Racing the Rest of Central American Countries
We had the pleasure to meet some of our old friends and make new ones on our way from Guatemala to Costa Rica by bus. Having now been in all Central American countries and in some of them a few times, we are ready to move on to explore some other continent.
Our Central-American leg began by visiting a dear old American friend and pet-sitting his cute little Pomeranian, Tongtong, in Guatemala City while he was having a holiday in the US. We had a great time with Tongtong, especially after she learned that going out means not only pissing right in front of the house but also actual walking in cool, crispy air (daytime 20 degrees Celsius, at night 13–15).
The house was in a gated community in a secure area where walking around was OK. The amount of guns visible in the streets, banks, and stores in the country reminded us of Kenya. It certainly didn’t give us a particularly relaxed image of the place, and one can only wonder what happens when an armed guard goes berserk and starts shooting randomly at other people.
Another conspicuous thing in Guatemala was that all supermarkets and stores gather detailed and personal information about every citizen's consumption. All Guatemalans are required to spend a certain amount of money monthly to support the local economy. This was the first time we stumbled upon such a system where people are not able to decide how to use their own money. Well, in some other countries they call it taxation.
Five countries in five days by bus
When leaving Guatemala, we travelled through El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and visited our friends in Masatepe on our way to Costa Rica. It was a pleasure to see how one of our pets, a kitten we looked after in Managua last spring, was doing. He had become a fine young tomcat who was seemingly enjoying life in the countryside catching various insects and animals and playing with dogs. We were proud of him and thankful for the new owners who had taken such a good care of him.
Crazy Border Crossing
Although the distances between Central-American countries are small, border crossings are time-consuming. On top of that, some of them also cost money. Honduras wants a couple of dollars from every foreign visitor, and Nicaragua asks for fifteen USD for entry plus one dollar for "communal tax," and when exiting, four + one dollars more.
At the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, we certainly picked up the wrong day for crossing. There were tens of thousands of Nicaraguan migrant workers returning to Costa Rica after holidays and the queues were a few kilometres long. We waited six hours under the scorching sun and that was not even the worst part of it. In the first attempt, Santeri got a brilliant idea: we decided to skip the useless Nicaraguan border formalities. However, the Costa Rican immigration made us go back to get the exit stamp and then re-queue back to Costa Rica. Obviously we were in need of some extra sun tan and exercise.
Finally, all the required stamps in our passports, we bought tickets to Deldu bus, which has the monopoly on the route between Penas Blancas (border) and San José. We were told that buses come and go as soon as they are full, but what they failed to mention was that there were one thousand other persons before us queueing to the same bus. Fortunately, after some complaining, we got our money back and we hopped on another bus going first to Liberia and changing buses there for San José.
Now we are enjoying the beautiful scenery and warm weather in Costa Rica. We also had the pleasure to host our hitch-hiker friend Tomi on his way to the football world cup in Brazil. It was awesome to finally meet him in flesh after so many years of exchanging emails.
The moral of this story: Never ever travel by land just before, during, and just after a holiday season. And even if you do, don’t listen to Santeri and his crazy ideas.