When all comes to an end

My last journey in Latin America starts in San José and ends in Managua the same night. On my way I visit Granada, way too short. I decide to return to Latin America as soon as possible.

My last three days have been the most adventurous, passionate days of my life. I experienced the new, the unknown, the life I always dreamed of but never was able to capture. When I recapitulate that on the bus towards Nicaragua, which I took from the San José station of Ticabus, I start to realize it. I feel empty, I smile, I dream… That gathering with Dani was one of a kind, something very special, an adventure, you would normally read on romantic booklets, which are sold everywhere for desperate housewifes, who are bored of their everyday life with their ever working husbands…

In the morning I had to say goodbye. A goodbye that didn’t feel like one, knowingly we would see each other again. I just followed the orders Dani gave me, taking the bus to the National Stadion of Costa Rica, from there the taxi to the station, close to where we arrived the night before…

The district of San José is not very nice, I go quickly into the station, buy my tourist tax voucher, to leave Costa Rica and reenter Nicaragua. I sit on the bus, it’s cold. The aircondition does its best. You really have to bring long sleeves and a jacket for those bus rides in Latin America. The ride takes forever, until we reach Peñas Blancas again. Every now and then a guy comes into the bus to sell food or coffee, a convenient and welcomed service for a good buck. The passage of the border is easy this time, it will be easy every time I do that in the future, since I know the how-to. Out of the bus, baggage check for drugs at the border, buying the taxes for Nicaragua, reentering the bus, after the merchants could sell some food and beverages to us, or even merchandise like hammocks or bags in many different colors. Then it continues, the aim is Managua and I would be there around 2 p.m. That’s too early for my liking, my flight goes 12 hours after that and I still want to get an impression of Granada on my way – so I leave the bus in Nandaime and take the chickenbus to Granada, where I arrive around 2:30 p.m. About two hours to discover this gem at Lake Nicaragua!

The busy streets of Granada in Nicaragua. The houses from the times of Colonization are most beautiful and all offered goods crafted in the region.

The time flies by. I get a little nervous since I haven’t found the station from where the private shuttles to Managua leave. I stroll around, enter two different manufacturing sites for hammocks. It’s a pity I ran out of funds, since those guys knitting and weaving, are truly doing a fascinating job. I want to come back here, to buy one of those hammocks one day. And I missed the legendary salsa night at Lake Nicaragua as well, I want to experience that, so I promise to myself to return to Granada one day. At the church on the picture is a big ceremony going, I guess it’s a funeral. All the people are singing, the voices fill the air with a saddening melody. You can truly feel the mood and I get the feeling that I should not disturb them by taking pictures… I find a bakery, it’s so cheap to get decent food and I buy a softdrink, which is very tasty and which is served in a plastic bag. I decide to take a taxi to a bus station and finally am on a shuttle to Managua, which is still a 90 min. ride away. And the shuttle fills, it’s totally crowded when we reach the suburbs and I wonder how the guy, who collects the money for the ride from the passengers, manages to keep the overview. At around 6:30 p.m. I am in the middle of Nicaraguas capital. It seems to be ugly and the people are staring at me, at least not like they stare at the other tourists, who are obviously Americans, but they do.

Sunset over Managua, Nicaragua’s capital. The rays of the light have been stunning, like on the bills of the Nicaraguan money – the Cordoba’s.
Walter White is omnipresent everywhere, since the successful TV series Braking Bad launched.

I decide to take another taxi to the airport. There seems nothing I want to see before I leave and the city doesn’t seem to be very safe either. It is stretched out and it’s already getting dark. My last Cordobas are well invested in the taxi and the driver goes through some kind of favelas and tries to pick up locals to join the ride, but nobody seems to be interested to go to the airport. In the dark I am there, time to leave, time to say goodbye to Latin America. I am sad, this is the end of an awesome trip, an awesome time. Tomorrow I will be back to Florida, in two days I have to return to Europe.

The way to Nicaragua

Traveling longer distances and making the border is always an adventure in Latin America. When you plan to leave Costa Rica via La Cruz don’t forget to buy the tax to leave the country. It’s interesting to see all the vendors in the border area and you can change your money on the streets or get yourself your lunch from one of the vendors…

It’s 6 am in the morning while I enjoy some scrambled eggs, the bus to Tilarán leaves at 7 am, like always very early and it’s the only bus of the day. The managers of the hostel El Tucan speak English and gave me some advice how to continue the trip. From now I am on my own – without Stefan who speaks fluent Spanish – expecting to meet few people who can speak English, so gestures and my little knowledge in Italian and some words in Spanish should hopefully help to get me to my destination this day. I plan to reach Rivas in Nicaragua and want to continue to Playa Gigante the next day for some decent surfing, with the first bus of the day.

The bus is on time and I meet an American and a Canadian from Alberta, who I already met a couple of days ago in Panamá City. The guys have different plans. The American ran out of money but does not want to return to the USA, so he is looking for a job in the Tilarán area for some work on a farm, the Canadian guy wants to make his way to the beach of Costa Rica.

The ride is sloppy and for some time there is no pavement and the bus goes over a dirtroad. It’s an old school bus from Canada and I open the windows and enjoy the great fresh air and the stunning views over Costa Rica‘s highlands. I fall asleep several times, it’s like in a crib and as if you are cradled the whole time. The little Tica who is riding the bus with her dad seems to enjoy it as well. This kid already knows how attract and entertain people. Very cute.

