December 29, 2016, Category: Costa Rica

Our travel day to Costa Rica didn’t go as planned. I’d told Sandi our layover through the night at the Guatemala Airport would be fun and sold her on the Red Carpet Lounge. I really blew it.

Day 1: Airport Troubles

In December of 2012, Sandi and I went to Costa Rica. It has taken a few years, but I'm finally taking the time to edit my journal entries, post the blogs, and upload the pictures. Click the pictures to expand them. Click here to jump to the beginning with a link to every day.

In an hour we’ll be on the ground in Guatemala for a long layover. I have two Red Carpet Lounge coupons which will be nice—free wine and snacks. We’ll hang out there until our flight early in the morning so I’ll have time to organize my thoughts and plan our driving route to Tamarindo. I’m finally excited for Costa Rica! Beaches, sunshine, and wildlife for two solid weeks! Maybe this trip will start off without any problems—I’m feeling optimistic.

Sandi’s stressed look is rather tame. Must be all that Yoga.

I saw massive forest fires glowing in the dark below us, then the flight attendant told me it was lava from volcanoes. One of the big ones has been active recently and a few weeks ago I made the mistake of telling Sandi that maybe we’d see an eruption. That almost got the trip cancelled. For some strange reason, she wants to avoid mayhem and destruction.

(A few hours later.)

We are not in the Red Carpet Lounge enjoying free wine and snacks. We are on a hard floor alone in a dark terminal—and lucky to be here. We almost ended up stranded in a rough section of town. I had no idea the Guatemala airport closed at night.

It was late when we landed and they ushered everyone on our plane through the empty airport. When we reached the fork to connecting flights or baggage claim, the security guards pointed us down the hallway leading out of the secure part of the airport. I knew we had a problem. United had booked our flight, and I’d assumed they wouldn’t strand us in an airport. I was wrong.

I explained to the officer that we were flying to Costa Rica, this was a stopover, and we needed to stay at the airport until our early flight out (in a few hours). She shrugged and rattled off Spanish words. I tried again, speaking slower. She tried again, also slower. Before long we had five security officers speaking slow Spanish to us in the darkened hallway trying to get us to exit the airport.

I showed them my itinerary and tapped our morning departure. They took the paper, huddled, and Spanish words buzzed like hornets. Walkie talkies squawked. And Sandi looked at me with big eyes.

“Don’t worry, this kind of thing happens sometimes. It’ll be fine.”

She knew I was full of crap but smiled. “Yeah.”

Another woman showed up, and the agents swarmed her—putting our itinerary into her hands and pointing at us. Then it got quiet.

“Hotel? You have Hotel?”

I shook my head. “No hotel.”

She spoke to the others, and they groaned in Spanish. Which is very similar to an English groan.

They tried again to get us to exit the airport, and I shook my head. Even if we found a hotel, we’d have to turn around the minute we got there to come back and catch our flight. They were very patient and obviously wanted to help us. They had what seemed to be a serious discussion. My guess is half of them said “throw them out,” and the other half, “they’ll get kidnapped, mugged, and beaten out there!”

Eventually, their circle broke and one signaled for us to follow. He led us through the dark terminal, pointed to some chairs, and nodded. We thanked him, profusely, and set up for the night. A far cry from the Red Carpet lounge, but much better than the sidewalk. So here we are, sitting on the floor of a dark, empty airport. I’m worried our luggage is alone in baggage claim or—worse—being divided up in a dark alley behind the airport. Either way, there is nothing I can do about it now.

Sandi has been awesome. No complaining. No venting at my poor planning. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had.

Click here to go to Day 2.

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