Monthly Archives: January 2014

Days 16 and 17- The Long Journey Home

January 2 and 3, 2014
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Casa Ola

When I decided to stay the extra week I booked my ticket home through Liberia in Costa Rica. It was way cheaper and another person from our group happened to be on the same flights home to Toronto so it would all work out nicely. All 6of us left the house this morning; two going to Popoyo, two going to Tamarindo, Costa Rica and two going to the airport which meant four of us would be crossing the border. We were supposed to leave at 9am with plenty of time to cross the border and make our flight, but instead we left closer to 1030am thanks to Nicaraguan time. We got a driver to take us to the border and we said a quick goodbye to the two staying in Nicaragua.

There we were, four scared gringos in a rush to cross the border. We blindly followed two Nicaraguans who claimed they could get us across fast and as we scrambled to the first checkpoint we were trying to fill out immigration forms and not lose each other. We made our way to a nondescript building and each paid $1 for a tiny paper receipt. We then got to a window where a woman checked our passports and asked for another $2 each. In return is another piece of paper. We exited the building and started walking to yet another checkpoint. One of the guys got there first and through with no problem. Another gets through ok and then it’s my turn. “Ticket.” I showed him the first paper receipt. “No. Ticket.” I showed him the second paper receipt. “No. Ticket. Ticket!” I’m absolutely confused. I have no idea what he means. The other guys just shrugged. As a guess I pulled out my phone and found my airline confirmation and showed it to to him. Success. He waved me through. The last in our group goes through the same song and dance and ends up showing the guy his original inbound flight. It works and now we have officially left Nicaragua.

The walk across No Mans Land didn’t take long but felt like forever as the clock tickef down to our departure time. We made it to the Costa Rican side and standing in line we filled out identical forms to the ones we just handed in in Nicaragua. All four of us are soaked in sweat, part from the sun, part from the rush and part from the panic of it all. Entering Costa Rica was more or less painless and we found the driver to take us the rest of the way.

Arriving at the airport, we said our goodbyes to the boys going to Tamarindo and grabbed our bags. We paid the $29 departure tax and checked into our flight together. Good news. The flight was delayed and we had time to grab an overpriced airport lunch. We’re paying the bill when I heard what I think is my name over the airport speaker system. Uh oh. When is this ever good? I approached the counter and I could see the bad news in his eyes. “I’m sorry miss. There is a problem with immigration and you cannot leave Costa Rica.” My heartbeat quickened. He wouldn’t elaborate on the “immigration problem” and a family in the same predicament decided their course of action was to yell. I stepped back to wait and considered my limited options. My friend came up and said goodbye. The family is still yelling.

The entire flight boarded and the hope it was all a mistake is fading. I watched the flight status change from BOARDING to CLOSED to DEPARTED. Staff came out and removed the stanchions and signage. The status board went blank. The agent, tired of being yelled at, said he’ll be right back. He doesn’t come back. I waited 30 minutes before my good nature turned sour. I understood if there’s a problem, I didn’t understand being stranded at the terminal with no information. I started to walk, looking for any United signage and someone behind a counter who will help me get home. At the other end of the airport I found them. The group of travellers who like me have been stuck and watched their flights home leave.

Through these people I found out that some poor guy has misplaced all those little immigration forms we always fill out and never think matter. I don’t know how my friend made it out but he’s lucky. When I got to the counter the agent confirmed the rumours and promised he’ll help get me home. I just have to go to Houston first and spend the night. As I waited to board I crossed my fingers every time they made an announcement, “Please don’t say my name. Please don’t say my name.” I didn’t relax until I was in my seat, buckled in with the wheels off the ground.

I made it to the Houston Holiday Inn with $15 in food vouchers and one clean shirt. I’m ready for home.

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Day 15 – Sunsets

January 1, 2014
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Casa Ola

Not much really happened today, I don’t think anyone was really up for anything and despite our best efforts everyone was asleep by 9pm. But today did start and end on the beach. I was up before anyone and went for a walk by myself. I’ve never had the experience of being on a private, totally isolated beach before this trip and there’s something so special about walking a beach completely devoid of footprints. It’s as if you are the first person to ever step there and when you look back and see only your prints, partially washed away by the surf you’re reminded that tomorrow morning there will be no evidence of you at all. I stayed out there until the sun became too hot then took evidence that yes in fact I was there and maybe one day I’ll come back.

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It has become a daily tradition for my friend and I to walk the beach at sunset. Sometimes one of the guys joins us but more often than not it is just us two. Tonight, our last night, everyone came out to see the sunset and walk on the beach one last time.

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The sunsets are pretty spectacular here and tonight’s was the best of all.

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Day 14 – Dancing in the Rain

December 31, 2013
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Casa Ola

Hanging around the balcony on the house are a few shell wind chimes that look like they were made by past guests. A few days ago we decided to carry on the tradition and started looking for suitable shells on the beach, but pickings were slim. Someone told us that the next beach over, Playa Yankee, had tons of shells so we made a plan to hike over there. A crudely drawn map was made and we traipsed off into the forest only to promptly get lost. Perfect. Then the heavens opened and a guy and his son roared by on a dunebuggy and asked if we wanted a lift. Why yes, yes we did.

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We made it to Playa Yankee in record time and spent the morning playing on rocks and finding shells that would work for our craft.

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Most of the shells were a little banged up but once in awhile I’d come across a perfect pair that to me looked like a pair of lungs.

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We also found the tie-dyed remains of a lobster on the rocks. We looked around for any live guys that we could subsequently kill and eat, but were less successful.

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The walk back to the house was decidedly less fun than the ride out but cold showers were waiting for us and a little siesta before we started making the best wind chime to ever exist anywhere.

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Considering it was New Years Eve everyone agreed a dinner in town would be the plan for the night. Little did we know Gonzalo was out fishing and would come back with 31 tunas. Yep. 31. A huge haul.

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He was more than happy to take us into town for dinner which meant he would be able to sell his catch to the locals. He tied down a cooler to the top of the truck, filled it with a hundred pounds of fish and off we went. Every time we passed a group of people or a house where Gonzalo knew the occupants we would pull over and a sale would be made. He’d climb onto the roof of the car and take out however many fish the buyer wanted. By the time we made it to town Gonzalo had sold most of the fish and blood was running down the windshield.

We had dinner at a restaurant on the beach (nothing special) and then headed to the bar for the night, a local place with a huge dance floor. On our way we came across a group of fire performers in the middle of the street stopping traffic in both direction. We watched for a bit and then it started to rain, then it started to pour and it never let up. We spent about 20 minutes huddled under a storefront before we decided to just make a mad dash for it as we were running out of time before midnight. Soaking wet and out of breath we made it to the bar with ten minutes to spare.

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Cinco…cuatro…tres…dos…uno… ¡Feliz año nuevo!

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