I enjoyed a lovely Nicaraguan breakfast before setting of for… well I wasn’t really sure. Costa Rica, I guess but I wasn’t sure if driving 5 hours then trying to cross a notoriously difficult border on New Year’s Day was the smartest thing. Either there would be a million people there or it would be empty. If it was too packed I would just turn around and head to San Juan del Sur for a little surfing and then try early the next morning.
My blood was pumping and so was my music as I exited town and made my way south. There was very little traffic on the road but all of it was going two miles an hour. So I passed a slow moving taxi near the end of a town by crossing a single yellow line. So apparently, there is no difference between a single yellow line and a double yellow line in Nicaragua. You can’t overtake on either according to the policeman who waived me down and he would not explain to me the difference between the two. I tried the old don’t speak Spanish trick but this dude had pulled me over for one reason… MONEY! He demanded 40 dollars. No way, I was paying that. We got down to twenty by me telling him literally “no 40 dollars” in Spanish. What I was trying to say was that I didn’t have any dollars on me (should have used “no tengo cuarenta dolares”) but he thought it was a negotiation tactic and changed it to 20 dollars. I fished for my wallet and he ushered me to keep the wallet out of sight. He then proceeded to take my last 500 Cordobas (about $25 dollars) and send me on my way. I chuckled about it because it was my own fault. I did not learn from my last run in with police. Bottom line is that the only place you are likely to get a ticket is in a town so drive patiently while in town… DUH! At least the bribe compelled me to cross the border because now I had no money and I didn’t want to hit a bank machine. The road out of Leon toward Managua is in horrible shape. Huge sections of potholes, washed out road and many other teeth grinding obstacles. Fortunately, that’s what Juliette was designed for and it felt good to pass all the cars with impunity… after all, no single or double yellow lines (or any lines at all for that matter) to be crossed 🙂
I made it past Managua and kept on going. Turns out that the riding near the border is actually quite pretty. The road runs very near to the shore of Lake Nicaragua and the mountains in the background make for a beautiful site. After all the poverty and general “third world” atmosphere in Nicaragua, the one thing I didn’t expect to see was state of the art, eco-sensitive power generation and yet there it was on the shores of the lake about 5 mins from the border. A huge windfarm! I was duly impressed and also had to chuckle that a wind-farm needed 24 hour armed security 🙂
I arrived at the Nicaragua side of the border and was immediately swarmed by handlers. I knew what the process was for this notoriously confusing and time consuming border because I had researched it quite a bit. With this in mind, I enlisted the help of a handler and told him two important things. One, I would pay him and him only so don’t go enlisting the help of another guy or handing me off to someone else and then picking me up again later and two, I know what the process is and how much it all costs so don’t go telling me different. He got the message and was extremely important in getting the right signatures for my motorcycle paperwork. It would have been a disaster trying to find what guy wondering around in no uniform had the signature I needed. I shared a laugh with two aussies who were driving a car down south because they ended up with nine signatures on their paperwork before they had the “right” ones. I only needed two 🙂 Apparently, five is the norm. A word of advice for those crossing the border on a holiday… ENJOY!!!! The place was deserted! I totally nailed it. There was no-one at either side of the border and the usual 4 to 5 hour debacle was accomplished in one hour of almost bliss. Costs were:
$1 – municipal tax to leave Nicaragua
$2 – immigration exit fee for Nicaragua
$14 – Costa Rica motorcycle insurance
$1 – two copies for Costa Rica customs
There were no fees for me or the bike to enter Costa Rica and the fumigation thing must have been closed for the holiday or has been done away with all together. I didn’t ask too many questions 🙂
Two police checkpoints later I was breezing through Costa Rica. Right away, you could definitely tell that you were in a richer country. The condition of the roads, buildings and towns just seemed better. The countryside was really beautiful and I made my way to Liberia, arrriving around 4 o’clock. My destination of the Arenal volcano was too far away to reach so I was looking for both a place to eat and sleep. My bribe earlier in the day left me broke so hadn’t eaten since 7am and I was starving. Just as I rode into town, the Lord answered my prayers as the golden arches of McDonald’s loomed in the distance 🙂 Good comfort food after a long day of travel! The aussies had the same idea and arrived about 20 minutes after I did so we shot the breeze for a bit before they headed to the beaches and I found a cheap hotel down the street.
One other cool thing. I passed the 20,000 mile mark today!