two or three blocks to find the "direct" bus to San Jose. By the time I flumped on the bus, I was a sweaty exhausted mess.
So I get to the big bad capital city, with no idea which terminal we´re at. I know I need to get to the Terminal al Caribe, and I know where *that* is on the map, but that doesn´t help when I don´t know where *I* am on the map. I asked a woman sitting on a nearby bench, and she just looked puzzled. (One of those "I know how to get there, but I don´t know how to explain it" looks.) Finally she said that it was too far to walk, and I should just get in a cab. Hallelujiah! First good advice of the day.
OK, so I arrived at the Terminal al Caribe, and it seems to be pretty clearly marked as to which bus goes where. One problem: there are two spots labeled Puerto Viejo. Um, which is it? I tried asking someone, and got another of those puzzled stares. Then I remembered that there is another Puerto Viejo, closer to San Jose, and I definitely wanted the *other* one near Cahuita, so I got in line at that bus. I loaded my bag in the belly of the beast... uh, bus... and got in line to board. Only when I got to the front of the line did the driver inform me that I had to buy a ticket inside. Great, with about three minutes to spare! Please don´t leave with my stuff!!! I dashed inside, and of course the guy at the window was on the phone with no reason to hurry and help me. I nearly reached inside the small window and shook him by the collar. Fortunately, there was no need for violence, and I managed to make it on the bus in time. Whew!
The ride took about four hours, and I could feel it getting hotter and more humid as we approached the Caribbean Coast. By the time we reached Puerto Viejo, it was downright sticky and so was I. Mmmmmmm! I got off the bus and realized I had no idea how to find my hostel, the infamous Rockin J´s. It was written up in my book but not on the map. I stopped at the first cafe I could find, and asked for directions. Oh, it´s about a 20-minute walk down this road, on the left side. Great! Twenty more minutes of walking around in this heat with this infernal backpack, and I just might keel over.
I managed to make it there without collapsing in a heap by the side of the road, of course. And was pleasantly surprised to be reunited with my long-lost travel sista Julia! It´s always nice to see a friendly face after a long hot dusty transport day. A quick dip in the ocean, right next to the hostel, also helped improve my attitude immensely. All´s well that ends well!