(March 17 – written by Dave)
I’m happy to report that the disco next door to the hostel never got going, or at least we didn’t hear it. We both slept well and were up early today – ready for a new country – Costa Rica.
Before reaching the border, we had to ride the final 36kof Nicaragua. We were back out on Highway 2 by 6:30 and yesterday’s wind was already ripping. The forecast called for gusts at 25 MPH and think it was right. We had wind at just about 90 degrees from out right, making for a real tippy ride. Being Saturday AM, traffic was pretty light so at least we didn’t have to hug the narrow shoulder.
The road passed by the south west shore of Lake Nicaragua for most of the ride to the border. We stopped once to take in the view but it lightly overcast, so we couldn’t see the two famous volcanoes islands out in the lake.
This is clearly a place where the wind blows a lot and to Nicaragua’s credit, they are making the most of it. We passed through a couple wind turbine farms while riding the lake shore. Nancy knew a couple of the names painted on the turbines from her days working in the industry. We got a few pictures – unlike our old buddy, Joe Hockey, we like wind farms in that they show mankind’s ability to keep the lights on without burning fossil fuels and creating greenhouse gases.
We stopped for a couple other photo breaks as well. After days of not including more Morro trees, today I couldn’t resist. They are such odd plants. The “fruit” is surprisingly firm and heavy. Having heard that they make bowls out of the shells, we both kind of thought the gourd would be much lighter – perhaps it is after they dry them. We also stopped for photos of a couple odd looking birds. I’m not sure what they are – perhaps young osprey. I’ll see if we can’t get one of the experts here at the lodge to help us with identification.
We made it to the border before 9AM and were quickly dealing with a money changer. You certainly don’t have to worry about finding them. We need to change both Nicaraguan Cordobas and US Dollars into Costa Rican Colones. We knew what the rates should be. The changer gave us one of those ridiculous low ball offers on Cordobas so we moved towards immigration. He followed, upping his bid every couple steps. He eventually got to a good number and we did the deal. That sorted the Cordobas. We next moved to Dollars. Rather than play the game this time, Nancy told him the rate we wanted and he agreed. I know that we are not as good at this game as he is but it all worked out. So long as the money he gave us is not fake – we would only know later when we tried to use it, having never seen a Colones before. Good news, people in Costa Rica seem fine with our Colones…
Exiting Nicaragua was pretty easy. Nancy went in with both passports and got us our exit stamps, $2 USD each. She also paid $1 USD to a lady handing out tickets for the queue. The latter seemed to be a scam but it was only $1 Dollar and $5 Dollars total to leave Nicaragua.
Costa Rica was equally painless getting into. Both of us and our bikes rolled into the immigration hall. There were no queue and we were served right away. The only hard question was when the officer asked us for our flight details leaving Costa Rica. We told him that we were on bicycles and after he spoke to a colleague he dropped it. It seemed like an odd question as most folks coming across the land border here would probably be leaving by a land border. And we are obviously not the first cyclists to come through there, so I am sure they must have had this point worked out previously. There were no charges for entering Costa Rica. They had luggage x-ray machines but we smiled nice and they let us roll the bikes past without completely unpacking them.
The rest of the ride to the eco lodge was uneventful. We turned a little to west and had more wind behind us, making it faster and much safer. At the turn off to the lodge, we stopped at the small store for supplies and still rolled in to the lodge by about 11AM. We were greeted by the owners Agi and Guido – a Swiss couple that has been building this place from the ground up for the past 20 years.
We cooked up a massive lunch in the camp kitchen and settled into one of the budget rooms for an afternoon rest. They have lovely A/C equipped cabanas as well but they are all booked out tonight. We are not sure we’ll get one tomorrow night or not. Nancy has found a hammock overlooking the river and we are now trying to stay cool. It was only supposed to reach 90 today but how hot you are all depends on if there is a cloud overhead or not.
There is a group of Germans that arrived here at the lodge this afternoon that are all driving fancy travel vans and we think also riding the length of the Americas. We are having dinner at the lodge and hope to get the rest of their story tonight. We are pretty sure that they are heading north.
We are taking a day off here tomorrow as they have a bunch of jungle trails where you are supposed to see lots monkeys and birds. We’ve heard a few of the howler monkeys just hanging out. Nancy also spotted the resident croc floating in the river – the owner suggested that we not go swimming – seems like a good suggestion.
So, we’ve made it to Costa Rica! Country number 8. We’ll be here for another 8-9 days. Stay tuned for more impressions as we ride further.