When the bus reaches Tilarán I’m somehow disappointed since I saw on the map that there should be some big volcanos but I didn’t see them on the way and I can’t see them now… but there is no time to further think about that anyways. The bus to Cañas is already waiting to leave and I hop on. “¿Para llegar a Cañas?” The bus driver nods and replies with a short “Si”. And there we already go. Another two hours later I’m in Cañas and just five minutes after I hit the Panamericana I flag down my first bus to continue to La Cruz, close to the border of Nicaragua. The country changes a lot. It’s very dry here and there are lots of plantations along the road. It’s like in a dream to see all this going by. Around two pm I’m in La Cruz and find my way, mainly with gestures, to the next station where the busses to Peñas Blancas stop. This is the town on the border, Maxim told me to go this way and I’m glad for this information since it would not have been easy to find it on my own.

I pass the border walking, but don’t have the tourist leaving ticket, so I have to return to a little house on the Costa Rican side of the border to buy a ticket for ten dollars that grants me eligibility to leave the country.

There is lots of traffic (mainly pedestrians) at the border and lots of people try to sell food and drinks, merchandise, cloth and other goods, like hammocks. As soon as I pay my twelve dollars of taxes to enter Nicaragua, I’m allowed to pass a simple gate into the country and immediately find the bus to Rivas. It’s much louder here. Very busy indeed. All the people who try to sell something yell what they offer, repeatedly and the whole time. Even the bus drivers yell where they will go after departure. What I immediately recognize is that the Nicaraguans look totally different than Costa Ricans. They are much darker and look more like Indios.

Around four pm I’m in Rivas and since everything worked out so great I decide to take a cab to Playa Gigante which costs around 20 dollars. At five pm and some never ending discussions with the cab driver, who decides the negotiated payment is too few – four km before we are actually there – in a wild mixture of Spanish and English, I’m there. Have not expected to do this all in one day and am happy about it. Time to relax!

Panama to Costa Rica

The way from Panama City to San Jose takes us a full night and passing the boarder with the Expresso bus is no joy. It takes long, nearly 3h, until we have done everything. I observe the locals, they get out of the bus at the border and make it on their feet. As I realize later, it’s way faster. I decide to stay in San Jose at night and continue to Monteverde the next day… A good decision since catching a bus would have been difficult, the border took us too long.

Stefan joins me to Costa Rica, we want to go to Monteverde – we get a cab and go to the bus station of Panama City (ciudád de Panama). There is a huge shopping mall and we stroll around. The ticket is 40$ for the over night bus to San José from there we have to catch the bus to Monteverde, but the time is very limited to actually do that – we better get over the border in short time.

Panama City and the Casco Viejo, view into the favelas.
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The main terminal of Panama City, Alemendro. You find a huge shopping mall there as well.

We attend the fish market a last time for a last Ceviche (for me, Stefan will be back) and another great plate with fish, patatas frijas (a special kind of fried banana) and great salad, spiced with estragon and salsa picante.

Camarones con patanos frijas , yummy!
Ceviche con camarones

Panama really has it all. We continue to the Panama channel but the museum is already closed that sucks so we find another cab driver who brings us to one of the watergates.

Back to the hostel I start boozing and we meet yet another German, Basti from Munich – I start to wonder wether there are just Bavarians? We find out that there will be no chance to catch the connecting bus to Monteverde anymore… Stefan seems a little pissed about that, but agrees that it is a good oportunity to wash cloth and relax for one day. Around 10 pm we are back at the bus terminal. We meet 2 girls from San Blas who go to San José as well. The ride seems to take forever and it’s freezing cold. I barely can sleep, at least there are not too many people so you can stretch out a little bit. In the morning we have to wait 3 hours at the border. We meet Dani, a cute latina from Costa Rica, who we met initially on our first day on San Blas. This time the friend of her is not with her, she tells Stefan, that he is Costa Rican as well but works in Panama City. She goes to San José as we do, that’s where she lives. I am happy to see her, and she gives me her number and I have to promise that I contact her. She is very cute… It’s hard to do conversation, she doesn’t speak any English, I don’t speak any Spanish, but somehow we understand each other, say goodbye and promise to stay in touch via WhatsApp.

Costa Rica from the bus Windows looks less polluted than Panama. And there seems to be much more forest. I think of those last days in paradise, of my salsa night in Santa Catalina, of the cloud rainforest which is up to come, of the underwater world, and I finally fall asleep. After another stop I talk to a nice girl, Kelly, from Florida. She lives here since eight month, mainly in Panama but visits some friends in Costa Rica. She recommends me to stay at Jáco at the beach and continue to Monteverde the next day. Later I decide to go to San José for one night with Stefan and Dennis, to get the cloth washed and relax one night. We met Dennis on the bus and he is from Munich… – hmmm. He invites us to come with him to his hostel, the Love Hostel 2, which is a bit outside in San Antonio of San José, in a safe area. So we follow him there and it’s a really nice hostel, hidden quite well and the owner is a hobby DJ with talent, as we find out during the evening.

The atmosphere there is great and I chill with some other guys from Germany since one of them has his birthday. It’s time to say good bye to Stefan, was fun traveling with you lad! Totally destroyed I fall into bed and hope that my laundry will be done the next day and that I make it to the bus to Monteverde on time. Still wasted I get up, 5:30h – wahhh – like all the last days. We just start at 5:48h by car to the station… I’m a bit in worry I won’t catch my bus which leaves at 6 am. Manuel speeds through the city with probably 80 kph and at 5:59h we are there and the bus is already going to leave but for my luck a cab blocks the way and I catch it last second. It makes its way into the highlands of Costa Rica, it’s beautiful!

Around lunchtime I’m there, get a comfortable room in the hostel El Tucan and book the Canopy Extreme Tour for the afternoon. I meet two Canadians, Kylie and Simon who travel together. There are two German guys as well who look really tired and obviously suffer from their jetlag. Sven and Jochen, and they join for the ziplining tour in the afternoon.