A Travellerspoint blog

Costa Rica

sunny

Costa Rica is absolutely gorgeous, and I am thankful for the opportunity to visit this country. The Ticos are friendly and helpful, the roadsides are clean, and the views are stunning. However, it is ironic that in this land to where folks flock for a taste of the wild, it seems the least adventurous of our travels so far. One cannot swing a spider monkey without hitting a billboard for an adventure tour, "remote" ecolodge, or canopy tour. There are certainly upsides to this gringofication for the Ticos: the highest standard of living in Central America, a compulsory education system for school-age children, national healthcare, and jobs, albeit in the tourism industry. Some downsides include high prices on day-to-day items, as well as property. In fact, Costa Rica is too expensive for us to consider living here. How must this affect the locals trying to make a home for themselves?
Yes, we are gringos, driving our big ol' Jeep through the middle of this beautiful land, staying at motels and/or camping in their wonderful national parks, enjoying a hot shower occasionally, and eating at restaurants. Still makes me sad to see these kind, eager-to-please folks so beholdin' to the gringo.
Along with Nicaragua and El Salvador, Costa Rica was affected (negatively) by Reagan's contras. Unwanted, the Contras established themselves in Costa Rica, staged guerilla raids from here, and built a secret jungle airstrip to fly in weapons. Makes ya proud to be 'murkan, doesn't it?
The war divided Costa Rica, with Conservatives, hell-bent on the anticommunist crusade, pushing to re-establish the military. On a positive note, the opposing side organized a march in San José of 20,000+ demonstrators for peace. 44-year-old Oscar Arias Sánchez was elected, and resolved to reassert Costa Rica's independence and kick the Contras out. Soon thereafter, the US ambassador quit.
My favorite part of this little history lesson is the public ceremony of Costa Rican schoolchildren planting trees on the secret CIA airfield.
Arias won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his part in the peace plan that ended the Nicaraguan war. Interestingly, his Vice President was a woman: Laura Chinchilla, who is now president. "Cool," I first thought. Not so cool. She is the polar opposite of Arias. Chinchilla is a rabid social conservative, fiercely opposed to abortion, same-sex marriage and emergency contraception. How unusual.
Now that I have that off my chest, we're going to enjoy the heck out of this country!

Posted by ceastburn 14:11 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Another Day in Paradise

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One of our projects during this adventure is to find a place, or a few places, where we would like to return and live for several months. We have determined that we are beach people; we need sun, warmth, and water. But not too remote. We want to be in/near a town or city with stuff happening, good health care, a few bars and restaurants, live music, etc. To date, our choices are Mazatlan, México and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
A beach north of San Juan del Sur, Playa Maderas, has provided us with a couple days of great fun playing in the waves. It is a popular surf spot, and when the waves are good, the water is filled with boards.
Yesterday was particularly fun. Our new Canadian amigos, Gloria and Daryll, who we hooked up with again here in Nicaragua, have to go back to the frozen north in a couple days. So it was very important that their last day in paradise (for now) be special. We piled into the Jeep and drove 10k to Playa Maderas. We played and played in the waves and watched the surfers. Juiced by an ample supply of rum consumed over the course of the afternoon, we sat down at one of the surfer hang-outs and ate some yummy pizza. And what does one find easily at a surfer hangout? Well, more like, what practically falls in your lap at a surfer haven? That's right. Weed. The day kept getting better and better.
We decided it was time to go back to town, so we piled in the Jeep. Driving along, listening to John Prine, stopping for photo ops, and then there was the police checkpoint. Having taken public transportation through Mexico and Central America, Gloria and Daryll are not accustomed to being stopped by the police here, and I could tell they were nervous. I wanted to say, "Oh hell. This is almost a daily occurrence for us," but figured it might not make a great impression with the cop. They asked for the vehicle permit, Douglas' license, and eventually, proof of Nicaraguan insurance (which we don't have). So, we proudly presented a Geico card (expired), and were waved on with a smile. I think our umm, age, helped us. Had the Jeep been filled with a bunch of gringo surfers, chances are, all the doors and the Thule box on top of the vehicle would have been opened. Ah well . . . Carry on with the John Prine and photo-taking.
Today's project: Costa Rica.

Posted by ceastburn 06:40 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (1)

Managua, Nicaragua

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Went for a nice dip in a volcanic lake yesterday morning. It's funny how heavy we feel in that water after swimming in the ocean! The water was very clear and refreshing.
Returning to Managua, we checked out the statues, monuments, historical buildings, etc. The 1972 earthquake really devastated the middle of this city, and a lot of the demolished buildings remain. A nice man who appeared to be less than 5 feet tall, 75 pounds, and approximately 120 years old pointed out some of the various memorials. He was also trying to sell us water. He was obviously very proud of his city.
As we drove back to our hotel, we found ourselves in the wrong lane at a traffic light, so put on the turn signal and nudged our way into the next lane over. Didn't fly with the moto cop. He pulled us over, asked for our vehicle permit and driver's license. He then said it would cost us 600 Cordobas, and he wanted us to follow him to the bank(?). We stammered around for awhile, apologized, and asked why the bank and not the police station. Oh, and of course, Douglas had given him his fake NCDL, so we weren't too concerned with his threat to keep the thing. So, I suggested we offer him a lesser amount, right there. He wasn't really asking for a bribe, because he pulled us over for a legitimate infraction. We offered 300 Cordobas ($12). Dramatic pause, serious expression on the cop's face. Then, "si." So, we handed him L300. "Shhh! No, no!" Oh, right. We had to be secretive. He handed us a couple pads of tickets, we put the bills between them and handed the pile back to him, and he produced Douglas' fake DL. Easy as pie!
Managua's city center never really recovered from the 1972 earthquake. Consequently, there are numerous neighborhoods, most with a mix of residences, small businesses, tiendas, restaurants and bars. Our hotel is in a friendly neighborhood, which I have become better acquainted with walking the dogs. Beautiful gardens, nice folks, and a lot of dogs who bark at Sunny & Cricket from behind their fences.
Found a sports bar--Woody's (how's that for español?)--and watched the nail-biter national championship game last night.
We are off to the Nicaraguan beaches today!

