After almost three happy months in Nicaragua, we had to move on. But first there was the small matter of crossing the land border with Costa Rica, no easy feat when you are as encumbered as we are.
The first step was to arrange transport down to the border. Our Irish friend Gerry offered to bring us down and decided to cross the border briefly himself in order to renew his own visa.
It took less than two hours to reach the frontier at Penas Blancas, where the fun started. First, we had to cart our bags in the hot sun to an office where we queued half an hour to pay $3 each to get the necessary stamps to leave Nicaragua. There were plenty of touts on hand to offer us all manner of unnecessary services, but we forswore most of their offerings. We were glad to engage a cycle-taxi to carry our luggage for a while, but he only operated as far as the border itself.
So we pulled, heaved, tugged and yanked our bags and ourselves into Costa Rica, where we managed to avoid a long queue because we were allowed to move to the top of it with our buggy.
Another bit of queueing and form filling and we were in Costa Rica, where it had, ominously, turned cloudy and started raining. There was more confusion on this side of the border, but we managed to board a local bus to take us to Liberia, the nearest large town.
Gerry, meanwhile, had run into trouble on both sides of the border because there was a tear in his passport. At one point, it looked like he might get stuck in no-man’s land but it seemed if he could grease the palms of officialdom, all would be well, which appears to be how it’s done in these parts.
The bus, though of a higher standard that you’d find in Nicaragua, took two hours to reach Liberia, where we’d booked a room in a hotel on the outskirts of town. We were given a friendly welcome, but I think we were missing our old home in Granada. Costa Rica is clearly more prosperous than its northern neighbour, and Liberia is a well-ordered, if unremarkable town. It has things you’d never seen in Nicaragua, such as mountain-bike shops and photographic studios, and the people seem well-fed and comfortable. We also had to adjust to the higher prices, approaching Irish levels, and the manic driving habits of the locals.
Initial impressions were, to be frank, that it was a bit dull. Things looked up the following day when we took a 40-minute taxi-ride out to Playa Hermosa, a gorgeous, quiet beach on the Pacific. Passing by the condomiums and luxury developments, we certainly felt like tourists in this resort, but our hotel, Villa del Sueno, was welcoming and well-run and we had a great time there. There were howler monkeys on the beach trees, iguanas on the road and puffer fish in the warm waters. The sunsets were glorious and the beach food was tasty. It was just hard to adjust to being ‘on holiday’. We probably just need more practice.