(photos will be posted later)
OK, this one will be short – if you´re going to listen to me complain about the Nicaragua borders, I owe you some information about the beauty that lives between the borders. Will save that one for the next time.
We dreaded the thought but the only way to leave Nicaragua is to go through the border patrol. OK, there is another option. A couple of people tried it and you have never seen border patrol agents run as fast as these guys. It´s hard to believe that someone would try.
When we left the beautiful beach town of San Juan del Sur via Chicken Bus, we transferred buses and then headed for the border. When we got to about 5 miles from the border, we passed hundreds of semi trucks who were lined up nose to tail, waiting to go through the border into Costa Rica. I´m not sure if it´s always so busy but we did hear that the reason is that it was the start of Semana Santa or Holy Week. This means a week of vacation for Central Americans, not a week of going to church as I did when I was a kid. Many Costa Ricans head north to the Nicaragua beaches and vice versa.
So after our first experience with a ¨guide¨ as we navigated his crazy border, we were committed to making it through on our own. After all if we can navigate Chicken Buses, we can make it through Immigration and Customs. Little did we know that the guy who sat behind us on the bus was our personal guide! As soon as we got off the bus he walked us to the back door of the Immigration office but the guard wouldn´t allow him to get in. He then told us we needed to get in line with everyone else. Now this was a line about as long as a football field and 2 or 3 people wide; in the 100 degree mid-day sun.
Soon our self-appointed guide found us in line. For $10.00 per person, he could get us to the head of the line and we wouldn´t need to wait. We declined several times until he gave up.
We were in line behind 2 gringos who are teaching in Costa Rica. While it was nice to meet several fine young people, this also made us look like an American family. Soon, 4 men aggressively (like just about knocked us over) butted into the line, right next to the 4 of us. Immediately Kevin´s instincts took over as he recalled the pushing and shoving of pickpockets in Greece last year. We moved away from the guys as others in the line tried to stop their line jumping. The 4 guys stood their ground as we must have seemed like good targets. We held our bags tight and watched every move but were sure they still wanted to try something. About 15 minutes later, as we entered the actual immigration office, Kevin saw one of the 4 guys trying to put his hand in the pocket of the young teacher. His action was quickly averted. Isn´t this the classic pickpocket story?
While this was occurring, a bunch of people ran through our line, chasing down someone else who had her wallet stolen buy someone. I guess if you are going to wait in the crazy lines, it´s a great place for petty thieves to prey on unsuspecting travelers.
After the immigration office there were about 3 or 4 more stops before we were legally in Costa Rica. Still complicated but at least we did it alone this time!