Posted by ceastburn 08:11 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Honduras to Nicaragua

We found the other entrance to the Parque Nacional la Tigra, and it had a much more civilized entrance road. It is a bosque nublado (cloud forest). We went on a 5k hike (Schipperkes too!) through a deep, damp (wet) forest. A lot of climbing and descending. The ferns are huge and the trees are hairy with moss. Very beautiful, and very different from the hot climates we have grown accustomed to.
Next, we made our way to Danlí--a town closer to the Nicaraguan border. A reasonably nice place. The streets are clean. And they have a lovely town square. In fact, we stumbled on a wedding that was apparently just letting out. Beautiful bride, and a nicely decorated car. Oh, and we encountered our first rain on this adventure.
This morning we got up early and eagerly drove towards the Nicaraguan border. Same jerks on the Honduran side. They taunted the pups this time, and that brought out my mama bear. They definitely understand, "fuck you." Later, we discovered they had rubbed some sort of feces on the outside of the car. Class.
Although we met some very nice folks in Honduras and saw some lovely places, I was not sad to leave.
The Nicaraguan side of the frontera (border crossing) was fine. Got the car sprayed with some sort of insecticide, had a fun guy at immigration (where our passports were stamped), a nice woman at aduana (customs, where we get the vehicle permit), and a friendly inspector. No comments about the dogs. And no jerks pestering us!
Thanks to a birthday gift from our friends Heydin and Dan, we had some Nicaraguan cordobas. Enough to get us down the road to the first ATM. And enough for a car wash. After the adventures of the two days prior, the Jeep was nasty! We were very proud of it, until we had to pack things in and out of it, becoming filthy in the process. The car wash proprietor was a young man who had a 1980 something Toyota Jeep-looking vehicle, and he was fascinated by the Jeep, it's roof rack, etc. He took a million photos of it. I'm sure he is capable of building one of those racks from scratch.
Happily in Managua, we are watching the last of this weekend's playoff games and deciding which bar to check out.

Posted by ceastburn 15:55 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

Honduras

sunny

The jury is still out on Honduras.
Asked yesterday afternoon, I would have used the 14-year-old's term, "sucks." That was as accurately and articulately as I could describe it.
However, that was based solely on the border crossing. Those "helpers" that swarm the car approaching a crossing are apparently present at every border, and are the primary culprits. They are by no means "officials," nor are they required for passage. But they cling to and follow you like socially retarded dimwits. They hang over our shoulder and tell us what we can figure out for ourselves, and will not take a firm, "no" for an answer. In my observation, it is entirely possible that they are somewhat in cahoots with the actual officials. One clung to Douglas, oblivious to his telling him that he was not going to pay him, and seemed to be the source of much confusion in the whole process. "You need 2 copies of this." Walk across the road to the shack with the copy machine (I want that franchise), social retard trotting behind, get said copies, return. "Now, you need copies of this document." Comply. Upon return, "oh, the copies you just gave us are no longer here." Fuck me.
There was a young couple from Texas there at the same time as we were who had agreed to let another one of the social retards (sorry, this is as far from politically correct as it gets. These folks truly are social retards, in no way comparable to mentally challenged people) "help" them. They also had a dog. This was the first crossing where I was asked to produce the pups' documents. I did, to the official, and nothing further was requested. The other folks' "helper" told them that the dog required an additional $13.
As we left the parking area without paying the guy who had clung to Douglas, there were some pretty pissed-off "helpers." The Texans' scumbag pointed at Cricket, who was smiling at the window saying, "nanny nanny boo boo," and said something about perros. He was going to try the same bullshit with us. But we were outta there.
As we continued into Honduras, we were pulled over twice by officials. First country where we have experienced this. Both went smoothly, with production of passports, drivers license, vehicle permit, and dog papers at one stop (Shhh, Sunny!).
Found a reasonable place in Tegucigalpa that takes dogs. The owner is nice, from Chile, speaks perfect English, and is informative. Most folks on the street are civil, though not as outgoing as what we have experienced thus far.
Today, we drove up to a couple lovely colonial towns: Santa Lucia and Valle de Angeles. Great views, friendly folks.
We then set out to find the entrance to Parque Nacional la Tigra with the plan to return tomorrow to hike. Oh, we found one of the two entrances alright. Ain't no way we're returning that way tomorrow. The road was single track, dirt, on the sheer edge of a mountain. Vertical switchbacks over our shoulders. 4wd LOW was required. As we approached the top Douglas said, "I am terrified." That made four of us. We did indeed find the entrance office, where a man gave me a photocopied trail map. No vehicles beyond that point. Oh, darn. This entrance is located in an abandoned mining "town," El Rosario. I am not catholic, never have been, but I think I now understand the meaning behind saying the rosary. We saw a couple sport bikes and some parked pick-up trucks along the way. Most folks smiled and waved, but some gave us the stare in response to my smile.
The only way out was back down. Hoo boy. In honor of the occasion, Douglas popped a Valium, and we were off. It was better descending, thanks to 4wd low. And the Valium. And a beer, when we made it back to the paved road. We made it safely back to our place in the city.
Stay tuned for the next installment of this quest to find the other (it HAS to be easier?) park entrance.

Posted by ceastburn 18:02 Archived in Honduras Comments (1)

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