Well, since I haven’t kept up the travelogue as well as I ought to have, I shall work backwards from our final destination. We stayed at the end of the line in a small little town in Honduras, close to the border, last Friday night. There was a surprisingly large and well maintained hotel there, I suspect it is cow country and they have meetings of ranchers, etc. Our intention was to get up early, get through the border, and get as close to Costa Rica as we could. Which we did.
We arrived at the border of Honduras/Nicaragua at about 7:00 a.m. All of these borders have formalities both leaving and entering. So, we went through the Honduran side, which took a couple of minutes….with the requisite beggars and “border guides” pestering us, per usual.
We got to the Nicaraguan side, and the Nicaraguan officiales were most upset at some poor little Honduran farmer, they had his pick up truck in parts on the side of the road. We never did find out what the problem was. The officiale who spoke to us got a little horsey, Iguana Man asked him something in Spanish, to which he got the snotty equivalent of “I’m Nicaraguan, not American!!!”….which had nothing at all to do with anything. Iguana Man rolled his eyes at me and pretended not to understand, so as not to ruffle his macho feathers any further.
We proceeded to the next building (everything is in a separate little building, unmarked, of course…as you drive from one to the next all of the little border guides try to “guide” you…hoping for a little propina..tip), and paid our two dollars or whatnot, and got two little cardboard disks….on to the next building, turned in the disks, and we were in Nicaragua.
I now know the meaning of dirt poor. I didn’t really take many pictures as the poverty was very distressing. The only thing in abundance (and in good repair) was rock walls. The roads were not bad, inasmuch as there is barely any traffic in the country (nor in Managua for that matter, but more later). Two lane macadam, with a small but adequate shoulder, not many potholes, and thankfully no topes/tumulos (speed bumps)….the bane of Mexico & Guatemala.
We decided that Saturday must be cow-moving day. We saw a variation of this theme numerous times. Note the bus in the front, we think it was a German Tourist bus, as it appeared to have European tags on the front! Hard to say from the photo, though. There are two buses waiting for the vaceros to get their cows across….the lead cow was recalcitrant so it was a little touch and go for a while. You just have to wait and be patient, and once they get where they’re supposed to be, move along! Iguana Man says they’re very dangerous, even though they look docile, if scared they’ll jump forward (unlike a horse) and likely land on your hood (not to mention the hassle w/ the locals if “you” damage their livestock)…..so proceed with caution.
We made pretty good time once we got into the valleys where the roads became straight and narrow…and then we saw the lake and on to Managua. Which for a capital city, of 1.8 million people, had less traffic than I’d ever imagined….although there were no lack of horse drawn carts on the main drag (4 lane road)….again, the street signs are non-existant (or conveniently behind a tree)….at a big intersection, we saw this:
Take a good look at that. Freaky, huh? Well….check out the truck…it was full of Policia Nationales…a couple jumped out and headed on down the road. They turned left, and we kept on going….soon realizing that we should have turned where they did to stay on CA1 (Pan Am Highway)….our GPS was not happy, and we just kept hooking to the left and right until the Garmin had us back on track. At which point we happily saw this:
We made it to a great little town down south, called Rivas….alas as it was Easter Eve, there were no rooms at the nice inn (Nicaro Hotel)….but we did have a great steak dinner there. We found a fellow who’d just opened his hotel, Marcel, he was super friendly, but the accomodations were not quite complete, i.e. no shower head and agua caliente (hot water) not yet hooked up….so we boogied early the next morning (Easter Day)….the Costa Rica border was just down the road.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear? Yet another windfarm! This one only cost $95M.
This windfarm had all turbofans functional, it was quite a sight. They ends of the blades must be moving at least 70 mph….the wind was coming perpendicularly from our left, and the shadows of the moving blades were rapidly leaving our car in the dust, at which point we were doing maybe 60 mph.
There is a big island just east of Rivas, that has twin (active apparently) volcanic peaks, one of which reaches almost 7,000 feet. The tourism industy in this area is on the move, and there it’s a place I wouldn’t mind exploring further….lakes and islands are my thing. Except for crossing the border….
We reached the Nicaragua/Costa Rican border by 7:15, and after a couple of minutes, things didn’t look too bad as there were only about 3 cars in front of us. We had to go to the requisite two unmarked buildings, then we went through the “decontamination” device (which dripped 3 drops of something on us)….and made a left to the passport exit stamping station. PANDEMONIUM! There must have been forty buses, and every bus passenger in a line that had no end, five or six deep, with all of their luggage, standing in line.
At which point, we gave it up and decided to use one of the “border guides”….the one we found spoke good English (had lived in Atlanta, go figure)….and off he & Iguana Man went to pay a little “propina” to get our passports stamped. It was kind of funny, “no Mr. Iguana Man, take that bill and fold it in the passport like this”. All the while, I stayed in the car “guarding” our stuff. A big American got out of line and yelled at the kids leaning on his truck next to our XT….he said he had a couple of businesses in both Panama & Nicaragua, and made the crossing at least 5x a month…and estimated it would be at least 5 hours on the Nicaraguan side of the border and 3-4 on the CR side.
There was a bit of a problem with the Florida Disabled Veteran tag for some odd reason, but once it was explained, that seemed to be okay. There was also a slight delay as the first place of “accellerated stamping” wasn’t available. More delay.
Then another trot to who knows where, and Iguana Man came back with the head of the operation, who looked at my picture and looked at me, turned on his heel w/o saying a word, and left. Our border guide then introduced us to his CR counterpart, and after another hour or so….we were through. Cost about $60, and saved about 7 hours. It would have taken even less time had the officiale filling out the paperwork put the correct date in, also she mistook a “5″ for an “S” on our VIN number. NOTE TO EVERYONE….double and triple check the dates and VIN numbers, always. This was just a slight delay, and the border guide handled it.
I was always kind of worried about going through Nicaragua…but it wasn’t bad at all. We got stopped several times by the road stop cops, but they just checked the papers (one guy wanted water…note…carry extra bottles). The people we met, hotel workers, waiters, farmacia clerks, etc. were all very nice and happy to see Americans, it was just some of the officiales who had a bit of a ‘tude. I’d imagine that will change as tourism increases. I’d love to explore the Lake Nicaragua region, I read somewhere years ago that they have fresh water sharks. So, we shall have to see…that border crossing was insanity. We’re kind of thinking of booking a tour to Boca del Toros in Panama for our 90 day Costa Rican “time out”…we shall see.
Anyway, we got into CR by about 10:00 a.m….and since I had been “guarding” the car and was in the driver’s seat, I drove. It was great. At our first “road stop” (up by the Nicaraguan border, we’d driven up that way on our first trip so we knew it was there)….the only thing we were asked was “you really drove from FLORIDA?”….and a big friendly smile, and Pura Vida! (national saying here…look it up).
Once we hit the “big town” of Liberia I knew exactly where we were….stopped at the ATM to replenish funds (more about that later, I’m chewing on the Iguana Man to contribute more here, and that’s on his list of topics)….and we headed on down the road. And here we are.
Okay…off to check out a long term rental this afternoon, and then perhaps a jaunt to the beach…we need to stop at the ferreteria (hardware store) and get some rope for the hammoca we bought in Puerto Escondido. I have my GATOR beach chair….and an umbrella, and a cooler, and big beach towels….I’m ready.
Later, Gator fans.
~ Blonde Gator