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Sandinista Mural

Lake and Rio San Juan

Rio San Juan

Solentiname Island Painting

Omotepe Island Air

Boats on Lake Nicaragua




Oscar Sogandares

Part Five

I was awakened at about 5:30 AM the next morning by the cab driver again, in order to get back early to customs before the long lines started. I was ready in about 20 minutes. We took off for a last cruise of Rivas in this early morning air (Nicaragua was actually on their so-called Daylight Savings Time, which made it one hour - ahead of Costa Rica and equivalent to EST). But of course this was the middle of Central America and people were sound asleep. No one even showed signs of waking up. We cruised by in the early morning mist and we could see the old Spanish churches, the people who were just getting up, the street side restaurants like "kiosks" just starting up their firewood stoves and the smell of freshly burned embers started to linger in the air. I saw the highway indicator sign and I noticed that from here we were only 110 kms. from Managua. We took the opposite direction.

As we progressed along the road we saw a few horse-drawn "carretas" and one unique oxcart drawn by two oxen. We also got to see the same bus we had seen the day before at Sapoas (I would say it was actually a converted truck). It was as usual overflowing with people. Its chassis barely scraping the road as it toiled ahead. We saw a brick factory. Somehow clay bricks here weren't very expensive and most houses here, even the humblest were built with bricks. This time the Lake was on my left and all along the way my view was focuses on my right side of the road, to the low lying hills which marked the lowest point of the Continental Divide in America.

We finally reached the village of Sapoas-La Virgen, where we cancelled our part of transportation bill, which converted to $US dollars amounted to just $27.00 - the entire tour, a real bargain! Actually our host "el ingeniero" had covered the other half. I treated my chauffeur and myself to a typical and tasty Nicaraguan-style breakfast with "gallo pinto" (re-fried rice and black beans), "quesadilla" (fried white cheese), black coffee and the rest, excellent, just great!

We crossed the checkpoint towards the customs building, where I could see the cows rummaging at the grass on the facility grounds. A cheap, ingenious and efficient way of keeping the lawn trim. I went through customs where I exchanged my cordobas-oro back into $US dollars. Except for one exceptional 20 cordoba bill, which bears a bright red Sandino effigy on the cover, which I keep to this day (I later found a 10 cordoba bill in my swimming trouser pocket). I bid my friend farewell, took a last look at the Lake and boarded the already familiar microbus toward the border at Peñas Blancas. Like if all good things must come to an end.

I was already in Costa Rica (along the archway), when I had to form a line for sanitary inspection and control. We were dealt with quinine tablets - for malaria - just in case and pinched by these "bloody tico vampires"! Well anyway we finally got to the "Tico" Customs at Peñas Blancas, where we had to form a huge long line, after a huge long line. Until finally at about 10:30 AM TICO time (we had lost one hour when we crossed over), we were ready and waiting for - any transportation to take us back to La Cruz and Liberia, Guanacaste.

I didn't even go through any luggage inspection. I just hopped on this bus and pretty soon we were on the way back to La Cruz, where we swapped busses, and finally on towards Liberia. Most of the delay was right there at the Tico border and customs. They really know how to take their time there! I got off the bus, having missed the one departing toward Chepe at 12:30 AM, since I originally had in mind hitting "el Ojo de Agua" (which I missed entirely on this trip - for next time). But no sweat, in itself I consider this was a fantastic trip!

I finally made use of my hotel lodging for the first time in Liberia, by having a nice cool bath and was off to the lunch diner. There I met these three German girls on tour in Guanacaste, looking for a Rent-a-Car place and some beach to go to - "the three musketeers" for you. But I had plans of my own. I was again at the much familiar intersection at Liberia and before I knew it, I was on a bus heading back for Chepe! I put on my walk-man headset and pretty soon I was hearing Radio Puntarenas on the air and I definitely knew we were nearing our destination. I glanced out the window at a bright red, vivid Costa Rican sunset.

After a few stops along the way, we finally climbed the last ridge and we were soon into the cool Meseta Central again. Past Palmares, San Ramon, we were swiftly gliding through the streets of Alajuela, past the Juan Santamaría Airport, and I definitely knew we were finally in Chepe! Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. And the first thing in the morning I was back on the road again on a TRACOPA bus, past Cartago, through the long and winding turns of "el Cerro de la Muerte" (highest point of the Pan-American highway at 11,300 ft asl), on the way back home.


| Foreword | Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five |