Monday, September 3, 2012

disappointment


I have traveled Central America before, twice from Guatemala down South. Once to Costa when I was starting my travels and once to Panama a few ago. Never had a problem before. This was about to change coming back from the South...

I was a bit afraid of going back to Panama. If you recall, I left without an exit stamp. For them, I was still inside the country. Lucky for me, the kunas don't have PCs: they boarded the ship, stamped the passports and that was it: welcome to Panama! Of course, they are greedy bastards so we have to pay 2$ each to be able to leave. Hitchhiking is impossible out from Kuna territory. I think only private shuttles go there and a few private cars. We managed to find a ride all the way to Panama City for 10$ each instead of the normal 25$ each!

The only place I went that I didn't go before in Panama City was Panamá Viejo. It's the remains of the old city of Panama when it was first built in 1519. We were staying in the East part of town, we had to take a bus everywhere, which was nice because I saw a different part of Panama. But it was time to leave. My experience hitchhiking alone in Panama was not bad so I thought that hitching with Paula would make things easier. I was right. We found a really good ride. Slow but very long. Our destination was Bocas but it was around 20.00 when we got stuck a  few kilometers from David. After taking the bus to the town of Gualaca we spent the night at the firestation. The following day in the afternoon, after two good rides and 20 min boat ride, we were looking for a place to stay... we stayed in some rooms the local chuch had for retreats. By the way, the priest lived in Guatemala for 10 years. He was very nice.

I was a bit worried about leaving Panama. Getting in was easy, Kunas didn't have a PC. Good. But, if they don't have PC, I'm not in any system, I just have my passport stamped, right? So, for  Panama I never left the country. Was I going to get a fine when leaving? Fortunetaly not. A short queue and off we were to Costa Rica.

Now the nightmare part...

I know that you need an onward or return ticket to get into Costa Rica. I thought that as a Central American citizen I will never get any problems getting into any of the countries of the area. The guy was probably in a bad mood. We had separate officials so the guy checking Paula's passport waited to see what my official was going to do. He demanded a return ticket to Panama! What the fuck!? I'm going North! I'm going home! Why would I need a ticket to Panama. These are the rules. Ok, these are the rules. I want to buy a ticket from San Jose to Nicaragua. You can't. Here, you can only buy tickets from San Jose, Costa Rica to Almirante, Panama. Fucking bastards. They made me pay a 14$ ticket I will never use. In this hour of thinking what to do, Paula went again to the window and there was another guy. 2 min later she came back with the stamp. I went to window and got the entry stamp. There was a couple and we asked them if they could take away from the border. They drove us to Puerto Viejo and from there they drove us to Cahuita. Where are we going to stay? Some people let us used the internet (for free) in their internet café and a friend of them invited us to stay with him. The following day we took a bus to San Jose where Pedro, a guy I met in Estonia last summer, was waiting for us. We stayed in San Jose for a couple of days hanging out with Pedro, walking around. When we left I never thougth we could made it to the border the same day but we did. One of our rides was inside a Guatemala truck! We made it to the Nicaraguan border.

The nightmare part 2...

At the border I was told that since not long ago, all Guatemalans, Colombians and Mexicans have to go through extra screening when entering the country. Eh!? Why would I want to stay in a country that is in deeper shit than mine? Anyways, it was not so early when we reached the border. I didn't want to hitch at night. They held me over an hour asking me all kinds of stupid questions that not even in Europe or the States I was asked before. They made us lose the last bus. The question part was over. Window part now, but the boss had to aprove me and ask more stupid questions. Of course, one of them was about money. I showed my two (non-working) bank cards and I said that I had 20$ and 160 Cordobas with me. Outraged he said that it was a joke to have than little money, so I said that I was not going to be walking around with 1000$ in my pocket. He said that if I couldn't prove that I had money I was going to be sent immediately back to Costa Rica... (!!!) Somehow I made it but it was too late for bus and it was dark and the border was absolutely not a good place to spend the night and it's not open 24 hours. After the nightmare at the border, luck was still on our side: a Costarican pickup drove us to the turn off to San Juan del Sur where we spent the night inside a restaurant owned by a Northamerica with Polish roots. Next destination: Ometepe Island. We made it late in the afternoon. The ferry ride was cold and wet. This was the first time we paid for accomodation in 4 months of travels together, and it was cheap: 4$ for a private with shared bath for both! From there we were goint to León but on the ringroad we decided to head straight to Guatemala. There we found a ride with another Guatemalan truck that let us sleep inside the truck. Salvadorian truck to the Nicaragua/Honduras. Guatemalan truck to the Honduras/El Salvador. And Guatemala truck to Guatemala City where I had the best welcome a Guatemalan could ever had.

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