On Wednesday, Nov 12th, we got up, finished up our last-minute packing and called a taxi. The taxi took us to the Atenas bus terminal. We caught the bus into San Jose, then took another taxi to the Ticabus terminal (just a few minutes away). The bus left at noon and we knew it only made a stop for dinner, so I went out and get us some lunch while we waited for our departure.
When we got on the bus, we found it to be very comfortable and roomy. It's definitely the nicest commercial bus we've ever been on. We settled into our seats and noticed the bus was going to be sparsely populated. All the better. It turned out there were only about 15 passengers on the trip.
The seats are comfy and they actually recline. Not like airline seats recline (3'), these seats recline back like a La-Z-Boy. With no one in the seats behind us, we took full advantage of that. We each had a carry-on bag and once we got on the road, I moved to the seats across the aisle, so we each had a row of our own.
The bus route took us to the Pacific Coast, where we got our first few glimpses of the ocean since we got here:
Most of the scenery along the way was countryside - hills, mountains, rivers. At one point we crossed a bridge over a river and I noticed a number of long objects lined up along the riverbank. At first I thought they were logs, then realized they were CROCODILES! I had read about a bridge referred to as Crocodile Bridge - some tours actually stop there. I guess that was it. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera ready, so no pictures.
We passed through a number of little towns along the way. Most of them looked something like this [press Play]:
We had been warned that the Ticabuses are often as cold as meat lockers, so we were prepared. I was in a T-shirt the whole trip and I was comfortable. However, certain people on the bus preferred to bundle up and snuggle in.
During the trip, there were movies showing on the overhead screens. They started off with Le Miserables - which was in English, with Spanish subtitles. Apparently, that wasn't going over very well, so that was cut off about halfway through. Next up was an action movie with Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) - in Spanish. Our third and final feature was Star Wars (Episode IV, I believe), playing in the picture to the left. It was also in Spanish but easy to follow (we know the story pretty well...). We had brought our own portable mini-DVD player, but didn't use it.
Our one-and-only rest stop was about 5pm - a stop for dinner. The bus pulled into a little roadside cafe (there were lots of them along the highway). And when I say the bus pulled in, I mean the bus pulled IN to the restaurant:
The restaurant was affiliated with Ticabus (probably owned by them). It was a cafeteria-style menu, meant to get you in and get you out. The food was pretty decent and fairly inexpensive. I believe the total for our two dinners was about $16-$18.
Thirty minutes after we pulled in, we were pulling out. This bus has a long way to go and the drivers don't waste any time. They are pretty heavy on the accelerator, passing just about everything else on the road - including 18-wheel big rigs (I tried not to watch). About an hour after our dinner stop, we arrived at the Costa Rica/Panama border. The border crossing is a whole separate story (see Border Crossing: CR to Panama post).
About an hour after the border crossing, the bus was in David, Panama. This was our destination, although the bus was continuing on to Panama City, about another 6-7 hours. Since David is a good-sized city (3rd largest in Panama), I assumed the bus would be pulling into the city's bus terminal - maybe pick up some more passengers. Nope. We found ourselves scrambling when the bus pulled over at a bus stop along the road, near a shopping center and several big box stores. It was 8pm, which was about an hour ahead of the anticipated arrival time (border crossing took 1 hour, not the 2 hours allotted). The driver unloaded our 2 roller bags from the belly of the bus and took off. A taxi showed up almost immediately and we were off to our hotel.
Our hotel (Hotel Alcala) was a modest hotel located in the downtown area. We were only staying for the night, since the bus got in late and we didn't want to hassle with getting the rental car and driving to Boquete in the dark. We checked in, which fortunately didn't require too much Spanish. We were a little surprised when we got to our room. It was just big enough for the full-sized bed and a small desk - more like someone's guest bedroom. However, it was clean, the AC worked, and it had a decent sized bathroom. It would do.
My favorite feature of the room was the artwork above the bed. As I looked at it closer, it was just a picture someone cut out, cut in half, and put into two separate frames. Very artsy.
We crashed out. The next morning we had breakfast in the little restaurant in the hotel. We got our bags, checked out, and grabbed a taxi to the airport, to get our rental car.
Posted by Mark