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The long slog home

Costa Rica day fifteen

View Costa Rica 2022 on ToonSarah's travel map.

Morning view at Lagarta Lodge

As always on this trip I was awake early and sat up to enjoy the view. The sky above the ocean was in pastel shades of pink, cream and turquoise, and the egrets were just beginning to stir from their roost in the dead tree at the river's mouth.

We had time for a leisurely breakfast before leaving (that view again!) and for a coffee on our terrace.

The Pacific waves from our terrace

Reflections in the river waters

But our driver Roland arrived earlier than expected so we had to hurry to pack the final few items!

Perhaps it was just as well he was early however, as we had a long drive ahead of us, and not always on very good roads. A bumpy gravel road led down from Lagarta Lodge to the 'main' road along the coast. This was in theory paved, but in places there were more potholes than tarmac! As we turned inland through the dry coastal mountains of the Nicoya Peninsula, and across the flood plain, the road improved and Roland picked up speed whenever he could, despite the many slower vehicles which he overtook enthusiastically!


Shot from the minibus, scenes on the Nicoya Peninsula

When we reached the main north-south artery of the Pan-American Highway we stopped at the same café as on our outward journey a few days earlier. The macaws were still in the trees, the coffee was still good.

Scarlet macaw

But if we thought that being on this main road would make the driving easier and/or faster, we were wrong, as there were extensive roadworks to slow us down periodically. But the scenery was lovely and there was lots to see along the way. I took some photos out of the minibus window throughout the journey, with some limited success. At one point, near Puntarenas, we were back by the sea, but soon turned inland again on the final stretch to the airport.

Pacific view near Puntarenas

Fruit stall near Puntarenas

On the road to San Jose

We arrived at the airport around 3.30, after a drive of about five hours, and still too early to check in. There was nothing to do in the check-in hall so we just stood in the queue until the desks opened. That at least ensured that we were seen promptly and once through security could relax with a beer and a bite to eat. Oh, and with a bit of shopping - Costa Rican chocolates for family and friends!

In the airport terminal

We boarded just a little late, pushed back and then sat for a while due to what the pilot described as a 'slight technical issue'. We could only assume, when we set off some minutes later, that it had been resolved!

A meal was served soon after take-off, quite possibly the dullest I've had on what are normally OK British Airways flights. I don't know if they are using Covid as an excuse for not dressing a salad, or for calling a Twix bar a dessert, but it seems an odd rationale if so. And if it's a cost-cutting measure then it could well backfire if disappointed customers choose other airlines in the future.

After that I managed to dose for a few hours, but from around 8.30 AM UK time tried to stay awake to reset my body clock a bit. A snack of a sandwich and yoghurt was served a little later, the sandwich as dull as the pasta had been. Was the single slice of tomato in my 'cheese and tomato' roll another instance of economising?!

Approaching Gatwick we were on schedule but had to hold for a bit as the strong winds caused by Storm Eunice meant that they were spacing out landings. When it was our turn the pilot did an excellent job of bringing us down gently, and it was only when we were on the stand, and the plane was swaying from side to side, that we really appreciated the strength of the winds!

As though a five hour drive, three hour airport wait and eleven hour flight weren’t enough, we then faced the challenge of getting home. Our usual option from Gatwick is a train to central London and then the Tube. It takes about 90 minutes maximum. But after we’d taken the shuttle from the North Terminal, where we’d landed, to the South, where the train station is located, we discovered that there were no trains currently running to London because of the storm, which had brought down trees on the line. At first the staff said there might be a train soon, so we waited a while, but it soon became apparent they didn’t know what they were talking about. We considered checking into an airport hotel but they seemed to be taking advantage of the situation as prices were double what we’d paid for our overnight stay before our Seville trip last year. So if we didn’t want to sleep in the airport itself (and we didn’t!), it had to be a cab. That meant trailing back to the North Terminal, registering for a ride with the official taxi service and then waiting around 90 minutes (having already wasted an hour hoping for a train, thinking through the alternatives and going backwards and forwards between terminals).

Finally we got our ride, and with a very friendly and fast (but safe) driver. He told us about how busy he’d been all day, with the storm causing chaos for many travellers. About an hour later we were home at last, and relieved to find that there at least Eunice had not wreaked any havoc!

Posted by ToonSarah 15:17 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged landscapes birds coast airport roads costa_rica

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It is not many times that the biggest chalenges on the way back home are at your own country..:)

by hennaonthetrek

True Henna, that was exceptional - a really bad storm!

by ToonSarah

Certainly a trip home you won't forget in a hurry - but I hope it did not detract from your memories of that amazing holiday as a whole.

by Yvonne Dumsday

Not at all Yvonne - it's just another in a long line of travel memories :) They can't all be wonderful!

by ToonSarah

I had heard that BA wasn't so good any more. Food on long haul flights with them used to be pretty good. Not the perfect end to a holiday, but the main thing is you landed safely despite the storm.

by irenevt

Absolutely Irene, and not only safely but in the right place! We heard of planes being diverted to airports further north and even in Amsterdam!

by ToonSarah

Sounds like a challenging last day. We always consider the last day a loss and if something pleasant happens, we're delighted.

Otherwise I'm glad you enjoyed your trip. Our youngest loves to visit Costa Rica. We've never been there.

by Beausoleil

I agree Sally, we don't really expect to get much from a last day like this and if we do it's a bonus. This one had several, including coffee on our terrace with that wonderful view and some nice scenery on the drive. It was just once we hit the airport it became simply a journey home rather than a holiday!

by ToonSarah

The roads in Costa Rica that you describe are as I remember them from 1997. They were better (or at least the ones we were on were better) in 2015. We often stay at an airport hotel before or after a trip because we are a 2 hour drive from the airport and we get some free parking at the hotel so it is worth it

by greatgrandmaR

The main road was quite good but lots of the others were either potholed or untarred. As for the airport hotels, we stay there if we have an early start or are arriving very late but otherwise not. Normally the train to Gatwick takes about 90 minutes for us in total, but this storm was an unusually bad one - the sort of thing you just can't plan for.

by ToonSarah

My dear Sarah, we never got a chance to discuss this last weekend (plaudits coming your way later!) but your comments on BA do not surprise me at all. I suppose you had limited options from London without a three stop journey but I have been boycotting them for years. They are not a national carrier, they are a national disgrace.

Basically, BA is no longer British, it is not owned by our country via IAG and it shows. Standards slipped appallingly. IAG is effectively Spanish.

You know my thoughts and I shall not re-rehearse the arguments here but the simple fact is that Gallego (CEO of BA) and his long-term predecessor Willie Walsh (again not British) decided to adopt the odious business model of a disgusting animal (you know who I mean) who once said he would charge passengers to use the toilet.

All these things have contributed to why BA, one of the earliest passenger air pioneers and once the paragon of air travel, , have fallen so far.

I remember about 25 years ago, a very good friend was marrying a BA employee who was quite senior in the training of cabin staff. We used to socialise a lot and she told me then that BA were going down the pan and I , in my unfailing trust in British institutions, refused to believe it. Seems she was right but you know what to do, vote with your feet!

by planxty

This was surely an interesting read and I hope to visit the country myself in the upcoming years. It will be a struggle to find time of, but never say never of course!

by Ils1976

I hope you make it Ils, it's a fabulous place to visit and really lived up to my expectations!

by ToonSarah

I hope so too Sarah, I first was thinking about July or August but I guess the season isn't right then???

by Ils1976

I'm not sure about that time of year Ils, I think it may be rainy in some parts. But I also understand the climate is very different on the two coasts so you may find areas that work well then.

by ToonSarah

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