The Belly Button Window Details

About Belly Button Window

The Semi-Regular Newsletter


Nicaragua, March 26, 2006

Passing Peñas Blancas

Another border and another batle with bureaucracy

the mark
The official line
Nico side
Nicaraguan lines
Costa Rican lines
As a traveler with way too many countries under my belt, most of the those entered overland, I've passed my share of borders. Some, like the one between Mongolia and China were a desolate spot only marked with barbed wire. Others, like the crossing between Thailand and Cambodia was a lesson is chaos theory as swarms of locals flowed effortless around border guards that plucked travelers from the stream.

Rarely do I re-cross a border though and when I do, it's always an interesting lesson in national priorities. Today I am crossing the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica at Peñas Blancas, and both sides have their own feel and frustrations. They also have different procedusres depending on your direction. In order of experience, here's the details:

  • Costa Rica to Nicaragua: As Nicole and I exit the local bus from Liberia; we are beset upon by frantic locals, each with something to sell. Some hold wads of money for exchange, others plates of food, and the most dangerous only offer "friendship."

    Common at any point of chaos, these "helpers" are quick to be friendly and help you with all your needs - for a price. A price which you will not know, sometimes until it is too late. Ignoring this throng, I guide Nicole into the Immigration building and to the Costa Rica exit window. A few moments and a stamp later, we are walking the shaded road to the Nicaraguan border post.

    On this side, a cluster of large buildings await - Immigration, customs, banks, and even Duty Free shops. We quickly find the Nicaraguan entry window, and $8 later, we are officially in Nicaragua. Or at least as the government is concerned.

    After I use the handy ATM, dispensing cordovans and dollars, to refresh my local currency cache, I send Nicole off to bargain with the Taxi Mafia for a lift to San Juan del Sur. Oddly enough, she sets a price but the taxis are no-where to be seen. Its only then we realize we have to exit through a small door in the Immigration wall, a small door that costs us $2 to use.

  • Nicaragua to Costa Rica: Riding the luxury Tica Bus, the driver's assistant collects my passport and $3 as we leave Granada. When we arrive at the Nicaraguan border, he takes the passports and cash to the Immigration office, allowing me to wander through the Duty Free stores at my leisure. As we re-board the bus for the short trip to Costa Rican customs, I am perplexed that I receive my passport back.

    In Costa Rica, I realize why. Seems Nicaraguans need a special residency stamp and we all have to have our info entered into the Costa Rican immigration system, one by one. Not one to wait in stupid long lines, I walked around the Immigration building, to the side mainly used by those exiting, and snuck in the line from that side.

    With my stamp I thought it was time to go. Nope, the Costa Rican Agriculture Inspection Team then went through everyone's bug suitcases looking for fresh produce. This was in addition to the special wash the bus went through as we passed between countries.

    And now, a few miles from the border, we're checked yet again, this time by the Costa Rican border guards. I guess the wealth of Costa Rica attracts more than just tourists and travelers - Nicaraguans want a piece of paradise too.

Tags: | | | | | |

Nicaragua, March 25, 2006

The Next Travel Generation

Alright Nicole, its time for you to get your feet wet. Its time for you to cross the border from Costa Rica to Nicraguaga, from your easy, protected travel, into the amazing, challeneing, solo world travling experience. Time for you to learn the very first and very needed skill - Taxi Mafia negotiation.

At every border, airport, and train station they will be there, waiting. They are the fastest and sometimes only, transport option for you, and its time to make aquaitenance with their sly ways.

Continue reading "The Next Travel Generation"

Nicaragua, March 24, 2006

Me, 30 Years Ago

Hi little ones! Whatcha up to in Hostel Central? Is that geometry and creative writing? Are you doing schoolwork here? Does that mean you're on the road with your parents? Are you traveling Central America for a year instead of sitting in class? Might you be me thirty years ago? Might this be an education of a lifetime.

Yes, Elijah, Chloe, and Jodi, you are having a life changing experience and you don't even know it. I sure didn't at your age. I was too young to realize that one day in Granada is equal to three days in Washington, DC. Maybe Pina and Andy know what they are giving you. Maybe they know how it will give your life priceless stories, dreams, confidence. Maybe you'll be me one day, addicted to travel above all else.

Continue reading "Me, 30 Years Ago"

Nicaragua, March 23, 2006

Good Morning Granada

Why do I travel now? I have seen so much, been so many places, that now where ever I go is compared to where ever I've been. This morning it's Granada vs. Macau. Both are old and grand Iberian-influenced towns seemingly forgotten in the sands of time, left to mosey from 18th Century greatness to present day quaintness.

Continue reading "Good Morning Granada"

Nicaragua, March 21, 2006

San Jan del Snooze

Remember how I said beach towns are the same world wide? I was wrong. There are beach towns and then there are wanna-be beach towns. San Juan del Sul is in the latter category. Nestled in a tiny bay between two cliffs, it would seem at first glance to be a great beach town, except for one small problem: the beach.

Continue reading "San Jan del Snooze"