Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Doubled crossed and crossing borders aka Bridget Jones travels from Nicaragua to Costa Rica

The story so far....

Oof what a day yesterday was as they say in these parts, "qué horrible!" 😑 it was border crossing day but I generally quite like doing it. It makes me feel intrepid and I love a stamp. Oh but yesterday was a doozie though it has a good ending though so that's something. 

Yesterday I left Ometepe to make for Tamarindo in Costa Rica. I have a week whistling through here and Panama before I fly to Colombia next Friday. Anywho I digress.

As you know my Nicaraguan love affair is well documented despite obvious reservations about leaving somewhere that make me so happy I was up bright and breezy to catch the ferry to the mainland. I had actually been up since half 3, thank you wildlife of Ometepe. Problems began when on said ferry I realised the weird plugs in Ometepe had only charged my phone a bit. I decided not to worry about it as there was a waiting room at the port and I thought I had plenty of time. 

I ended up chatting to a lovely lady from Tijuana who gave me some good tips for Costa Rica and Panama. It was foggy on the boat and I have a tan so while I was caught up chatting I didn't worry about suncream. By the time we got to the other side my nose was bit red and shoulders tight. Great combo with a heavy bag 😬 so I'm now suburned with a cold. So much in keeping with my usual summer spent at British music festivals. 

I got to San Jorge and found a plug and that's when it all started to go nuts. Between here and Rivas a town synonymous with bad travel stories there are so many hustlers. I can now put myself in with said stories. However, a woman once told me that where mind goes energy goes. She was a bit left of the middle about most stuff but I think this rings true. As I was thinking bloody Rivas I know so many bad stories about it blah, blah, gah! 

The taxi drivers descended as I was charging but found more willing victims. One persistent fella kept telling me I needed to get going as there were festivals for next two days in Nicaragua and Costa Rica and the border would be shut for a bit and crazy before and after. I smiled just wishing him thanks for the info. He wasn't lying. Always do a festival check before travelling is now on my travel tips list. 

Anyway when I'd got a bit of charge I jumped into an awaiting taxi with the least cray driver and hot footed to Rivas. On arrival the bus conductor said it would be an hour before the bus left. So I chucked my big bag on and went in search of snacks and a printer to save money as apparently Costa Rica won't accept proof of travel on an email, go figure. Trying to save money ending up costing me $35 or thereabouts. 

The reason being when I got back to station about 30 mins later the bus had already gone! It would seem my bag was keener than me to get to its next destination. I remained calm though my face didn't. This alerted another hustler taxi driver who in fact turned out to be a saviour. I explained what happened and he said he'd drive me to the border for $16 and we would catch up with bus and I would be reunited with my bag. Deal!

I now know what it is like to be in a high speed pursuit situation. He even had a police type siren for when we were overtaking, I kid you not. We got to the border in no time only to discover the bus and my bag had diverted to the border town of Cardenas another good distance away. I still remained calmed and we agreed on a new price of $25. On the siren went again and 20 mins later I was reunited with my bag. 

The only trouble was I only had $20 dollars on me and a few cords for the bus I would have been catching. Just to put the tin hat on it the ATM at the border wouldn't accept my card that doesn't charge and so there was a hurried few minutes of swapping stuff round and ignoring astronomical charges as I paid the man and sent him on his way (at high speed). 

I thought that's it there's the drama done with but no it comes in threes. I strode happily to the border guard smiling who took one look at my passport and said you've overstayed your visa and you're being fined. In my very best Spanish I said on but I arrived on 13th June and I'm leaving on 13th September. To which he replied yes and that's 92 days as some months are longer than others, which is the same as your country if not mistaken. I laughed he did not 😏 I am an idiot you don't need to say it. So cue more charging and cash withdrawals as you have to pay the fine in cordobas not colones and the exit fee in dollars. 

Following another wait where I continued to smile respectfully at the guard who wasn't saying anything or giving me my passport back. No emotion from him just heavy typing and stamping. Eventually he gave it back with a tight smile. I like to think I wore him down but in all honesty it was probably wind. 

I then had a few minutes walking and saying no thanks to everyone trying to get me on a Nica bus and/or tell me I had to pay for an immigration form (you don't). The final man in immigration was actually very nice and let me pass without incident. At this point my battery was only on 2% but I know all I needed to do was get one bus to Liberia and immediately change to Tamarindo. Hahaha the bliss of being unaware. 

The bus came and I got on. It was going slowly so I thought oh I'll watch a film there's plenty of time. I'm tired, a little red, a bit sore and have no idea where I am so yeah the obvious choice is to watch Forrest Gump, which always makes me cry. During the course of the film the bus kept getting stopped for security checks and then a massive storm broke out and we moved ever slower. 

The expected tears came as Forrest is out running. The man across from me told me not to worry and we would sleep on the bus if needs be. In my rapture I hadn't realised we'd ground to halt in the middle of nowhere in the pitch black. I explained it was the film that set me off and he was a bit confused but happy I was smiling through my tears. 

At one point we did think we'd be stuck out all night but eventually the bus wound into Liberia but my chances of getting to Tamarindo had departed sometime before. So night time, storm, no phone, some kindle battery but there in the darkness were the bright lights of a huge Pali (supermarket) and my refuge. 

I was thinking that Costa Rica wasn't so keen on having me and to be fair I wasn't feeling so keen on being there. However a nice member of staff took pity on me and let me sit down and charge my phone. He also told me where I could stay cheaply for the night. 

Once I'd renewed myself with a little sit down I marched out into the night in search of the hostel. It was just round the corner and my welcome more than made up for the shitty stick of the day. The owner ushered me in and hugged me hello. I put down my bag she turned the music up and taught m some salsa moves 😄 I like to think she knew I needed a little pick me up or maybe this the way she greets all guests. Either way 👍🏻👍🏻 up from me. 

Anyway after a shower and a hairbrush. Amazing how something so small as giving the do a brush makes me feel a millions time better. I headed back to the Pali and bought the two things I said I wouldn't be having this week, beer and choc. Fuck it life happened. No regrets!

I regret nothing.

This morning I was a whole new woman and I found a bus and I'm currently enjoying a large cup of Yorkshire Gold and a few biscuits in the middle of an epic storm. Janis J is on in the back ground and all is well that ends well 👌🏻

Tea heals fact (as the kids say).

Lessons learned:
Check for festivals when travelling.
Count days not dates.
Make sure your phone is actually charging.
Wear suncream even in fog in hot countries.
Get snacks before the bus.
Sometimes believe taxi drivers.
Carry all types of cash but dollars especially.
Draw a simple map of places before destination with possible options for accommodation.
It's good to be unapologetically British at times.
Don't watch highly emotional films when you're highly emotional and have no idea where you're going on a bus in a country you don't know.
Always say yes when offered a salsa lesson.
It's okay to change your route and take a bit longer. You get there in end. 
Oh and a good night's sleep and a cup of strong tea can erase a great deal of meh and pull the happy back in. 

I think they say pura vida in this neck of the woods and on that note I hear a beer and hammock calling 😉 

Besitos chicos xxx


  1. Sounds exhausting, but what a trip! Better luck with the next leg & come back and tell us all about afterwards x

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