Friday, April 4, 2014

Border Patrol Hates Me, Part Two

Apparently, El Salvador doesn't like to stamp you in or out either. I think we were fortunate it was night at the first crossing, because there weren't many people hanging around. Going through borders at mid-day though, that's a different story.

To be honest, going through four checkpoints in one day got a little confusing, and we can't really remember much of it. What I do remember though, is people yelling at us: Do we need help, Do we need to change money? And I especially remember the guy jumping onto the bed of the truck because he was going to "help" us, even though we told him no already.

Apparently that's a thing, you can hand your passport and money over to a local and he will wait in line for you, and fill out forms for you, and handle everything. That just makes me really uncomfortable, giving all that info to a complete stranger and assuming he is going to do everything right so that you don't get in trouble with the officials down the line.

El Salvador was happy to see us go, after giving us more trouble for not having our passports stamped correctly in December, and then for not being stamped in at their border four days previously. I'm still not sure why that didn't happen. Honduras was happy to have us back, mostly because they got to charge us for the privilege of being in the country for less than four hours. And Honduras was happy to let us back out. Those checkpoints were busy and loud, but it was nothing compared to trying to get into Nicaragua.

Every Nicaraguan border makes me want to cry. People talk about how difficult El Salvador is, NOPE. Disclaimer: Our problems may have been in part due to bringing a car across the border.

So we get to the office and stand in line, and find out even though Honduras gave us the visa, Nicaragua wants us to pay them too. And the only ATM for miles A- doesn't work, and B- even if it did, only takes Visa. Now, when we handed over all our paperwork, we included the car registration and many other documents that scream "Hi, I have a car." The guy looks at it, hands it back, doesn't say a word. Ok, so apparently Nica doesn't care, the same way El Salvador didn't care. Wrong.

We finish up with the Migration agent, hop in the car, and promptly get turned around less than 500 meters down the road, because we are missing paperwork. So, back to the same guy. Who, again, doesn't say anything. Ok...... Finally I find another office where they print out a sheet of paper that says the same thing as the registration and I guess we are good to go. Off to Managua for the night.

No clue what Managua is like. We got in after dark and left too early to notice.

However, on the way to the border, you drive by Lake Nicaragua, which is a very large lake. This is the biggest lake in Central America,  and the 19th largest in the world. Like many lakes, it has islands. But these are not ordinary islands. These are two massive volcanoes. Remember this, it'll be handy later.

Now we are on to the funnest border. At Nicaragua/Costa Rica, there are about 12 different steps just to leave the country. All of them include fees. One of them includes a drug dog jumping in the front seat of our car. If Nica didn't want to let us in, they certainly don't want to let us out. Unfortunately for them, we eventually check out as clean.

Getting us into Costa Rica was a breeze. They had a line, with guards organizing it, you filled out your form, presented it to a customs agent, x-rayed your bags and were done. The car- again, not so much. First there are forms. Then they actually let you all the way into the country, where you get a fumigation bath, then tell you to buy insurance from an office "over there" which you then have to take to another office- hmm I'm sensing a theme here.

But we are off, and finally, finally Central America starts to look like what I think we all think Central America looks like. You know, jungle/rainforest-y. Seriously, up until then, we could have been back in the States. Honduras looks like Colorado, except for a section that looks like Nevada. Parts of Nicaragua look like Utah and Arizona, and when you drive by lakes, you think you are in California because sometimes you get confused and think it's the ocean because it goes on so far you can't see land. Also, the traffic in El Salvador is reminiscent of Los Angeles or San Francisco. I can't really show you pictures to prove it because at the time I thought, "I can see this any time. Everyone knows what Nevada looks like, they don't want to see that." So take my word for it, Central America looks like North America (except for the snow) which actually makes sense, since they are right next to each other.

However, Costa Rica has jungles in some places, and lots of bugs that like to sing. We had the windows down and I kept hearing this noise that I thought was the engine, because who doesn't like car trouble. Turned the engine off, nope, it's bugs. It's like a high pitched whine that could get annoying after a while, but doesn't because it's just really cool.

We have finally arrived- the purpose of our trip has been completed. Now we have to spend over 72 hours in Costa Rica, what a shame...

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