Do you know your way in San Jose?
In less than a year, we have returned to Costa Rica. This time we are in the central valley, last time we were in the Guancaste region. We did not experience this region last time, and we wanted to broaden our horizons, and in one day, we have broadened them. San José is a tale of two, no a tale of ten cities. It is, by far, the biggest city in all of Costa Rica with a population of about 1.5 million people in the regional area.
There are parts of San José that are reminiscence of the poorest parts of any large city in America, except that there are no building codes, so you can throw up whatever you want and call it a home. They build these homes right on the road, and although they cannot afford much, they can afford fences and barbed wire, oh and a big flat screen T.V.
The traffic is the worst I have ever been in, including cities like Vancouver, St. Louis etc. This is not normal traffic, nor is it normal driving. Last year I was intimated early on in our trip, driving from the big city of Liberia to Playa Flamingo, child’s play compared to this. Instead of a two second rule, there is a hand rule, you should try to be at least two hand widths away from the car in front of you, and that is at 80 km per hour. Further, if you really want to go fast, drive a motorcycle. It is readily apparent that motorcycles do not have to adhere to traffic laws,( all right, everyone pretty much ignores them, but the motorcycles are far more brazen). They pass in between cars, on the divider line ( where this is a divider line) they zoom in and out of cars, pass on the right, pass on the left, pass in between cars going the wrong way, completely ignore red lights, and often don’t wear helmets, yet the usually have a passenger. All this on four lane roads with no lines,no shoulders, pedestrians on the road, cars parked on the road, and the width about 1/2 of an USA highway. It reminds me of the video game Tron, except much faster. I am confident Evil Knevil wouldn’t attempt to drive a motorcycle in this town. My favorite was the motorcycle driver speeding, passing 4 cars into oncoming traffic and texting at the same time. Unfortunately, we were unable to get pics because I was 100 % focused on not dying, and Tracy’s hands were dug into the dash. I hope our insurance covers dash damage.
Just a few kilometers, or several hours aways, are slightly more sane areas. In fact the area of Escazu is pretty much like being in Amercia. It is much cleaner, wider roads, actual lines on the road, and even a few legible road signs. As you drive you see Applebee’s, Outback, Subways, and yes even McDonald’s. Funny thing is that they have some of their local flavor, and the local flavor is chicken, rice and beans. You can get them just about anywhere. The mall in that area is impressive, with many of the American stores, mixed in with some local selections. The prices seemed similar to Alaska prices, not that great.
We did manage to take a drive out to Grecia, a farm town in the hills of Central Valley. It was a great, quaint little town with very few english speaking people. As with most towns here, it had a huge Catholic church as the town center. We enjoyed visiting the area, and even had lunch at Pollo Crispy, which was very reasonable and tasty.
All in all, much like Anchorage, it seems to be a great place to visit, shop, and eat, but I don’t think I would want to live here. Too much traffic, too much stress, too many people, not enough beaches.
Things we learned today:
A month of pre-tanning does not prevent an hour sunburn.
Street signs are about the size of postage stamps, dirty illegible postage stamps.
A stop light combined with a stop sign is a common traffic sight, and just as commonly ignored.
Fumar o no fumar, still a vital question in Costa Rica.